Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bush's memoir: a firecracker?

Doesn't look to be the case:
Matt Drudge appears to have scored an early copy of George W. Bush's memoir, Decision Points, though if his preview is any indication, the book's a snooze: Sections that Drudge highlights include a bone about how Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia almost walked out of Bush's ranch because he was so angry about Israel, until he saw a turkey and took it as a good omen. Drudge also says Bush reveals he gave an order to shoot down planes on September 11 and thought the plane in Pennsylvania had been shot down. Drudge adds that Bush rarely addresses his critics and steers clear of President Obama entirely.
How...banal. Doesn't really seem like someone you would want to share a beer with, does he?*

Then again, it's not all that surprising that Bush wrote a pretty dull book. It has a very dull title, after all, and most memoirs are dull because the people writing them are dull (U. S. Grant being a notable exception to both counts), which seems to be the tendency in politics. Obsessive personalities--which most politicians tend to be, in my reading and experience--are usually insufferably dull. It's funny to think that all those years people were arguing over Bush's faith, leadership style, accomplishments, and personality, the final truth is that Bush really doesn't have much of interest to say about himself.

This is actually one of my deepest points of disgust with the mainstream media, though it's one that I almost never hear anyone make: it's bad enough when journalists take spin at face value, or do a he-said-she-said thing with the two parties' approaches to policy, without any actual analysis. What annoys me most is how frequently the media totally buys into the candidates' public personae. Politicians almost always adopt a public persona that has some fixed points but leaves a lot of space for individuals to project their own beliefs, values, or fears into them. But in nearly every case, that is not anything like the real person. One of the my favorite aspects about Gore Vidal's Narratives of Empire series is that it tries to take a real look at what powerful people are really like behind all the rhetoric and stunts, and the usual conclusion is that they're boringly ambitious people without too much of an inner life (though this is not exactly his take on Lincoln). In nearly all those books, the high-ranking government officials are the least interesting characters in the narrative, by intention. I think it's easy to confuse the actor and the role in general, especially if part of the enterprise of politics is to deliberately screen the actor from public scrutiny, but I feel like it is the media's job to try to puncture that cloud, and I don't feel like they try that often. If wonder how things would have gone if the media had adopted the idea that George W. Bush is boring (which he always was), since ironically everything I've seen suggests that Al Gore is privately a very witty and entertaining person in real life.

*Will it ever be explained why the "having a beer with Dubya" thing became a thing when Dubya doesn't ever drink beer as a member of AA? I guess it can: Chris Matthews is an idiot.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.