Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Crack in Team Bush


It was a shock to see Defense Secretary Robert Gates battling tears Wednesday evening as he spoke about Maj. Douglas Zembiec, a Marine and father of a 1-year-old daughter, who was killed in May after requesting a second tour of duty in Iraq. Shocking and yet somehow profoundly validating and cathartic. ...

But here was something new: an acknowledgment, however unbidden, of the complex range of negative emotions — sadness and frustration and, yes, I think, guilt — that’s now weighing upon the nation’s soul after four disastrous years in Iraq.

We’d never seen anything like it in the “Henny Penny” brush-offs of Gates’s predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld. We probably never will discern any inkling of it in Condoleezza Rice’s robotic equanimity. President Bush is known to meet privately with wounded soldiers and families of the fallen and is said, at those times, to become emotional, but little of that softness seeps into his often cocky — and defensive — public demeanor.

It’s hard to imagine much sympathy emanating from a man who admits to no soul-searching on Iraq, who vacationed through the panic and devastation of Hurricane Katrina and who recently shrugged off the issue of health care reform with the line, “I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

Rice, I read in the recent biography, “Twice as Good,” is so incapable of empathy that, in her late teens, and after years of assiduous and ambitious practice, she was forced to give up her dreams of becoming a concert pianist because her teacher felt she didn’t have the “interest or inclination” to “make someone else’s thoughts and emotions [her] own.” ...

“He [Gates] is obviously a man who tries his best to serve his country as best he possibly can, and he isn’t afraid to show his emotions...”

I pictured Vice President Dick Cheney miming, “Gag me,” and Rumsfeld swaying with the motions of playing an imaginary violin. And I thought: how wonderful it is that someone, on high, has had the strength to own the pain that’s been caused by our disastrous course in Iraq. ...

Warner ends the piece veering into gender politics. Maybe she's right, but I think the assumption is overdone, and deserves to be tested. Maybe more of our politicos, both male and female, should have colonoscopies, and have the sticks pulled out of their asses.

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