Bizarro World Versions of the Presidents

Recent comments to a post about Jo Biden have lead me to a realization:

Recent Vice Presidents are almost always strange, Bizarro-world versions of their bosses.  Where Bill Clinton is folksy and genial, Al Gore is robotic and ivory tower.  Where George W. is bumbling and silly, Dick Cheney is nefarious and conniving.  When Barack Obama is thoughtful and eloquent, Joe Biden is a virtual machine at creating gaffes.

A president might seek out somebody who seems to be or actually is a good counter balance to them.   But this does not seem like the full explanation.

Does the press do this?  Do our own psychologies?  Is there some sort of Jungian Shadow scapegoat thing happening; do we projecting everything not-presidential on the second in command?

And what would happen if any of these vips assumed the presidency?  Would we reform our opinions?  Or would we simply project all of their own opposites on whoever the new Vice is.

(Hmmm…. Vice President.  Interesting word choice.  Freuds often full of crap.  But there’s an interesting thing about that, vice president.  The President is president of all that is good.  The Vice president is the repository of all of our vices, all that is bad.   There might be some sort of surreal poem lurking around in all these thoughts.)


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

10 thoughts on “Bizarro World Versions of the Presidents”

  1. Thanks for the post. It’s instrumental in making my point from your previous blog.

    If you examine the descriptive words you applied to all six of the most recent presidents and VP’s, you revealed your bias toward all of them. Granted, it’s no secret how you FEEL about these six characters, but imagine you are a journalist. You have the power to influence people by the power of your word choice.

    If you were a journalist you’d also have the option of what to report. You see it’s a messy situation now matter how you slice it.

    i actually think it’s easier to criticize a person’s points of view when they have limited obvious flaws. The problem then becomes that those who are inclined to like the object of criticism take vicarious personal affront. It’s like when Rush Limbaugh said he wanted the president to fail. The story became about how mean and inappropriate Rush is, and then became a free-for-all license to attack him personally. In the end nobody noticed that Rush was commenting directly on the value of President Obama’s plans and policies and their expected outcomes, not on the guy personally.

    The predisposition of those in the mainstream media to judge and label Limbaugh has also predisposed them to consider him a disreputable source. And it isn’t even about Limbaugh; it’s about what he believes. The media is quick and complete to oppose him no matter what he says or does. Just as they’re quick and complete to endorse President Obama regardless of the merit of his words and deeds.

    If you hadn’t noticed, on Friday the Obama administration released a statement about Guantanomo. It essentially expressed frustration that nowhere in the world is there a country that will take any of the detainees. New tribunals are going to happen with “enhanced” legal tools at the defendents disposal. Didn’t see that in print anywhere did you?

    You probably don’t remember that i predicted that Obama would likely end up looking a lot like Bush on many things. i’ve also asserted in the past that the sanctimonious critics of many Bush policies would be in full support had they been instituted by a president whom they like.

    So the point is that there must be a free and fair press. i assure you the tyrrants win when there isn’t one. You and i can debate whatever we like until someone more powerful than either of us decides they don’t like it. Your “side” may win, but we both will lose.


  2. Having looked back at my descriptions, I suppose you are a bit right. I suppose it’s better to be robotic and a gaffe machine than nefarious. I had tried to extend the whole thing back to President Bush Sr… and I couldn’t get much different than the opposite of President Bush Jr. Then, in a discussion where I didn’t point this out, somebody else observed “Isn’t it kind of interesting: H.W. Bush essentilly chose his son as Vice President. And W. essentially chose his dad.” Not sure what it means, but it’s interesting and true, I think. There are similarities between Mr. Quayle and Mr. Bush (Jr.)

    I do strongly disagree with your defence of Mr. Limbaugh. There are limits to how personal the attacks ought to be, I get that. But I found his comments deeply offensive. I think many agreed with me. Here is why:
    To hope that a president’s plan fails is not a merely abstract hope. It is to hope that soldiers die unnecesarily. It is to hope that families suffer unnecesarily. It is to hope that the enslaved chains’ grow thicker. It is to hope that the evil prosper.
    It doesn’t bother me that it’s disrespectful to the president. It bothers me that somebody would be willing to watch all that suffering just to have their ideaology proven right.
    I’ll grant that you the tendency not to grant him the charity that he might have meant something else results from my assumptions about his nature and character. And I’ll also grant you that some people have been smeared by the main stream media, distorted our perceptions of their nature and character.

