Like starry-eyed, irresponsible parents, we voters are guilty of elevating our adored candidates to a place where they can wreak havoc. In his latest column, Frank Bruni does a number on our past choices… and the current crew. All presidential candidates, he writes, have their share of self-regard. The latest? Well… Newt!
Over the years he has directly or indirectly compared himself to Moses, William Wallace (a k a “Braveheart,” thanks to Mel Gibson), the Duke of Wellington, Charles de Gaulle and, repeatedly, Ronald Reagan, as when he recently said, “Because I am much like Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, I’m such an unconventional political figure that you really need to design a unique campaign that fits the way I operate.” …NYT
Bruni puts his finger on presidential arrogance, past and present. Bill Clinton? Oy veh! George W. Bush?
George W. Bush was in love with his own gut instinct, which he valued far above actual erudition. By heeding it, he believed, he could exceed the expectations and even surpass the accomplishments of less visceral leaders, namely his father. It’s not hard to draw a direct line from that brand of arrogance to the Iraq war, which came to an official end last week, after nearly nine years, hundreds of billions of dollars and too many lives lost. …NYT
(And don’t forget: he had his private pipeline to a god who looked a lot like Dick Cheney and was always mean and destructive.)
Barack Obama’s self-regard isn’t hidden.
Barack Obama’s arrogance resides in his eloquence — as a writer, thinker, symbol and story. He’s in thrall to the lyric poem of himself, and that accounts for his aloofness and disinclination to engage as deeply as some of his predecessors did in the muck of legislative politics.
Yes, we live in a grotesquely partisan moment, the main reason for gridlock, brinkmanship and super-committee ignominy on Capitol Hill. But would Clinton have stood at so far a remove from that committee? Isn’t it possible that a glad-hander more aggressive and warmer than Obama would be making a smidgen of headway? …NYT
Of course, Obama’s early warmth and cordiality were resented. The spittle is still visible on his face. It is an historic face and we can’t exactly blame him for knowing there is nothing ordinary about his presidency.
All the way back in 1985, when he was just a foot soldier in the House, he told The Washington Post, “I want to shift the entire planet,” adding, “This is just the beginning of a 20- or 30-year movement. I’ll get credit for it.” …NYT