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.