Friday, February 16, 2007

"Turn Off The TV, Dad"

In his early 1970s, George W. Bush squared off against his dad, challenging him to a fight. George was drunk, His father held back from smacking his loudmouth, wayward son across the chops and, according to some biographies, brother Jeb was there to cool down young George.

The mythology of the Bush family tells us that Papa Bush never thought his son was cut out for politics, and few were more surprised than he when George Jnr decided he wanted to become President Of The United States.

Now Papa Bush is basically retired, and suffering what appears to be mild dementia, he is spending far too much time, according to his wife, watching endless cable news programs, most of which regularly trash his son, the president, and berate and insult George Jnr in ways that few would have dared to have done when he was president.

Father and son have both claimed they never talk about politics, and rarely, if ever, discuss the War On Iraq. Which seems impossible. How could they not? Papa Bush pulled out of Iraq because his advisers made sure he understood the chaos that would be unleashed if they went ahead and overthrew Saddam Hussein.

George Jnr claimed, in late 2002, that he had to overthrow Saddam for a variety of reasons, including the fact that Saddam had supposedly ordered an assassination attempt on the old man when he was visiting Saudi Arabia, or Jordan (the claims differ) in 1993. The car bomb didn't go off. Papa Bush survived.

But the spectacular failure of the current Bush administration has wrought damage to the Bush dynasty way beyond anything even Papa Bush expected. Jeb Bush was supposed to make a run for president himself, to keep the political dynasty alive. Had the Iraq War gone the way it was hyped to go in early 2003, no doubt Jeb would the number one or number two most likely Republican contender right now.

But that only happened in the fantasy world of Papa Bush's insomnia-punctured dreams.

The reality is horrendous, for the Middle East, for Iraq, and for the Bush dynasty.

Who doesn't blame the father when the son turns out to be dangerous and destructive?

Papa Bush's public tears a few months back, while giving a speech, where he had to comforted by Jeb, was obviously a venting of his feelings about what his son has done, and what has happened to the name of Bush in American politics.

But George Jnr is now publicly reassuring his dad, telling him not to worry, "I'm fine," and warning him to keep away from the TV during the current, fiery debates in the Senate over the future direction of the war President Bush simply had to have.

From the Washington Post :
"I am actually more concerned about him than I have ever been in my life, because he's paying too much attention to the news," the president told C-SPAN...

"And I understand how difficult it is for a person who loves somebody to see them out in the political process and to kind of endure the criticism. My answer to him is: 'Look, don't pay attention to it. I'm doing fine.' "

Bush's comments were not the first hint at frustration inside the Bush family over his political troubles. After the November elections, which ousted Republican majorities from both houses of Congress, the elder Bush bristled at those disparaging his son. At a conference in the United Arab Emirates, he responded to Arab critics. "When your son's under attack, it hurts," he said. "You're determined to be at his side and help him any way you possibly can."

Ever the optimist, George Jnr also thinks his father will be recognised, some time in the distant future, as one of the greatest American presidents. It hasn't happened yet, theorises George Jnr, because of the political legacy of Ronald Reagan.

"Well, George H.W. Bush is one of them...He followed President Reagan, who was such a really strong president that people have yet to take a look at my dad."

Everybody needs their fantasies.