Posted Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006We live in riotous times. The global and national supplies of rationality seem dangerously depleted. Two weeks ago, there was the media riot over Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident. Last week there was a bipartisan congressional riot over the Bush Administration's approval of a deal to transfer the management of six U.S. ports from a British company to one owned by the United Arab Emirates. And then there is the constant, combustible throb of Islamic unrest, most recently the intramural explosion of Iraq's Sunnis and Shi'ites, which has devastated the possibility that civil order will arrive in that benighted country anytime soon.
The response of President Bush to all this has been surreal. Public support for his policies is dwindling; his own party is abandoning him; he seems naked, defenseless in the public square. Yet he has spent most of the past few weeks traveling the country, selling the vaporous "policies" he proposed in his State of the Union address. As the Dubai debate went nuclear, Bush was off trying to convince people that he was serious about developing alternative energy sources. (He isn't, really. His proposed budget increases for such projects run in the millions; a single tax break for oil companies proposed in the Interior department's budget—a reduction in the rent they pay to drill on public land—will cost an estimated $7 billion.) Then three days after the terrorist attack on Iraq's Golden Mosque, Bush gave another of his "freedom's on the march in the Middle East" speeches to a subdued American Legion audience in Washington. A paragraph condemning the mosque attack was added, but the President's address was both stale and fantastic. The news from the Middle East—Iran, Iraq, Palestine—has been nonstop awful, and Bush is beginning to sound as airy and out of touch as Woodrow Wilson must have in 1919, when that President tried to sell the futile dream of a League of Nations.