Lost: presidential swagger
September 25, 2005
Dubya loses his pimp roll:
A president who normally thrives on tough talk and self-assurance finds himself at what aides privately describe as a low point in office, one that is changing the psychic and political aura of the White House, as well as its distinctive political approach.
In small, sometimes subtle but unmistakable ways, the president and top aides sound less certain, more conciliatory and willing to do something they avoided in the first term: admit mistakes. After bulling through crisis after crisis with a "bring 'em on" brashness, a more solemn Bush now has twice taken responsibility for the much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina.
Aides who never betrayed self-doubt now talk in private of failures selling the American people on the Iraq war, the president's Social Security plan and his response to Hurricane Katrina. The president who once told the United Nations it would drift into irrelevancy if it did not back the invasion of Iraq last week praised the world body and said the world works better "when we act together." A White House team that operated on its terms since 2000 is reaching to outside experts for answers like never before.[LINK]God forbid! What's more unsettling than Bush's new-found humility -- or what in others would be dubbed a 'reality check' -- is the tacit suggestion that such a quality might be contrary to building a "powerful presidency." Or perhaps it's the sign of the times that we have such a hard time distinguishing between swagger and true confidence:
Bush likes to say his job is to make tough decisions and leave the hand-wringing for historians and pundits. He almost never entertains public doubt, which is part of the White House design to build a more powerful presidency. The term "strong leader" appears in at least 98 speeches he has given during his White House years, according to a database search, and was the subtext of his 2004 campaign strategy. He favors provocative language, declaring that he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive" and taunting Iraqi insurgents to "bring 'em on."And losing this attitude is a bad thing?