Of Condi’s Shoes and Bush’s Numbers

The Condi Buying Shoes thing demonstrated something about this administration. The people in it aren’t the cream of the crop. These are folks who would not rise very far in life, were it not for their strange connections and the Bush family capacity to recycle people from previous circumstances. We already know about Dick Wyoming MIA Cheney’s past as an abject failure until he hooked up with the Bushes. And FEMA Director Mike Brown couldn’t even run a frickin’ horse association well enough to keep the job.

The nation becomes divided not simply along partisan grounds, but between those who want the occupant removed from office and those who are just disgusted.

But think about it: Condi is the perfect call center operator, the perfect fast food worker who really doesn’t give a shit and makes that plain. She’s going to provide exactly as much service as required, and that’s it, she’s outta here. See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya.

An editorial in the Gainesville Sun makes an additional point.

The president has never learned the importance of being a totally Public Man.

…Although the news from Iraq gets most of the blame, it is not the only cause of Bush’s falling numbers. Instead, Bush, like Bill Clinton before him, has allowed his sense of entitled privacy to overwhelm his awareness of public responsibility. Both failed to grasp that as presidents, they are first and foremost Public Men. By ignoring this vital role, they compromised their administrations and sowed the seeds for their fall.

What is a Public Man or Public Woman? They are individuals who understand that their position in public service involves both a mantle and a set of responsibilities. Mantle, because their position is one of gravitas, symbolism and public trust. Responsibilities, because their job requires constant attention to a set of tasks much larger than themselves.

Most importantly, Public Men and Public Women undertake their positions knowing that they must set aside their own desires and ethical codes for the duration of their tenure – the mantle and responsibilities of their position are such that they can never be avoided or allowed to rest. Public Men and Women are constantly on duty, at the ready, prepared to act on behalf of the public.

Bush’s long vacations in Texas don’t disqualify him from Public Man status. No one really begrudges a president time away from the White House…

The problem is that Bush puts himself before the mantle and responsibilities of the Presidency. This has never been more evident than during the president’s latest stint in Crawford. Explaining why he could not take a few minutes to meet with the antiwar activist and mother of slain soldier Cindy Sheehan, Bush said, “I think it’s also important for me to go on with my life – I’ve got a life to live and will do so.”

Public Men and Women do not say or believe such things. Aside from sounding like a whiney adolescent or a self-indulgent country-western song, Bush seems still to believe after nearly six years, it’s him that’s most important.

…When private codes of morality and self-gratifying behaviors replace public ethics and consciousness, the public becomes suspicious and wary. Their trust in the president – the well from which he derives his ability to govern – declines. The nation becomes divided not simply along partisan grounds, but between those who want the occupant removed from office and those who are just disgusted.

…geography is irrelevant to the requirements of being a Public Man. Dwight Eisenhower was never out of touch with affairs of state, even when he was golfing in Augusta. Ronald Reagan always understood that he was first and foremost president as he rode horses and otherwise played cowboy on his California spread.

Thus being a Public Man or Woman is not simply a matter of putting the duties of the office ahead of one’s private life. It is a matter of understanding the ethics of a Public Persona: for the good of the nation and the vitality of our governmental institutions, one’s private morality and ethics must be put away for the duration.

One wishes Bush would get it. If he fails, he can expect that his numbers, and more importantly his capacity to lead, to further decline.


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