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Friday, September 10, 2004

The unpenitent incompetent.

Tom Schade at Prophet Motive writes:

George W. Bush['s] perceived character is his greatest political strength. He is, he and his campaign repeatedly tell us, a good man: uncomplicated, resolute, morally clear by instinct, determined, straightforward, born-again after an irresponsible youth.

None of this is actually true.

Tom's eloquent analysis of the president's dishonesty, unprincipled stubbornness, and false populism is definitely worth reading. Here's the section that specifically addresses Bush's religiosity:

And finally, George Bush is not born-again, but is, in religious terms, unrepentant. His religious convictions are self-serving window dressing and self-advertisement. His faith, and mine, tells me that men and women who have sinned are forgiven by the grace of God. One can be born-again. It is true that the relationship between one’s repentance and God’s forgiveness is never clear from the outside. But the fruit by which one can tell a born-again soul is its repentant and humble spirit. The state of the soul is revealed in the character of the person. Nothing spoke more clearly about the state of George Bush’s character, and soul, than his stunning unwillingness to describe a single error that he has made. Nothing tells us more about him than his seeming allergy to the dead US soldiers and Marines in Iraq. He will associate himself in public with the wounded, brave and recovering as they are, but never with the dead. It is same character of a man who will stop drinking, but never describe himself as an alcoholic, and never do the fearless moral inventory that recovery seems to require.

Meanwhile, on the same subject but coming at it from a political rather than moral theological angle, Matthew Yglesias writes in The American Prospect:

Reviewing Clinton’s My Life in the June 24, 2004, Los Angeles Times, neoconservative Max Boot happily concluded that “conservatives like character, liberals like cleverness.” He’s right. But to state what should be obvious, the president is not your father, your husband, your drinking buddy, or your minister. These are important roles, but they are not the president’s. He has a job to do, and it’s a difficult one, involving a wide array of complicated issues. His responsibility to manage these issues is a public one, and the capacity to do so in a competent and moral manner is fundamentally unrelated to the private virtues of family, friendship, fidelity, charity, compassion, and all the rest.

For the president to lead an exemplary personal life is surely superior to the alternative. But within obvious limits — no one would want an alcoholic president, for example — it doesn’t really matter. Clinton’s indiscretions caused his family pain and produced awkward moments for the parents of some young children. But Bush’s bungling has gotten people killed in Iraq, saddled the nation with enormous debts, and created long-term security problems with which the country has not yet begun to grapple.

That the country should be secured against terrorist attacks, that deadly weapons should be kept out of the hands of our enemies, or that it would be good for a wide slice of the world to enjoy the blessings of freedom and democracy are hardly controversial propositions. But these things are easier said than done. Even a person of goodwill is by no means guaranteed to succeed. Yet succeed we must. And if we are to do so, the question of intelligence must be put back on the table. The issue is not “cleverness” — some kind of parlor trick or showy mastery of trivia — but a basic ability to make sense of a complicated, fast-changing world and decide how to confront it.

("The Brains Thing," Matthew Yglesias, The American Prospect 9.1.04)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 10 September 2004 at 5:28 PM

Previous: Forrest Church on church and state.
Next: Meet your fellow Philocritics, part 2.

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