Friday, July 01, 2005

On the other hand, maybe they just get along

Julian Borger today has an interesting piece in today’s Guardian about the strangely affectionate relationship between George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton, a relationship that has been fostered since they were appointed by GWB to together head up US relief efforts for last Christmas’ Asian tsunami disaster. Unfortunately he spoils what is an otherwise interesting and amusing piece by attempting to add an intriguing political/psychological dimension to it, suggesting, in all seriousness, that George Sr. is acting out of some sort of resentment of George Jr.

After detailing the weird camaraderie that has grown between Clinton and Bush Sr., Borger engages in deep thinking (if one can characterize going off the deep end as deep thinking.)
Bush does not emote lightly, and there seems no doubt that the affection is genuine. But before this portrait of twilight-years bonhomie dissolves entirely into soft focus, it is worth remembering that these are two lifelong partisans, who appreciate the political nuance of every action. To put it another way, if this high-profile friendship was politically damaging, both men would find another golf partner.
For Clinton, the political benefits are obvious. As he seeks some sort of international statesman role, and his wife seeks the presidency, it can only do good to be seen as non-partisans hobnobbing with the political opposition. But for Bush Sr. “the political calculus is more complicated.” Borger rejects the notion that Sr. is helping to “round off” Jr.’s more sharpened edges.
Americans have long been aware of a sharp distinction between Bush the elder and Bush the younger. What the father does, and who he spends time with, tells them nothing about the son.
After going through the litany of ways in which Jr.’s presidency is essentially a “negation of his father” (a reasonable assessment, BTW), including a little anecdote in which Jr. apparently dissed dad in favor of a “higher father”, Borger tells us that Sr. has “struck some blows of his own” against Jr.
In the run-up to the Iraq war, his former national security adviser and closest political confidant, Brent Scowcroft, warned of "an armageddon in the Middle East" if the administration pushed ahead with its invasion plans.
I can almost see the secret meeting up in Kennebunkport as Sr. arranged for his minion Scowcroft to undermine his son’s policies.
Worse still in the eyes of the president's partisans, George senior conferred his annual award for public service in 2003 on Senator Ted Kennedy, arguably the administration's fiercest and most effective critic in Congress.
Wasn’t that not too long after Jr. himself stood on stage praising Kennedy over their work together? Never mind. Borger is thinking deep thoughts.
It is not hard to see the blossoming and heartfelt camaraderie with Clinton in the same light. It serves as a reminder to the American public that there was a time when the country was not so divided and was run by a president who preferred cooperation to confrontation. It could well be the smiling revenge for a son's political betrayal, in a family drama crying out for the stage and screen.
Not content to leave us with this ridiculous psychobabble, Borger finshes by serving up this howler:
As Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton White House aide, [and fellow Guardian columnist – ed] succinctly puts it: "The father has found a good son, the fatherless son has found a good father."
I'm at a loss for words.


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