    But I think Rush has pretty much made his bed. I think he bares most of the responsibility for the assumptions that we make about his character. I’ve listened to him in context. It might be for entertainment. It might be that he’s not interested in explaining himself to people like. But in my experience he makes no effort whatsoever to give me any reason to assume the best (or even the mediocre) about him.


  3. Ooops. Forgot to respond to your last points:
    I do remember your suggestion that Obama would end up looking a lot like Bush. I do think he probably get’s a pass where Bush would not have.
    Is some of this about the political capital a President gets after election? I think Bush squandered most of his. Do you remember him before 9-11? He was on his way to mediocrity and silliness.
    The country initially rallied behind his responses but soon tired of it. I think some of what Obama reaps could have been Bush’s if he’d played his cards differently. I agree that some of it is the press not doing there job.


  4. Response to II:

    If you examine the popularity numbers (and i really hate polls), they’re remarkably similar at the start of their presidencies. You’re also neglecting to view the beginning of W’s in the context of the Dotcom recession.

    Economies expand and retract all the time. The timing of those vascilations is often the mother of unfortunate historical footnotes. President’s generally get way too much credit for economic turns.

    Notice in your comments that you’re building your entire construct of character upon the ideological value of your subjects. (this dovetails back to Response I) With W. just as with Limbaugh you so vehemently disagree with their political worldview that you’re assuming something about their character and the “necessary” outcomes of the ideals which they espouse. You are physically, mentally and emotionally unable to separate the the two.

    Conversely, you’re so enchanted with the prospect of what Obama style Progressivism will produce that you thrust upon him premature agrandizement. In the case of Rush Limbaugh, you’ve taken such great umbrage that he disagrees with you and President Obama about everything that you’re unable to objectively assess his comments.

    “To hope that a president’s plan fails is not a merely abstract hope. It is to hope that soldiers die unnecesarily. It is to hope that families suffer unnecesarily. It is to hope that the enslaved chains’ grow thicker. It is to hope that the evil prosper.
    It doesn’t bother me that it’s disrespectful to the president. It bothers me that somebody would be willing to watch all that suffering just to have their ideaology proven right.”

    This statement reveals a blindness which almost leaves me speechless! Come down from the peotry-jam stage and look at this from a another – any other – angle than the one that has you fettered. i share Limbaugh’s historical understanding that the plans the President has have been tried in many other places where they’ve failed or are failing. It’s Socialism and it doesn’t work without Capitalist underwriting. From our perspective the short term gains are going to evaporate into long term suffering. Not only that, but it’s morally repugnant to take from a cheerless giver at the point of a gun. The “afflicted” will remain so by a new oppressor. There’ll be equality in misery.

    Here’s another angle: we see that Obama success and Obama failure mean catastrophe for America either way. What we want is for him to adopt stratagies based on principles that work and don’t deny the basic nature of people and things. Quite honestly, i like Obama. i dont find him personally offensive at all. His “calmness” which is construed to be “thougtfulness” worries me a little because it reveals little about his actual thoughts and causes intellectual swooning. But other than that…


  5. Don’t have time for a reply at the moment, but I thought it was worthwhile to get the whole Rush thing in context. This transcript is off what appears to be his official web site. If there’s any more explanation to what he said and why he said it, I’ll be open to hearing it, but for now I’m going to operate on the assumption that these are the full explanation for his words:
    RUSH: I got a request here from a major American print publication. “Dear Rush: For the Obama [Immaculate] Inauguration we are asking a handful of very prominent politicians, statesmen, scholars, businessmen, commentators, and economists to write 400 words on their hope for the Obama presidency. We would love to include you. If you could send us 400 words on your hope for the Obama presidency, we need it by Monday night, that would be ideal.” Now, we’re caught in this trap again. The premise is, what is your “hope.” My hope, and please understand me when I say this. I disagree fervently with the people on our side of the aisle who have caved and who say, “Well, I hope he succeeds. We’ve got to give him a chance.” Why? They didn’t give Bush a chance in 2000. Before he was inaugurated the search-and-destroy mission had begun. I’m not talking about search-and-destroy, but I’ve been listening to Barack Obama for a year-and-a-half. I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don’t want them to succeed.

