Ignatius sees a ‘weary’ president

IGNATIUS SEES A ‘WEARY’ PRESIDENT…. After noticing that Atrios had named David Ignatius today’s “Wanker of the Day” because of his column in the Washington Post, I checked out the piece to see what all the fuss is about. Lo and behold, it’s pretty bad.

Ignatius believes that the burdens of leadership during the crisis in Iraq have taken their toll on President Bush, and that the “stress of the job — so well hidden for much of the past six years — has begun to show on Bush’s face.”

Bush and his officials are strong characters; they work hard not to let you see them sweat. But the anguish and exhaustion are there.

Bush is not a man for introspection. That’s part of his flinty personality — the tight, clipped answers and the forced jocularity of the nicknames he gives to reporters and White House aides. That’s why this version of reality TV is so poignant: This very private man has begun to talk out loud about the emotional turmoil inside. He is letting it bleed.

Ignatius seems to be suggesting that the president is somehow a sympathetic figure in this fiasco. He launched a disastrous war for reasons that turned out to be wrong; he mismanaged practically every possible angle to the conflict; and he’s left with critically-important questions for which he has no answers.

Ignatius considers this and notes that Bush seemed “stressed.” Forgive me, but isn’t that what’s supposed to happen to a president in the midst of a disastrous war of his own making? It gets back to a point from yesterday — it’s the soft bigotry of low expectations. We’ve become so accustomed to the president appearing detached and separated from reality that if he appears vaguely concerned during a press conference, we’re supposed to be impressed. “See,” Ignatius seems to be arguing, “he’s aware of reality after all.”

Nearly four years after the initial invasion, that’s setting the bar rather low, isn’t it?

For that matter, Bush isn’t really “letting it bleed” at all. LBJ may have had trouble sleeping during the war in Vietnam, but when asked a few weeks ago about his own sleeping habits, Bush told People magazine: “I must tell you, I’m sleeping a lot better than people would assume.”

Ignatius perceives “emotional turmoil inside” the president. I’m left wondering whether he’s watching a different president than the rest of us.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.