Defending The Dufus President
by Michael Spencer
I have never written about my own journey from liberalism to conservatism, and I won’t be doing so anytime soon. When I was an enthusiastic liberal- I once journeyed hours to cheer at a Dukakis rally- I began to notice certain traits of liberals that bothered me. Chief among these was the openly sneering contempt liberals had for the intellect of conservatives in general. In short, if you were conservative, you were stupid and mean when compared to a liberal. To be liberal was to proclaim your intellectual and moral superiority over the hampered, zombied masses of the common conservative citizen.
On college campuses this sort of thing is understandable. It is comfortably adolescent to come home from a year at college, suddenly enlightened on all things, and feel a pitying contempt for your poor parents. They do not know the truth that liberals know, truth that can only be accepted and understood by those who are more intelligent, more compassionate, more reasonable than any conservative. I believe these impressions forever hold the images of Bill Clinton and JFK on one hand, and Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan on the other. The liberal heroes are Ivy league, intelligent and smooth. The conservatives are not just plebian in their roots, they are crass and low, mean and, yes, comparatively unintelligent.
So, while conservatives can laugh and make much merriment over the entertaining antics of the far left, it is not a conservative habit to proclaim themselves intellectually superior to liberals. Far from it. Most of us feared the intelligence of Bill Clinton. He was clearly smarter than his adversaries- God included. Conservatives might entertain notions that they are morally superior to liberals, but that would be a mistaken notion. We agree agree with William F. Buckley that we would rather be ruled over by the first one hundred names in the Boston phone book than the faculty at Harvard. Liberals, however, believe themselves intellectually superior to conservatives. So when conservatives have the upper hand, one may expect to hear what we are now beginning to hear once again about President Bush: he is an idiot.
Before I analyze and comment much more, I have to say that I feel sympathy for my liberal colleagues. There isn’t much for them to talk about these days. The Enron party has come and gone, with a nasty fellow called Great Crossings waiting in the wings. The recession was an apparition. Whatever slowdown of the economy we experienced did not have the requisite homelessness, breadlines and other symptoms needed to ignite the merchants and media of misery. The war on terrorism has made our President, alas, more popular than Jesus. So great is the cause before us that nothing the liberals can say really seems important. It is a time for giving speeches on the need to fill potholes and make better roads. It is a time to find a way to be photographed with the President and avoid being photographed with Mr. Daschle. These are difficult day, for everyone except a narcissist like John Kerry. (We remember such times well when things were booming for Clinton in the nineties.)
So desperation has brought out the liberal entertainments described at the beginning of this column. As Matt Drudge said, it is suddenly cool to bash Dubya again. The campaign 2000 books and documentaries are starting to appear and the elitists are watching in head-wagging astonishment. It seems our President is frat boy. He enjoys stupid nicknames. He makes funny faces at inappropriate moments. He winks. We waved at Stevie Wonder. (That is funny.) He lays hands on bald people and asks for divine healing. (I’m in that line.) He is not polished. He seems to crave boyish attention. Our President is a bit of a dufus.
Those who feel he needs to resign are so rare that they should be put in a special preserve. Like Sandra Bernhard, Alec Baldwin and the British Tabloids, their seriousness is spectacularly entertaining. (I have to say I believe that Bush’s popularity has done a great deal to crack the conservative ghetto in Hollywood and the media. I see more and more people from these communities coming out of the coma. Even Saturday Night Live’s comedy at the President’s expense is endearing, not poison.) These are people who must hate Bush, and they must hate him more than anyone might ever laugh at him. Thankfully, such tiresome people are few.
Should we be concerned that our President is a dufus? An Austin Powers fan? A cut up who winks at the wrong times? Should we worry that he is watching football and not reading Cornell West? Should conservatives by upset that the man leading the free world’s war on terrorism is so unpolished and un-Presidential? I tell you my good readers, the answer to that is clear. Thank God, we have such a man. Remember…..remember…
Remember what a polished liar Mr. Clinton was, and how we let ourselves be taken in? We wanted to believe he was what we saw when he was playing President. Remember how we wanted him to be the guy we saw on 60 Minutes? The guy who said he’d never had “sexual relations” with that woman? The thought that our president was a criminal, a lecherous adulterer, a profiteering, philandering Arkansas pol up to his elbows in corruption was not allowed by his liberal keepers. He was a statesman, an intellectual, a man born to be President. Watch how they marched out and proclaimed his innocence, so duped, so used that even now most of them cannot be angry. Watch how they defend his sham legacy, and ignore his incompetence, his raising skirts and raising money, all the while letting our nation’s well being deteriorate. Yes, Mr. Clinton was impressive. An impressive sham.
