George Bush: Mr. Personality?
On the eve of Friday's town hall presidential debate in St. Louis, much has been made of George Bush's "likability advantage." Seemingly plain, folksy and approachable, Bush is portrayed as the kind of guy you'd want to have a beer with.
No doubt, this gives W a big advantage in Friday's town hall format. In contrast, John Kerry, like Al Gore before him, represents a personality type disliked by most voters. He was the straight A student, the guy who raised his hand first in class, and did every extra credit assignment. The New Republic's Jonathan Chait summed up the implications for the electorate in his 1999 piece, "Why America Loves Stupid Candidates."
This image of Bush as Everyman is, of course, utter nonsense. Bush is not authentic, not a man of the people, and certainly not approachable. He is not resolute and a man of conviction. Bush is a man-child of privilege. Coddled, protected, packaged and scripted, he is uniquely and authentically inauthentic.
No, Bush is not everyman. He is the pampered son of privilege whose accomplishments can be attributed to his family and its friends. He is the underachiever, the legacy and the favored. He is the drunken frat boy, the C student who borrowed or stole your notes. He is the guy who started and lost a fight in a bar, only to have 10 of his friends kick your ass when you walk outside. Had the date rape drug GHB been available when he was "young and irresponsible", it is easy to imagine Bush would have made it a standard part of his courting ritual.
It is that same sense of entitlement, the meanness and insecurity that goes with undeserved accomplishment, that spawned the vindictive, paranoid, and stubborn George Bush. The machismo of President Bush is merely the small man acting out. Paging Dr. Freud...
So as you watch Bush "win" Friday's town hall debate, remember who - and what - he really is: Mr. Personality Disorder.