Friday, May 11, 2007

On President Bush's "Regular Guy" Appeal

Judith Warner from The New York Times has a good blog post entitled "A White Tie Kind of Guy" about how Bush is no "regular guy," despite what he'd have us believe. I cannot link to the post, because you can only access it if you are a Times Select member. But, I will quote some key passages.

Our president may have grown up in West Texas riding bikes and blowing up frogs, but he’s no rube. He’s the son of a diplomat and statesman. He’s said to be a 13th cousin to the Queen. He’s got at least as much Kennebunkport as Midland in his veins. And he is one of a tiny handful of people in this country who actually came up in the world with things like White House state dinners and even royal visits as a feature of family life.

I've pointed this out before in other places, but it bears repeating because people do not seem to understand it. Bush is no "down-home cowboy." He was born in Connecticut, he went to Yale, his father was the President. This is no "ordinary guy." The fact that he had to be pushed into dressing in a white tie and tails, his bad manners, and his terribly unintelligible way of speaking do not show that he is "normal" in any way.

Bush talks with his mouth full because he can. He drinks mineral water straight from the bottle at a formal function because he doesn’t have to prove his good breeding to anyone. He has the arrogance of the long-established.

Indeed. This shows his arrogance. He didn't rub Angela Merkel's shoulders because he's "normal;" he did it because he is arrogant. It's not that he doesn't know about manners; he grew up in the highest class of society. Rather, he doesn't care. He can't claim ignorance; he can only claim arrogance.

So how about we retire the notion that the president’s comportmental shortcomings – his dubious straight talk and selectively bad table manners – make him “normal” or in any way one of “us”? And why don’t we acknowledge instead that he’s much less some kind of phantasmagorical Average Joe than cut from the same cloth as Prince Philip, another naughty and haughty verbal prankster, known throughout the world for his faux pas and bons mots?

The idea that being boorish, ill-mannered and uncouth somehow brands you as a “regular guy” holds water only if you ascribe to the view that the people, globally, are idiots. It works, I suppose, if your whole political reason for being is to dress up elitism in know-nothing populist garb.

But it doesn’t work for me.

Well said, Ms. Warner.

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