W: Our President

1. W.: Mysteries of the Organism

In George W. Bush, we have a president for whom reading a teleprompter is a physical exertion. Each line accomplished brings a panting release of breath. His best trait is his doggedness. Another man would have realized his failings and tried to do something about them. In W., his indifference to his deficiencies, his shameless willingness to do things for which he is unfit—e.g. read, speak, lead a political community—are, alongside his noble birth, his main strengths.

Character tells in public appearances. W. often looks confused. His brow tightens as if he were enduring some pain he can’t quite locate. It could be on his foot, in his bowel. But it is the pain of thinking, or speaking, itself.

His underlip rises to cover its mate. His chin collapses his face from underneath, as in the frozen mastication of the retarded. The upthrust chin is as much W.’s characteristic expression as it was for Charcot’s lunatics. The two lines that emerge pointing downward between his eyebrows when he thinks he shows anger resemble the expression on the mute face of a baby, about to throw a tantrum. They are the mimicry of anger in a stunted face.

W. is a close stander. He once allowed Brit Hume to interview him in prime-time, because his poll numbers were low. He showed America his golf putting, his dogs, his way of talking to children, his skill at sitting. He demonstrated his verisimilitude. You could see that even Brit Hume was nervous at finding that W. stands too close. In the absence of character, he tries to suck definition from others in his proximity—as if to assure himself that their uprightness will keep him erect, within distance of touch.

W. is a tongue thruster. You see that little pink muscle flicker outwards between his pale lips frequently during a speech. W.’s tongue is the gremlin soul announcing its presence, the unformed, fetus-like, moist juvenility inside the mannequin.

As he nears the end of his speeches, he becomes complacent. You detect the flash of a spoiled grin. It indicates: “I got away with something.” W. is the curious figure who learned to get away with things that weren’t rebellious. What he got away with was dutiful conformism.

W.’s is the heroism of just functioning. Our leader has grown expert in his way. We have watched him gradually become assured. His triumph over adversity has given him the opportunity to mortgage the economy, wreck foreign relations, despoil the environment, and cause the deaths of innocents. If you can manage to hold the small things together, as W. has, you can ruin the big things utterly.

More from Issue 1

Issue 1 Negation

There is a kind of fake refinement that turns into a vulgarity . . . it comes from deciding what other people can’t say.

Issue 1 Negation

Right now we plant democracy like an orchid and depart—leaving behind oilmen to drain nutrients out of the soil.

Issue 1 Negation

The problem is hardly a lack of magazines, even literary magazines.

Issue 1 Negation

Intellect did not interest them, but kids did. Childhood is still their leitmotif.

Issue 1 Negation

The naked protests, which spread across the globe, were a reminder of what went unsaid.

Issue 1 Negation

Reading the Weekly Standard is like stepping into a parallel universe. Not an alien one; one nicely mirrored.

Issue 1 Negation

This bulking-up process has transformed the game. In fact, it threatens to render the game obsolete.

Issue 1 Negation
Horse Mountain
Issue 1 Negation
Eggers, Teen Idol
Issue 1 Negation
Against Exercise
Issue 1 Negation
The Norm
Issue 1 Negation
Why Literature Matters When It's Somewhere Else
Issue 1 Negation
Fontana
Issue 1 Negation
Art Chronicle; or, The Icon Emigrating
Issue 1 Negation
Paranoiastan
Issue 1 Negation
Mogadishu, Baghdad, Troy; or, Heroes Without War
Issue 1 Negation
The Black Iron Prison
Issue 1 Negation

They are better than you because they act, and they will not let you forget it.

Issue 1 Negation

Wallace’s opus now looks like the central American novel of the past thirty years, a dense star for lesser work to orbit.

Issue 1 Negation

His characters are outsiders who create their own communities.

Issue 1 Negation

Those jokes, wherein you tweak the Man by suggesting gay sex or quoting Lacan: those are no longer funny.

More by this Author

September 8, 2008

I have often asked myself whether eight years of George W. Bush has been God’s judgment on America for our sins.

Issue 1 Negation
Against Exercise
Issue 8 Recessional

If the household organization could be altered simply in the interest of desire, then anything could be changed.

September 27, 2011
Notes From an Occupation
Issue 3 Reality Principle
Radiohead, Or the Philosophy of Pop
Issue 6 Mainstream

Ultimately, the antipolitics of fear would deprive the person of his status as a political, even a social being.