September 16, 2005
Vamping Until Ready
I have a friend who is a professor of theater history (which came as news to me -- not that John would be such, but that such a position even existed!) He tells me of a theater expression, "vamping until ready." If I understand it correctly, it describes an actor up on the stage doing schtick until the real performance is ready to begin.
In a sense, that's what this post is: I'm writing it before I'm quite ready to go live with Big Lizards. But the phrase does an even better job of describing the absurd overreaction to a Reuters photo of President Bush writing the infamous "bathroom note" to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The note, which Bush allegedly wrote "during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14," reads: "I think I may need a bathroom break? Is this possible?"
This causes great mirth among the Beavises and Buttheads of, not just the nation, but the world. For a generation raised on Saturday Night Live and Animal House, I suppose that's inevitable. But evidently, many on the left side of the aisle imagine this raises some serious issue... at least if Editor and Publisher can be believed:
A source at the Washington Post tells E&P that the paper is considering it for prominent play tomorrow morning, in the context that, at least in some minds, it raises questions about overall perception of the U.S. at the United Nations, right or wrong. Reuters reports extremely strong interest in the photo today.
The fact is, according to Reuters -- and this has not been widely reported -- President Bush did indeed take a bathroom break after passing the note to Rice.
This apparently raised some eyebrows around the room, because American representatives (among others) have a reputation for suddenly bolting, though normally for a far different reason than this latest one. Fair or not, the European press has already had a field day with the photo, often centering on the notion that Bush had to ask Rice for permission.
I don't actually find it humorous that a person trapped in an endless, gassy U.N. meeting might have to arise to use the facilities. But the idea that Europeans would think this meant that the president had to ask permission from the Secretary of State before doing so -- that I find hilarious!
Talk about vamping until ready, the world press is still desperate, after nearly five years, to find some issue -- any issue! -- that will finally take down the Bush presidency. And they're still tap dancing, waiting for the show to begin.
For the benefit of those in the creaky, old part of the world, the biggest problem the president has (any president of any political party) is to get members of his staff to tell him when they disagree with something he has said or plans to do. The presidential cabinet and staff tend rather to be too deferential, too respectful, almost to the point of awe.
Mike Deaver, Deputy Chief of Staff for Ronald Reagan, tells an anecdote about needing to cross Reagan's hotel bedroom in the middle of the night to get some important document. Deaver literally crawled on his hands and knees to avoid waking the president. There is a solemnity that encompasses the American presidency that -- to put it in terms Europe might actually understand -- is more akin to that of a monarch than a prime minister. This holds whether the president is Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush: from George W. to George W., no president has ever had to "ask permission" from his staff to do anything.
Presidents have bullied their staffs, cajoled them, argued with them, demanded too much of them, let them run off and create their own little bureaucratic empires, fired them, and betimes even fought with them -- probably literally, at least back in the nineteenth century. But the one thing presidents have never done is ask permission from a cabinet member before doing something: the very last thing any president needs to be told is that he is the boss... nobody ever became president via timidity!
(Besides, there are many more logical explanations for the note (assuming Bush actually wrote it); the photographer who snapped the picture thinks Bush was just unsure of the Byzantine protocol of how one goes about excusing himself duing a Security-Council meeting -- something Rice would know better, having been at many in her capacity as National Security Advisor and now Secretary of State. My own idea is that Bush was asking Condi whether something urgent was about to be discussed for which his presence was required.)
There is a larger issue here. The meme that Bush would have to ask Condi for "permission" to go potty plays into the persistent absurdist fantasy of the Left that Bush is just a puppet, and the real power is (fill in the blank). First it was Karl Rove; then it was Dick Cheney; for a while, it was Karen Hughes, and then Paul Wolfowitz. I reckon it must be Condoleezza Rice now.
The Left, both at home and abroad, wants simultaneously to believe two contradictory absurdities: first, that President Bush has the IQ of an eggplant; and second, that President Bush is an evil genius, a Professor Moriarty. Ordinary people would realize that they sort of have to pick one and drop the other. But lefties, growing up believing you can have it all, baby, must find a way to integrate the two... hence the puppet meme: Bush is still a drooling moron, but the power behind the throne is the evil genius!
Once settling upon this peculiar view of the world, they must of course seize upon any opportunity to trumpet "evidence" of their shared hallucination. Hence, the "bathroom note" is adduced to prove that the president is really subordinate to his secretary of state: ahh-HAAA!
Oh well. I can hardly complain: they are obsessed with finding a less ego-shattering way to view the world than the frightening idea that a Texas businessman of mediocre educational attainments can kick their butts in six elections, walk on their spines with cowboy boots, and colonize them. You'd think their years of experience with Ronald Reagan -- and Lyndon Johnson before him -- would have gotten them used to the idea; but evidently, like a perpetually renewing virgin, the experience surprises them anew each time. And it causes the Left to stubbornly insist upon misunderestimating Bush again and again... to the benefit of America, and indeed the entire world.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 16, 2005, at the time of 11:18 PM
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Tracked on September 20, 2005 12:42 AM
The following hissed in response by: DaveR
You are certainly correct about the prevalence of Bush Derangement Syndrome in the world media, but methinks you focus overmuch on Bush the man as the trigger. What is more fundamental is that the world media, led by that of the US, regards itself as the essential instrument in the holy quest to limit US power and influence, destructively if necessary.
Since the US is in the forefront of the few nations with both the means and the inclination to confront dictators, thugs, and religious fanatics who would disrupt the peace and enslave anyone within their power, it is evident that the media (and their pals in the entertainment industry) have in fact made alliance with evil.
Under what delusional frame of reference they do this is a mystery to me, but the fact of it is as plain as the nose on your face, as they say.
The following hissed in response by: Clint
I've been scratching my head trying to figure out why anyone (beyond the Beavis-and-Butthead motivation) would be particularly interested in this.
The only serious question I've heard raised is... what more serious notes might the press be picking up with their telephoto lenses?
But you're absolutely right. This does fit perfectly into the Bush-on-a-tight-leash meme.
The above hissed in response by: Clint at September 17, 2005 9:34 AM
The following hissed in response by: lyle
We went through the same puppetmaster fantasy with Ronald Reagan. The 'amiable dunce' was worked by Mike Deaver, Lyn Nofziger, Roger Ailes, Donald Regan... and as each one left the administration, the liberal establishment chose a new fantasy puppetmaster.
In many ways, the Bush presidency is a remake of Reagan's. GW modelled his executive style on the Gipper, and his attitude towards criticism has been cordially dismissive, as was Reagan's.
The liberal establishment has responded with Pavlovian predictability. The main difference between then and now is a steep decline in the competence and intelligence level of the Mediacrats. Their hysteria is more obvious, the quality of their invective has degenerated, and their relevance has diminished. In his enemies - Dowd, Rich, Krugman, Clift, Pelosi, Reid, Kennedy, Biden, Franken, et cetera - the president is truly fortunate.
The following hissed in response by: DDO
I have a secret decoder ring from Karl Rove. The translation from the UN note: "I may need to tell these idiots to p*** off. Do you think I can do this without causing WWIII?"
The following hissed in response by: Milhouse
It's not his handwriting anyway. Compare it to a known sample. There's no resemblance.
The above hissed in response by: Milhouse at September 18, 2005 6:28 PM
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