David Brooks Plumbs the Surprising Profundity of George Bush
As usual, there's a serious logical disconnect in David Brooks's latest column. This one deals with what Brooks calls, with excessive charity, "Bush's theory of history." According to Brooks, the reason President Bush appears upbeat, self-confident, and untroubled about Iraq at a time when even his staunchest allies feel depressed and hopeless, is because he "remains energized by the power of the presidency":
Some presidents complain about the limits of the office. But Bush, despite all the setbacks, retains a capacious view of the job and its possibilities.Brooks contrasts this philosophy with Tolstoy's view of history, in which leaders are driven by events rather than vice versa.
Conservatives are supposed to distrust government, but Bush clearly loves the presidency. Or to be more precise, he loves leadership. He's convinced leaders have the power to change societies. Even in a place as chaotic as Iraq, good leadership makes all the difference.
It's easy to see why Brooks picked this topic for a column. It's good fodder for a contrarian view of Bush and Iraq (Maybe things are going to work out after all! And it's all because Bush has a "theory"!). And with the reference to Tolstoy, it even has a veneer of intellectual profundity, something we know Brooks cherishes.
But think about this for a minute. If Bush seriously has a "theory of history" in which the role of great leaders is preeminent, then wouldn't the specific decisions made by leaders matter? Wouldn't a president committed to this theory take his own role extremely seriously? Wouldn't he want to study history, economics, military science, sociology, politics, and other relevant topics with the utmost seriousness, as opposed to simply relying on his gut and assuming it will all work out?
Thus, a moment's reflection reveals that, if Bush has a theory about what drives history, it is centered on the baseless conviction that his wishes embody God's will--which explains why he doesn't have to do his homework (just as he didn't back in college and B-school). And Bush's cheerfulness reflects his confidence that the disasters we see around us are mere temporary glitches in the working-out of the divine plan--which explains why he never has to listen to anyone who disagrees with him.
In short, the Bush way of leadership is less a "theory" than a set of assumptions that conveniently encourage him to do whatever he wants without feeling any responsibility for the dire consequences. And Brooks's exegesis of this "theory" is less a coherent analysis than a bit of flattery designed to ensure that the columnist stays on the White House invitation list. By which measure I'm sure it will prove successful.