Author and former WSJ national affairs reporter Ron Suskind has an article titled Without A Doubt* in this past weekend’s New York Times Magazine that is a real eye-opener. It’s a long read that examines how President Bush views the world, his role as President, and what the future might bring should he win re-election.
Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush, told me recently that ‘‘if Bush wins, there will be a civil war in the Republican Party starting on Nov. 3.’’ The nature of that conflict, as Bartlett sees it? Essentially, the same as the one raging across much of the world: a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion.
‘‘Just in the past few months,’’ Bartlett said, ‘‘I think a light has gone off for people who’ve spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he’s always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do.’’ Bartlett, a 53-year-old columnist and self-described libertarian Republican who has lately been a champion for traditional Republicans concerned about Bush’s governance, went on to say: ‘‘This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can’t be persuaded, that they’re extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he’s just like them. . . .
‘‘This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,’’ Bartlett went on to say. ‘‘He truly believes he’s on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.’’ Bartlett paused, then said, ‘‘But you can’t run the world on faith.’’
Near the end of the article it talks a little about Bush’s plans for his second term (should he get one) that he revealed during a luncheon with the R.N.C. Regents in Washington:
‘‘I’m going to come out strong after my swearing in,’’ Bush said, ‘‘with fundamental tax reform, tort reform, privatizing of Social Security.’’ The victories he expects in November, he said, will give us ‘‘two years, at least, until the next midterm. We have to move quickly, because after that I’ll be quacking like a duck.’‘
Joseph Gildenhorn, a top contributor who attended the luncheon and has been invited to visit Bush at his ranch, said later: ‘‘I’ve never seen the president so ebullient. He was so confident. He feels so strongly he will win.’’ Yet one part of Bush’s 60-odd-minute free-form riff gave Gildenhorn—a board member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and a former ambassador to Switzerland—a moment’s pause. The president, listing priorities for his second term, placed near the top of his agenda the expansion of federal support for faith-based institutions. The president talked at length about giving the initiative the full measure of his devotion and said that questions about separation of church and state were not an issue.
The article puts forth a pretty good argument that Bush sees himself as beyond questioning once he’s made a decision and this is the one quality about him that worries me the most. People are most dangerous when they believe they can do no wrong. One thing I don’t doubt is that Bush will scurry to make the most of his second term as quickly as possible should it come to pass. He’s already done some pretty stunning things by Presidential order to get around a divided Congress and this will probably only get worse in a second term. The damage he could end up causing might take decades to fix.
Link via Boing Boing.