The Self Made Pundit

I'm just the guy that can't stand cant. ___________

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Monday, August 04, 2003
THE MADNESS OF PRESIDENT GEORGE: It must be nice to be President Bush and live in your own protective fantasy world.

No matter how badly things go in the real world, Bush remains protected in a fantasy world of his own making, where every action of his is fully justified and he is never to blame.

In his fantasy world, Bush is not to blame for hyping the reasons to go to war with Iraq. The war with Iraq was fully justified by Iraqi intransigence. Thus, according, to Bush, the United States invaded Iraq only after the United States gave Saddam Hussein “a chance to allow the [U.N.] inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in.” In the real world, however, Iraq did let the U.N. inspectors back in.

In his fantasy world, Bush is not to blame for the gargantuan federal budget deficits that are primarily being caused by his massive tax cuts for the super rich. According to Bush, he warned voters during the 2000 presidential election that the U.S. government could go from surplus to deficit if we experienced a war, a national emergency or a recession. Bush claimed to recall making such a warning, leading him to make his tasteless joke “Lucky me, I hit the trifecta,” after the tragedy of 9/11. In the real world, Bush never made any such warning, and instead campaigned on the theme that the budget surplus was big enough to sustain a massive tax cut without worry.

In the past week, Bush has twice visited the fantasy world he has constructed around his failed economic policies.

Bush’s economic policies are not only giving rise to the biggest federal budget deficits in history – immediately after the biggest surplus – but are also making Bush’s administration likely to be the first presidential administration since Herbert Hoover’s – during the Great Depression – to experience a net loss of jobs in America. After compiling such a disastrous record, other presidents might rethink their economic policies. But not Bush. He knows what he believes, even if it is a fantasy.

In Bush’s fantasy world, he deserves credit – not blame – for the dismal state of the economy because he rejected nonexistent advice to let the economy get worse. When asked by a reporter at his press conference on Wednesday whether he should be rethinking his economic approach given the dismal results of this policies, Bush visited his fantasy world:

The '01 tax cuts affected the recession this way, it was a shallow recession. That's positive, because I care about people being able to find a job. Someone said, well, maybe the recession should have been deeper in order for the rebound to be quicker. My attitude is, a deeper recession means more people would have been hurt. And I view the actions we've taken as a jobs program, job creation program.

Bush, of course, never identified this phantom adviser that suggested the recession should have been deeper. Bush did, however, refer to this phantom adviser again on Friday in defending his administration economic record to reporters:

"Economic historians would say that the recession of 2001 was one of the more shallow recessions. Some would probably say, well, maybe you shouldn't have acted and let the recession go deeper, which would have made – may have made – for a more speedy recovery," Bush told reporters after meeting with his Cabinet.

Once again, Bush did not identify this phantom adviser with the Machiavellian bent who urged him to let the economy get worse so he could claim credit for a more impressive recovery. Perhaps Bush, like William Safire, is being haunted by the specter of an advice-dispensing Richard Nixon. Or perhaps Bush is reticent to identify this little Machiavelli because he is really a miniature Bush with horns who whispers into his ear when Karl Rove is otherwise occupied.

When reporters pressed White House Spokesman Scott McClellan as to whether Bush’s pixie of economic doom actually exists, McClellan instinctively began to cover for Bush, but then in mid-sentence apparently realized he lacked Ari Fleischer’s flair for obfuscation and gave up:

As to whether any particular individuals had actually urged Bush to deliberately let economic conditions worsen, McClellan said: "This goes back to conversations that people have said publicly and that – I don't know the specific person, though. I couldn't tell you."

It is highly unlikely that Bush's phantom adviser exists. Bush himself seems unsure whether his demonic adviser is more than a figment of his imagination, wavering from Wednesday’s claim that “someone said” such advice to Friday’s suggestion that “some would probably” offer such advice.

The strongest evidence that Bush’s phantom adviser is just a figment of his imagination is the sheer stupidity of the advice. Other than Bush, it is unlikely that there is anyone in the White House ignorant enough to believe that the best way to ensure a speedy recovery is to make sure that a recession is as severe as possible. The deepest economic downturn in American history was the Great Depression. And we all remember how speedy that recovery was. Recovery from the Great Depression only took the entire decade of the 1930s and America’s entry into World War II. ( Funny how any discussion of Bush’s economic record invariably leads back to Herbert Hoover.)

Bush’s many retreats to his fantasy world do raise the question of whether Bush is delusional. Does he actually believe the stuff that he tells us?

I doubt Bush is delusional since he puts so little effort into trying to discern reality. When Bush regales us with tales form his fantasy world, he does not appear to be describing some false memory of fictional events that he thinks really happened. Instead, he is blithely making things up and saying whatever he thinks will persuade people into agreeing with him. Bush is so supremely confident in his own beliefs, he just doesn’t give a rat’s rump about little things like reality.

So, while, there is certainly evidence pointing to the madness of President George, I doubt that Bush is truly delusional (at least in a clinical sense). When Bush is put on the defensive, he just makes stuff up to get his way. We can all be comforted in knowing that it is likely that Bush is merely a scheming sociopath and not a paranoid schizophrenic.

I wish Bush would tell the rest of us how we could live in our own protective fantasy worlds – at least until November 2004.