‘OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY’….We’ve been hearing quite a bit lately about the president reaching out to observers outside his inner circle for big-picture bull sessions. In April, Bush met with some “big money players up from Texas,” who got out exactly one question before president launched into an extended rant about how no one understands him. In May, Bush reportedly had another gathering in which long-time friends found him “nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated ‘I am the president!’”
The Washington Post’s Peter Baker noted today that these conversations are apparently becoming quite common.
At the nadir of his presidency, George W. Bush is looking for answers. One at a time or in small groups, he summons leading authors, historians, philosophers and theologians to the White House to join him in the search.
Over sodas and sparkling water, he asks his questions: What is the nature of good and evil in the post-Sept. 11 world? What lessons does history have for a president facing the turmoil I’m facing? How will history judge what we’ve done? Why does the rest of the world seem to hate America? Or is it just me they hate?
These are the questions of a president who has endured the most drastic political collapse in a generation. Not generally known for intellectual curiosity, Bush is seeking out those who are, engaging in a philosophical exploration of the currents of history that have swept up his administration.
What’s unclear is exactly what the president hopes to get out of these conversations. Indeed, through the course of Baker’s piece, it’s clear that Bush isn’t looking for advice, because he’s already convinced that he’s right. He isn’t looking for constructive criticism, because he doesn’t want to change course. He isn’t looking for historical predictions, because he’s already certain that history will look kindly on his tenure.
One gets the distinct impression that Bush is arranging meetings with these scholarly observers in the hopes that one of them will confirm everything he already believes.
The Hudson Institute’s Irwin Stelzer, who participated in one of these White House chats, said the president either has “extraordinary self-confidence” or he’s “out of touch with reality.” Stelzer added, “I can’t tell you which.”
Couldn’t it be a little of both?