Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Jules Witcover on George W. Bush

Veteran reporter, Jules Witcover, is, among other things, a student of the Nixon era and was one of the first to notice the Nixonian qualities of Bush and his inner circle, particularly Cheney and Rumsfeld. Recently he wrote a book on the strange relationship between Spiro Agnew and Richard Nixon; here's a review from Charles Trueheart of Bloomberg:
What neither Nixon nor Agnew could have imagined, as Jules Witcover tells us in his highly readable new account, ``Very Strange Bedfellows,'' is that within five years the two would become ``the only case in American political history of back-to- back political suicides of a vice president and the president under whom he served.''

Witcover is a seasoned political columnist who has been fascinated by the bizarre Agnew case from the outset. The tale remains engrossing to this day. He's especially keen-eyed about the lack of chemistry between the two men, who didn't know each other before and, thanks to Nixon's pathological discomfort with his fellow human beings, never got past formalities.

Yet somehow Agnew, an intellectual and political pipsqueak, appealed to Nixon's insecurities. ``[Nixon] seemed to question his own manliness and was overly impressed by big, handsome, and commanding males, almost to the point of envy for their presence, their confidence, and their easy assertiveness,'' Witcover says.

To be honest, the above sounds more like Blair's relationship to Bush; Tony Blair was more than happy to have President Bush's star power rub off on him. But Bush has real insecurities like Nixon did, though they are of a different type and have more to do with a fundamental lack of ability to understand the world or the purpose of government; Bush often uses P.R. to cover up his inadequacies but he also is obsessed with political gamemanship and executive power in exactly the same way as Nixon was. And Bush's relationship with his father is as strange and neurotic as anything we ever saw with Nixon. Without the senior Bush, junior would never have been president and deep down he knows it. And his staff knows it and are often behind the pathetic comparisons of Bush to other presidents and even to Winston Churchill.

I'm glad to see Jules Witcover doing well. He was one of those reporters early on who criticized President Bush as well as his war in Iraq. He had a regular column in the Baltimore Sun but apparently was let go during budget cuts; one suspects the political hysteria of four years ago might have had something to do with Witcover losing his column and job.

As the failure of the Bush presidency becomes more apparent, it seems we're hearing a little more reality in our newspapers these days; the print media, as is often the case, are considerable ahead of the TV news, particularly the cable guys. Truthout has a recent New York Times column by Jules Witcover on Bush and the challenges facing the next president:
More than three decades ago, Nixon White House Counsel John Dean called the Watergate cover-up "a cancer on the presidency." Another one exists today, posing a challenge for the next president to restore the office as a credible voice in foreign policy.

President Bush's detour in Iraq off the multilateral track adhered to throughout the Cold War years has caused a deep drop in American prestige abroad, requiring extensive repair by his successor regardless of which party wins in 2008.

While Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq has been the immediate trigger for the decline of American influence, just as significant was his original failure to capitalize on the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to mobilize a truly collective global response.

Jules Witcover is nobody's network poodle earning seven figures; he's a pro. Give him a read.

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