I don’t watch network television often. We have a screen for watching
movies but had no antenna until I rigged up an old fashioned rabbit ears set
when the Detroit Tigers, after many bad years, made it to the World Series last
fall. If you placed the antenna on a pile of books on top of a chair in the
middle of the living room and jiggled it just right you got a fuzzy but legible
After the Series the rabbit ears went into storage.
So most of my information is obtained from the written word, and it is rare
that I see a televised image of a public person.
Thus it was fascinating when I was in Alabama in October, with the midterm
elections looming, to watch President Bush on my motel room’s TV.
I remembered something a friend, an Evangelical seminarian, had told me
long ago: if you want to know what is really going on with a televangelist, turn
off the sound and just watch the emotion.
I tried this once, and there plain as day was the Reverend Copeland’s naked
arrogance, Brother Swaggart’s sexual tension, and Pastor Bakker’s smarmy and
So, sitting in my motel room, I turned off the sound and watched Mr.
And it struck me: This guy is scared to death.
I don’t know what was frightening him; Lord knows it could be anything: the
midterms, the disaster in Iraq, impeachment, imprisonment, Mrs. Bush.
I haven’t seen him on TV since, but from my reading he’s still scared and
The neoconservatives who counseled him into invading Iraq have mostly
headed for the hills, casting aspersions as they fled, blaming everyone but
themselves for the mess that they have made, even in some cases denying their
clearly documented role in the disaster.
They are no doubt plotting their return even now, but let us hope they will
be laughed off the stage when they attempt it.
Mr. Bush, who if nothing else values loyalty, must be stung by their
I am among those who voted for Democrats in November, and so far have no
regrets. The nation was steaming full speed ahead toward attacking Iran, which
could well have sparked world war, which the neocons were gleefully proclaiming
to have already begun. It seemed certain to me that if the Republicans
maintained control of Congress that this was inevitable. This met, to me, the
Church’s criterion for a "proportionate reason" to vote for candidates who are
not opposed to legal abortion.
And it worked: the momentum toward more war was broken.
Rumsfeld was sacked immediately and the President began openly seeking an
alternative in Iraq.
He no longer spoke of "staying the course".
The Iraq Study Group offered its analysis, and whatever its flaws at the
least offered more realistic options, not least the rejection of the
administration’s juvenile, if not infantile, policy of refusing to talk to those
it deems enemies.
But what will Mr. Bush do? After all, Dick Cheney is still lurking in the
shadows. I picture him brooding in some dark tower, which I think is
figuratively if not literally accurate.
To the dismay of many, the President’s early post-election search fo
alternative strategies seems to be hardening into the idea of sending more
troops; in other words to escalating the war, ala LBJ.
George W. Bush has long been an enigma to me.
In the most charitable assessment, he is a devout and well-meaning man who
was misled by trusted advisers.
In the worst, he is a lying scoundrel.
The truth is probably somewhere between these two extremes, or some tangled
combination of the two.
But whatever the case, this is a time like no other to pray for President
Pray that he will be receptive to wise counsel. Pray that he will have the
courage to ignore every consideration that does not place the common good of
both America and the Iraqi people in the forefront.
And pray that he will have the humility to admit his errors, the humility
to disregard cares about how history will view him, for the pride of this single
man can lead to more innumerable and unnecessary deaths.