Scott Gillette

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The Art of Being W

By Scott D. Gillette


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Itís been more than 100 days since the inception of the Bush sequel, and the press has been pondering what to make of the new administration. Yet efforts to speak with profundity about the Bush Presidency ring hollow, because no matter where you stand, George W. Bush (hereafter W) and the gang have lived up to preconceived expectations.

There is a modesty and simplicity to the new President that I enjoy. Really, I like it. Contrary to the methods of political spinners, you know what W wants to do, you know heíll go about it in a deliberate and low-key fashion, and youíll know that heíll fight as much as he can but in the end heíll take what he can get. Most of all, heíll be a good sport about it.

I donít want to infer that somehow Wís administration is immune to errors or filled with angels. Still, what a refreshing change! I remember one of the mantras during the time of impeachment was "the need to talk about the issues!" Well, politics has become placid again, so issues can take center stage again for people who have an interest in them.

Politics isnít everything either, but you donít have to tell W that. I would not be surprised if he wishes from time to time that he could give the Presidency to his brother if the job of Major League Baseball Commissioner became available. According to an article by Gail Sheehy in Vanity Fair, W was lobbying hard for the position before he ran for Governor in Texas. Had he actually gotten the position as commissioner several years ago, recent history would be quite different. Funny world.

The sport of baseball actually fits the Bush Presidency in many respects. It is a pleasantly boring sport, or boringly pleasant, or just boring or pleasant depending on your point of view. Bush has made such qualities the essence of his Presidency thus far.

It is the only sport I know of that not only invites but demands contemplation while playing or watching it. W has political instincts that demonstrate that he has contemplated the "big picture" and his role in it. He may not have a single-minded dedication to political issues, and sometimes I think such ardor may help him gain political mileage. Maybe not and Iím wrong. But either way, Wís appeal is a product of his ability to convey an easygoing spirit while remaining steadfast to first principles. Indeed, the former makes the latter more likely.

Baseball players, when they make a mistake, are given responsibility for errors that are recorded for all eternity. Similarly, Wís errors have been available for everyone to see. His words occasionally wage war against the English language, and provoke quizzical looks or moments of levity. I actually find these mistakes appealing in the sense that his rhetorical skills will never be used to pull the wool over the publicís eyes. These occasional errors may derive from dyslexia, or from occasional self-doubts about whether he belongs at the apex of the worldís power structure, but they give W a humility that is endearing.

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His critics will seize upon these mistakes in an effort to ridicule him, but that says more about Wís critics than about W. People who want to control you and knock you down will seize on real or imagined faults in order to put you on the defensive. Then they will use that as a pretext to assert their own view of what you should or should not be. Saying "up yours" to this type of aggression is one way of dealing with it, but living well is the best revenge. W has succeeded in making too many speeches too many times in order to be described as incompetent. Like any baseball player, Wís errors alone do not demonstrate that he is bad at what he does.

A baseball season requires patience and the ability to prepare for the long-term. His predecessor had a Nietzschean will to power that blinded him to other concerns, but W himself is intent on getting things done that will mark his legacy, not making splashes that leave no trace over time.

Though baseball is often a languid pastime, there are moments of great intensity in which you have to be prepared and act decisively. Bushís ability to seize the moment and to grasp whatís important was proven in his Inaugural Address. He described the American experience in part as "the story of a slave-holding society that became a symbol of freedom." It is significant that he referred to that sordid part of our history as well as our efforts to transcend our past, which must continue if the American ideal is to mean anything. His desire to "be a uniter, not a divider" is a genuine one.

I do differ with the Bush Administration on a few issues like defense spending; but then I differ with the GOP, my party of choice, on those items as well. I recognize that I canít blame the Bush Administration for taking policy positions that squares with the Republican Partyís consensus.

On other issues like tax cuts, education reform and social security privatization, I like the general direction in which the administration is going, I just wish it moved much faster. Then again, the country does not appear ready to embrace such substantial policy shifts that I would seek at this time, so I canít complain about that either.

So Wís administration moves along, bringing long the supporters of his father, who occasionally wink in solidarity with the Rockefeller Republicans, and the supporters of President Reagan, who made up the movement conservatives that changed the Republican Party and country forever. W and his people will balance these two groups, and nudge public policy slightly to the right. What these piecemeal efforts will bring is an open question, but at least politics is sounder and saner once again. Kind of like watching a baseball game, which proves that there are some things right with the world.

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© Scott Gillette, 2001, All rights reserved.

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