Today, Bush held a quick news conference after accepting the Walter Reed Commission report, and ABC newsie Bob Woodruff was in the press gallery. In prepared remarks, Bush recognized Woodruff’s personal journey back from near-fatal injuries that he suffered in Iraq:
I also want to recognize Bob Woodruff here. He is a — he himself was wounded, severely wounded, and went through the system, to a certain extent. And we welcome you back, and we’re glad you’re with us. And we would hope that any wounded soldier, any person in uniform would receive the kind of care and the ability to return to work, just like you have done. And so we’re glad you’re with us, Bob. Congratulations on the will to recover…
That would have been fine, had Woodruff not had the temerity to actually ask a question.
When Woodruff asked Bush whether the government was moving fast enough to help families, the president declined to answer.
“Declined to answer”? That makes it sound like he said “no comment” or just did the “smile-and-nod-and-not-answer-the-question” routine. But that’s not the case.
David Greene, the NPR reporter who was at the ceremony, described the project and Bush’s tepid acceptance of the report this morning. And according to Greene, this was Bush’s response in declining Woodruff’s question (this is what you didn’t read or hear in the CNN report):
“Just because I recognized you, Bob, doesn’t mean I’m going to answer your questions here.”
In other words, “Glad you’re OK. Now shut the fuck up.”
Now, this isn’t much of a surprise. This is a man who doesn’t do well in unscripted situations, and Woodruff’s question was definitely unscripted. He either gets taciturn as he did here, or he sppears to actually lose the ability to think or speak for an extended period. He’s notoriously unable to perceive other people as being as “real” as he is to himself, or their realities as valid as his own.
It’s what enables him to repeatedly joke about “hitting the trifecta” with a recession, 9/11, and the declaration of war coming so quickly at the beginning of his first term in office.
It’s what enabled him to joke about missing WMDs even as U.S. service members died in a war and occupation primarily justified by his administrations claims of WMDs in Iraq and Saddam’s intention to use them against hte U.S.
It’s what enables him to mock a legally blind reporter.
It’s what enables him to use a woman’s sweater to clean his glasses, like she was there for no other purpose but to be used for his convenience.
It’s what enabled him to grope another world leader like he was glad-handing a fraternity keg party.
It’s what enabled him to mock Karla Faye Tucker’s execution, and to grin as he recounted executions he presided over as governor of Texas, and almost gleeful as he described the upcoming executions of James Byrd’s killers.
It’s what allowed him to sleep through Saddam Hussein’s execution, even as the rest of the world recoiled, and to sleep better than most people would think as the quagmire in Iraq claims more lives and looks more and more like an interminable disaster every day.
This is also man who seems almost pathologically unable to accept challenges to his particular view of reality that the White House actually follows procedures to keep dissenters out of his events, that is when it’s not busy editing realities that are no longer useful or that have become embarrassing.
In that sense, he sounds a lot like some of his party’s foot soldiers, described in God and Country: America in Red and Blue, in a quote from yesterday’s post.
Those whose worldviews were rigid, however, who were so emotionally invested in a particular view of reality that the loss of any one piece of it would be experienced as a threat to their very identity, were beyond reach.
He’s beyond reach, alright. But still in office. and that’s what makes him particularly dangerous as he issues an executive order to seize the assets of anyone the Unites States believes is working to threaten stability in Iraq — a determination that resides entirely in the executive office — and changes the rules for CIA interrogations to make them harsher.
He’s essentially saying to us what he basically said to Robert Woodruff: Shut the fuck up. And the executive orders he’s recently signed silently deliver the second half of the threat: Or else.