Like Father, Like Son:
Dubyas Creepy Death Wish
Is it possible that George W. Bush has been following Nixons famous old plan
all this time, pretending to be insane so as to frighten the enemy into
Possible, but not likely. Something even more disturbing seems to be going on.
When Saddam Hussein offered to let the inspectors back in yesterday, many
American opponents of the coming war were relieved. Whether Mr. Bush was nuts
or pretending to be nuts, it was working.
Now the president would lead his party
into the fall elections not as a war profiteer desperately wagging the dog,
but as a firm and wise statesman.
It was beginning to look as if the president had been right after all to
reject the advice of his fathers men, much of his own party, and of nearly
every other world leader. Where his own father and Mr. Clinton had failed, it
was George W. Bush who had brought Saddam to heel at last.
But no, that didnt seem to be what was going on after all. For the instant
and instinctive reaction of the President was to brush aside the prospect
of a peaceful victory, pressing even more urgently for war.
This was just what his father had done in the days leading up to the first
war with Iraq. Saddam, finally realizing that he had made a ghastly
miscalculation about his longtime American allies, was desperately knuckling
under to every new days demands from Washington.
But each capitulation brought new demands, even more humiliating. Mr. Bush
turned out only incidentally to want Iraqs withdrawal from Kuwait; much more
than that, Mr. Bush wanted a man-sized war of his very own.
He got one, and he seemed to win it, and for a while he was Americas
sweetheart. But then a draft dodger barely half his age, fellow from some
absurd place called Hope, ate Poppys lunch. The present President Bush is
thought to have learned an important life lesson from this.
What was the lesson, though?
I once followed the business career of a man who went to work for one of his
fathers newspapers and eventually took over the chain. The son hated his
father, knowing he would never be that smart or that respected in the
profession. The father was contemptuous of his son for what he was doing to
the papers, cheapening them for bigger profits.
Many years before, the father had created a big city daily in the face of
entrenched and powerful competition. No one thought he could make a go of it,
and he didnt. The paper failed.
Some forty years later, the son mortgaged his newspaper empire to start a big
city daily in the face of entrenched and powerful competition. His elderly
father didnt think the son could make it, and he didnt. The new paper
No outsider can know what really went on inside this family, or what goes on
in any other unhappy family. What envies, what disappointments? What love
bound up inextricably with hate, what festering slights, what fears of
inadequacy, what secret resentment of favors rendered and of favors received?
Whatever the cause, it turned out that the newspaper publisher in his secret
heart didnt want to outdo his father at all. Instead he aspired to be an
exact duplicate of the man who had failed in the great undertaking of his
It begins to look as if the president doesnt want to outdo his father,
(This article is also to be found, along with many
others, in my new blog called Footnotes to the News. I hope youll take a
look, and perhaps comment.)
September 17, 2002