1. "I don't care. I like the guy." Show people a list of outrages
perpetrated by the Bush administration in its first year, and most of them are
likely to respond with the moral equivalent of a shrug. Yes, you and I know
better and this is a sad state of affairs that we must all view with alarm, etc.
etc. It also happens to be the case, and we had better start dealing with
political reality. The reality of the present moment and the foreseeable future
is that people in the aggregate like this president, whatever they may think of
Old 43, smirk and all, is infinitely more likeable than his father, who was never accused of being a "man of the people." More importantly, Bush II is not personally disliked on a large scale, as was Bill Clinton. People admired Clinton, feared him, loathed him and lusted after him, held him in awe or in contempt, but few actually appeared to have liked the man.
2. Bush's personal failings only seem to make him more likable. People enjoy mocking him for his verbal ineptitude, his lack of depth, his inability to eat a pretzel and watch football at the same time, but they don't hate him for these defects. He comes across as human in a way his father's stiffly-controlled hysteria never was able to do.
Clinton's weaknesses appeared all the more appalling (and damnable) against the background of his formidable strengths. We wondered, how could anyone so brilliant have been so miserably stupid?
Bush's perceived strengths emerge from all his shortcomings as a pleasant surprise. He's better than we thought, whatever we thought.
3. Because we like him, we're going to let him get away with stuff we wouldn't tolerate from others. This will be true long after Cheney has been tossed to the investigators and the last Enron executive tries to cut a deal.
4. The more we like him, the smarter he seems. Whoever debates him in 2004 is going to have to knock him out to beat him.
5. Bush is every bit the politician Clinton, who should know, warned us that
he was. Clinton was extremely lucky to have made his first race for the White
House against the father and not the son. As Bob Herbert put it in the New York
Times, the Democrats now find themselves "placed in check by a fellow who
was initially viewed, at best, as a political lightweight."
6. They had better start taking him seriously, if they aspire to anything more than the right to say "I told you so."
7. There really is an awful lot of addictive behavior in that family. We don't care, we still like him. Who doesn't have an irresponsible cousin or uncle who can get away with murder and still be the family darling? And this just in from a Texas source: "You know, I think I'd drink and take whatever pill I could get my hands on, too, if I had to grow up in that family." (A view evidently shared by Dubya.)
8. The more he leans toward the center (and stiff-arms the religious right), the more we like him. He understands this. Only Nixon could go to China, etc.
9. The job approval rating is bound to fall. But not necessarily because we won't still like him. It's amazing how much of the glow of "The West Wing" seems to have rubbed off on Bush, of all people.
10. It's the economy, stupid. Granted, people could care less about the economy when they're running for their lives and scared to open the mail. Even that envelope with the tiny tax refund in it. But sooner or later the dust and fear die down. England gave Churchill the boot the minute the Second World War was over.
The city of Houston used to feel much the same way about Ken Lay that the country now feels about Old 43. Then reality broke through, like a scene from GLAMOUR: A WORLD PROBLEM, and perception was no longer reality. Find someone who likes Ken Lay now.
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