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Turn Out The Lights

Those people you run in to who want to be the boss? They should know, huh?
John “Johnny Sack” Sacrimoni to Tony Soprano

Charlie Rose had Barton Gellman on his show the other night, the Washington Post reporter who wrote a rather critical book on the Cheney Vice Presidency. Rose asked Gellman what the biggest misconception about George Bush was, and Gellman said it was that he was incompetent and unintelligent. I’ve always found it curious, the number of people willing to label Bush an “idiot.” A poor orator perhaps, someone who made some unfortunate decisions in critical areas, but an idiot? What must it be like to be lampooned as an imbecile, portrayed and caricatured as a monkey, and have your record-low approval rating plastered nightly on every network? Even the most ardent Bush-hater would have to concede that his is a tough job, and that no matter how much they disapprove of him and the moves he’s made, being the recipient of such constant ridicule and vitriol can’t be a walk in the park. He may not be the sharpest tool in the Presidential shed, historically speaking, but in the larger idiotic picture the man likely doesn’t even rate. It’s been my observation that, in the same way that certain segments of the right assume a particular false claim to morality, certain members of the left assume an equally false claim to intellectualism. There are different types of smarts, just as there are many brands of stupid.

Watching the town-hall debate between McCain and Obama the other night, there was one obvious and reasonable question which nobody asked of either candidate: who in their right mind would want this job? What kind of colossal ego does it take to look at the treatment recent presidents have been subjected to and still figure you’re up to the task? Bush has been labeled an incompetent idiot; his father a wimp who couldn’t finish the job. Carter, an obviously intelligent man, was ineffective and weak. Clinton got impeached while becoming the international poster boy for the Unable To Keep It In Their Pants. Reagan had to die before he got any respect – while in office he was senile, thick, and the former co-star to a chimp. Average Joes with illusions of the allure of great power should take heed. McCain, a legitimate war hero, has already been ridiculed for having the audacity to have made it in to his seventies. Obama has benefited from his Golden Boy status to a certain extent, and the gloves have yet to come off in respect to the treatment he is receiving. But if things continue as they seem to be going and he gets in, the realities of the job will apply equally despite his unique status. It will be interesting to see how it wears on him after a few years, particularly given the current state of the world.

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