    If I wanted Obama to succeed, I’d be happy the Republicans have laid down. And I would be encouraging Republicans to lay down and support him. Look, what he’s talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don’t want this to work. So I’m thinking of replying to the guy, “Okay, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.” (interruption) What are you laughing at? See, here’s the point. Everybody thinks it’s outrageous to say. Look, even my staff, “Oh, you can’t do that.” Why not? Why is it any different, what’s new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it? I don’t care what the Drive-By story is. I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: “Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.” Somebody’s gotta say it.

    Were the liberals out there hoping Bush succeeded or were they out there trying to destroy him before he was even inaugurated? Why do we have to play the game by their rules? Why do we have to accept the premise here that because of the historical nature of his presidency, that we want him to succeed? This is affirmative action, if we do that. We want to promote failure, we want to promote incompetence, we want to stand by and not object to what he’s doing simply because of the color of his skin? Sorry. I got past the historical nature of this months ago. He is the president of the United States, he’s my president, he’s a human being, and his ideas and policies are what count for me, not his skin color, not his past, not whatever ties he doesn’t have to being down with the struggle, all of that’s irrelevant to me. We’re talking about my country, the United States of America, my nieces, my nephews, your kids, your grandkids. Why in the world do we want to saddle them with more liberalism and socialism? Why would I want to do that? So I can answer it, four words, “I hope he fails.” And that would be the most outrageous thing anybody in this climate could say. Shows you just how far gone we are. Well, I know, I know. I am the last man standing.

    I’m happy to be the last man standing. I’m honored to be the last man standing. Yeah, I’m the true maverick. I can do more than four words. I could say I hope he fails and I could do a brief explanation of why. You know, I want to win. If my party doesn’t, I do. If my party has sacrificed the whole concept of victory, sorry, I’m now the Republican in name only, and they are the sellouts. I’m serious about this. Why in the world, it’s what Ann Coulter was talking about, the tyranny of the majority, all these victims here, we gotta make sure the victims are finally assuaged. Well, the dirty little secret is this isn’t going to assuage anybody’s victim status, and the race industry isn’t going to go away, and the fact that America’s original sin of slavery is going to be absolved, it’s not going to happen. Just isn’t, folks. It’s too big a business for the left to keep all those things alive that divide the people of this country into groups that are against each other. Yes, I’m fired up about this.

    Reasons number 249 and 50 why I’m not a Republican. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has been chosen to introduce Vice-President-elect Biden at a bipartisan dinner in Washington on the eve of the immaculation. Biden was one of Hagel’s closest friends in the Senate. “Bipartisan dinners also held that night honoring McCain and Colin Powell. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina will introduce McCain at a dinner.” So all these Republicans are being honored on the night before Obama is immaculately inaugurated, as though they’re part of the Obama administration. Our presidential candidate is being honored. I can understand liberals honoring their losers, but I just — (tearing up story)


  6. Honestly? It’s the first time I read the whole thing.
    I’m going to do my best to asses it in a way that is as fair as possible, based merely on what he says here, not on my assumptions about his character.

    #1) It seems to me that there are two arguments he’s making. The first is that President Bush was unfairly attacked and that liberals hoped he’d fail.
    #2) The second is that pure capitalism is under attack by President Obama. Even if Obama ended up with short term gains, in the long wrong this would be a really bad thing because it weakens the forces which support capitalism.

    As for #1) I think he’s creating a bit of a straw man. Yes, there were liberals who didn’t like it when Bush was elected. But I think he’d be hard pressed to point to a liberal equivalent of his comments.
    But even if he could… so what?
    No matter how much charity I try to extend the man, no matter who I imagine saying it, I simply can’t justify “I disagree fervently with the people on our side of the aisle who have caved and who say, “Well, I hope he succeeds. We’ve got to give him a chance.” Why? They didn’t give Bush a chance in 2000. Before he was inaugurated the search-and-destroy mission had begun. I’m not talking about search-and-destroy, but I’ve been listening to Barack Obama for a year-and-a-half. I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don’t want them to succeed.”

    I can’t get around the fact that he’s partially justifying his response based on the actions of how Bush was treated. I think him saying ‘I’m not talking about a search and destroy mission’ is an attempt for him to say “Unlike those who attacked Bush, I’m basing my attack on his beliefs” But no matter how I look at it, this rings hollow based on the prior sentences.

