Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 378, July 30, 2006

"The Founding Fathers made that very mistake..."

Is George Bush An Idiot?
by Jonathan David Morris

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

China and Russia are big countries.

When world leaders met at the recent G8 summit, President Bush was caught cursing, chewing like a cow, and massaging the shoulders of Germany's female chancellor on camera. He was also recorded by an open mic informing a Chinese official—reportedly the Chinese president—that China and Russia are, quote, "big" countries.

As if this is something the Chinese president doesn't already know.

The whole world seems to be treating Bush's G8 performance as final proof of his long rumored idiocy at the moment. I understand why they would think this way. After all, he's the most powerful man in the universe. He shouldn't be all but a pee stain away from behaving like somebody's puppy.

But someone needs to stick up for the president on this one. And if no one else has the courage to do it, then that someone might as well be me.

George Bush may, indeed, be a moron. Most of us will never know, because most of us will never meet him. But if he is, the way he behaved at the G8 still failed to prove it.

Telling the Chinese president that China's a big country isn't a sign of mental midgetry. It's a sign of social ineptness.

The G8 didn't prove Bush is stupid. It basically proved he's me.

What do I mean by this? Well, not literally me, of course. And not just me, either. But people like me. And more specifically, guys like me. All across America, there are millions of men who can't make it through an evening without saying something stupid. It's not hard to spot us. We're the ones whose wives say, "Stop it. You're embarrassing me," every ten to fifteen minutes.

I've always known I was one of these men. But it's only now, with help from a very candid camera, that I realize George Bush is one of these men, too.

Take the way he dropped the s-bomb, for instance. I once got in trouble at a small social gathering for mentioning how my roommate had named his pet frogs "F" and "F" (which was short for a four-letter word, which wasn't Fred). Or take Bush's amazingly painful attempt at small talk with the Chinese president. That was pure me also. I rarely have anything of substance to say to other grown-ups. When I say something stupid, it's usually because I'm just trying to think of something—anything—to say.

After all, keeping my mouth shut would make me look as out of place and disinterested as I am.

Of course, you could make the case that the president and I are much different people, living much different lives. You could even make the case that presidents ought to be able to talk to other presidents. They shouldn't be disinterested. We've been spoiled by smooth-talking commanders-in-chief in this country. Bill Clinton, for instance, could unlatch women's bras with the sound of his voice.

But a wise man once said people get the leaders they ask for. And speaking from personal experience, if George Bush is the kind of guy I think he is, then he's the most fitting leader we could ask for in this American moment.

Why? Because the men whose wives "can't take them anywhere" are usually the same men who let shells of themselves inhabit their bodies and inhibit their minds for 40 hours a week, every week. They're the nameless, faceless drones working nameless, faceless jobs in office parks across the country.

In short, they're the white, middle-class cogs in America's corporate machine.

Guys like me don't just wear social masks in social settings. We wear them in professional settings, too. We restrain ourselves. We act as though we care about spreadsheets. We pretend, as a matter of mere survival, that we're happy we're working nondescript desk jobs.

Meanwhile, we only have desk jobs because sitting at desks is all the schools ever taught us to do.

I realize George Bush is a symbol of sheer corporate greed for some people. Maybe his background in business says more about him than I'd care to let on here. But after seeing how he acted at the G8, I can't help but think he only got into business—and then into politics—because business and politics are the only things he's ever known.

That wasn't a rare side of Bush we saw at the summit. It was the real Bush—the Bush that Bush pretends not to be, in order to keep his job.

He doesn't want to be the world's most powerful person. You can see it in his eyes when he jokes with reporters. He'd rather be off doing stand-up comedy somewhere. And you know what? He would be good at it. He's not stupid; he's actually pretty witty.

Witty doesn't always pay the bills, though. Which is why men like Bush end up where they end up.

So I'm not buying this idea that George Bush is an idiot. Nor do I think we should be embarrassed by his dubious social graces. I'm not even sure we should be embarrassed by his policies anymore. In context, the Iraq War sort of resembles every project I've ever taken on in a moment of over-ambition. His secretiveness reminds me of every time I've ever said, "Don't worry... I'm working on it," in order to keep my job.

If anything, we shouldn't be embarrassed by Bush, but by the culture that mass-produces directionless young men just like him every summer. Some are lucky enough to be born with his connections. The rest just scour Monster till they find an employer willing to pay their bills.

Whatever the case, they enter a world that only allows creativity within the contexts of conformity. They don't have it as bad as starving children in Russia or China (or wherever children are starving these days). But they do, in the words of Peter Gibbons from Office Space, work "just hard enough not to get fired." That's a type of starvation—an oppression of the spirit—all its own.

This doesn't make them idiots. It just makes them the boys who didn't "apply themselves" on report cards—still restless, but technically all grown up.

Jonathan David Morris writes from Philadelphia. He can be reached at


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