When Joe Klein wrote Primary Colors, liberals engaged in what became a religion for them. In the book, the governor and wife had all the real flaws of the Clintons, allowing liberals to acknowledge silently within themselves the existence of these realities, but in the world of words the President was always the flawed, but anointed political messiah, the Kennedy-esque keeper of the Camelot dream. It is sad- and I truly mean sad- to see men like James Carville castrated by the dualities of Bill Clinton. Pause and consider there is no such spin necessary with our current president. If you want to write a book exposing him as a dufus and a frat boy, shallow and unpolished, go right ahead. We will laugh. Because we already know this. Did you hear? We already know.
Conservatives should remember that America voted for George W. Bush with it’s eyes open, and the nightmare of Florida gave them time to think it over. Pre 9/11, America came to peace with the man in the White House. He would try hard. He would speak their language. He could be trusted. He wouldn’t have sex with interns in the Oval Office. Yes, he might be a little small in the suit, but that was alright. And after 9/11, Americans discovered that this very human man, this fellow who was in so many ways, like so many of us, felt what we felt: outrage and anger. He let it show. And what you saw, you knew was real. George Bush cannot act like President. He is discovering what it is to become the President.
Those troubled by the ridicule of our president should remember that it is his very emotional nature, his connection with the reporters in the back row and the bald guy at the photo-op that make his tears real. It is his transparent emotions that give that trembling voice authenticity. Did anyone believe Bill Clinton’s quivering lip? Does anyone doubt George Bush’s? Before our eyes, we are watching a man bring his humanity to a job that has become more than human. And wonder of wonders, we realize he actually came to the kingdom for such a time as this. He was made to be the man standing for us and in front of us.
Just a couple of days ago, President Bush visited with some of the families that lost sons in Operation Anaconda. Liberals and critics were second guessing our preparedness for that operation, and the loss of seven in one day was a shock to the system of a nation that had begun to act as if the war was winding down. President Bush looked at the audience, and looked at the families, and tears came to his eyes. His voice shook. He leaned forward as he does when he is earnest. His words were simple. The sacrifice was terrible, but the cause was just and the families could know their sons died for what was right. And there would be more. He can tell us these things, and our confidence in him, and in ourselves, soars.
My mind went to two stories I have heard many times about President Clinton. It was a ceremony for the soldiers who died in the “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia. President Clinton said the requisite lines, shook hands with the families, and was leaving. A father of one of the boys, clearly not a little cynically, asked the President what he should say when his grandson asked why his daddy died. The President reportedly said “That’s a good question,” and left the room.
The other story involved a video taken at the funeral of Ron Brown. Clinton was walking back to the limo with Tony Campolo, and the two were cracking up over something Tony had said, unaware that they were being filmed. Suddenly Clinton spotted the video camera. He morphed his laughing face into a face of grief, and put his hand over his face as if weeping. It was surreal, yet utterly true to character of the man.
As I recall these stories, I realize they could be replicated dozens of times. I safely speak for the vast majority of the country here: I will take the dufus. Proudly, gladly and without any hesitation.
Reports are telling us that Mr. Clinton is spending his post-presidential evenings in various night clubs, enjoying no doubt, the adoration of many of his fans. His career as ex-President clearly does not animate him as did the more on-camera role of President. While liberals criticized Reagan for acting his way through the job, I have a feeling Mr. Clinton’s presentation of himself as what he really was not will never be fully appreciated. On the other hand, if Mr. Bush is in the White House for eight years, I have no doubt he will be choking on pretzels, winking and watching Austin Powers the entire time. But when he leads us, when he speaks for us and tells us what being an American requires of us today, I will believe him. Because he is what he is, and there is no doubt that he our President. Like Harry Truman before him, George W. Bush makes us glad that history sometimes puts the little man, the flawed man, the honest man, in the most powerful of offices.