    As for argument #2… I can respect it. But at the bare minimum, I think an agnoledgement is owed that despite the short term surfering that Rush is rooting for in the long term it’ll be better.
    I get it that I might sound sanctimonious in all this. But I can only climb off the poetry stage if somebody gives me somewhere to climb to. I’d be happy to consider another point of view if one looked viable; the hope that our president fails, I just can’t see it as anything but incredible insensetive to the suffering it carries with it.


  7. On your first point you read something into the comments about W.
    Rush wasn’t claiming that it was “unfair” “search and destroy” attacks on Bush. He was juxtaposing the present cries for uncritical support for Obama’s plans with the assaults on Bush (both personal and political). You’ll never hear Rush use the word “fair” or any conjugation of it unless he’s quoting or lampooning.

    The whole notion of ‘fair’ is a dubious one. It’s such a subjective idea that there can’t even be a fair rendering of ‘fair’. The concept of ‘fair’ is based on equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunity. Things such as Affirmative Action (as it’s currently applied) are based on ‘fairness’. But i digress…

    Rush’s point about the attacks on Bush was that it’s hypocritical to say one president is fairgame and another is not – based solely on their ideologies; especially when that hypocrisy is perpetrated and supported by a free press. This is politics! Every candidate and elected official ought to be scrutinized by their own ilk, never mind the opposition. Limbaugh is just as ready and willing to chuck “his own” under the bus because of their pandering, self-serving stupidity as he is his rivals.

    Here’s the broader point:
    It isn’t about people or their personalities. It’s about ideas. Do you remember the 90’s? Of course you do. It was an incredible era of boom. Yet still there was suffering. There were people on welfare and receiving food stamps and in public housing and getting sick and dying all the while our country was reaping the profits of private sector expansion. As industry did well, so did the government. Revenues were off the charts. Yet still the poor were with us. There was no shortage of opportunity, only a shortage – in some quarters – of ambition.

    The places where there was – and is – the greatest dirth of ambition are the places where the government has already stepped in and made a path of least resistance. When a third party comes and meets your needs at the expense of others it kills the spirit. It’s the equivalent of your father saying to you that you’ll never amount to anything, you don’t, and then move back home. That might work great while your parents are making money, but God forbid they fall on lean times.

    The government gets its money from taxpayers. Here in MA it was bad enough when shortfalls in revenue were projected, but now that the state government is actually experiencing the reality of shrinking revenues due to a shrinking economy there’s panic. All of the states that are in the hole are going to produce a bigger drain on the Federal G. just when it’s spending like there’s no tomorrow.

    The problem there is that the ‘taxpayer’ is a shrinking minority. It’s a minority that’s getting fed up with their “fair share” being squandered on programs that grow the disparity of that ratio. This is either the intended or unintended consequence of socialism that as the government takes from Peter to pay Paul, it can always count on the support of Paul.


  8. hmmmmm.
    While I think it’s valid to say that we can’t import negative beliefs about someone’s character to color our interpretation of what someone says, I think it’s equally true that we can’t import (o.k., “shouldn’t”, not “can’t”) our positive assumptions about someone’s character.

    Within the context of that quote, Rush doesn’t use the word, “fair” you’re totally correct. But he also doesn’t say that it’s hypocritical for people to suggest that Bush should put up with more than Obama. Within the context of the quote, he doesn’t say that this is a precedent necessary to a good democracy. He says he’s doing it because the liberals did it to Obama. I think the explanation you cite is reasonable and respectable. But it doesn’t seem the same to me, as the one he posited.

    Your broader point I am in more general agreement with. The places where we disagree on it, I don’t think either of us are going to change much on in this life time, or atleast through this discussion, so I guess that’s about all I personally have to say.


  9. At risk of beating an almost dead horse…
    The quote is one of extemporaneous speech. While it’s impressive that someone can articulate a thought with such cogent, seamless speaking, it can hardly be considered an unabridged presentation of the issue.

    As someone who listens to Rush with some regularity i can consider myself “well-read” concerning the broader context of his beliefs and ideologies. i can assure you that his position is – if not exactly – a close facsimile of what i stated in my previous comment.

    One last thing; i don’t expect everybody to like everybody or share their opinions. i’m lifted by the Biblical exhortation that “in as much as it depends on us, live peaceably with others”.

    Peace to you my brother.


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