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Bush Could Learn From Schwarzenegger

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If there ever was a statement more clear about the narcissistic personality of President Bush than "I'm the decider", I'm not currently aware of it.

In a single breath, we can delve into this mans soul and see what drives him, what he cares about, what's important above all else. I'll give you a few hints. It's not you, the welfare of the nation, national security, or prosperity. It's not even faith.

It's the impossibility of ever being wrong about anything.

His inability to acknowledge that just because a thought occurs in his head, that doesn't make it reality, doesn't make him crazy. In fact there are any number of people throughout history that have this problem, so he's certainly not alone and this isn't new by any means. Some of the most destructive and violent leaders were inevitably narcissists.

If you don't obey, you're fired. If you don't worship, you're shunned. If you dare question, you are the enemy. If your thoughts are not his own, then you're just plain wrong. There is no gray area, no middle ground for compromise, no possibility of being wrong. Not so much as an inch to give, that is the greatest sin his book. Not murder or blasphemy, but disagreement.

Glen Greenwald addressed this on Thursday while writing about the Gonzales Senate hearing, when he came to the revelation that the Attorney General is a prototypical lapdog, one who obeys without thought or question, even to their own detriment. Even to the detriment of everyone around them.

That is how Bush works. If someone demands that Bush take action, he will petulantly refuse simply to demonstrate that he does not comply with anyone else's will. He is The Decider, nobody else, and nothing is more important than for him to demonstrate that. And loyalty to the Leader is valued infinitely higher than either integrity or competence, which are not remotely required for positions in the administration.

Don't believe it? Look at the Attorney General now, the former head of FEMA, Michael Brown. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton. Secretary of State and former national security advisor Rice. Supreme Court nominee and former White House counsel Harriet Mier's, who recently resigned in disgrace over her part in the botched U.S. Attorney firings.

None of these miscreants were qualified for their lofty positions, yet they all shared at least one more thing in common other than that: they were loyal to Bush. Former friends and acquaintances from big-oil, large campaign donors, or blind servants with no other attribute than being good at taking orders.

More from Glenn.

Consider the 2006 midterm elections -- a truly crushing blow to Bush's party and a resounding repudiation of his policies. The natural reaction for a normal person would be to re-assess what they did to lead them so astray. But in response to that election, Bush did the exact opposite -- he purged his administration still further of "dissidents," of anyone who demonstrated any independence, precisely in order to demonstrate that he would never listen to anyone else and to re-emphasize just how right he has been.

In December, 2006, The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin reviewed the post-midterm election ouster of several key Bush officials and concluded that it was driven by a "purge of the unbelievers." Froomkin cited Harriet Miers as White House counsel ("never a true believer in Vice President Cheney's views of a nearly unrestrained executive branch"), Iraq Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad ("considered by Cheney to be too soft on the Sunnis"), John Negroponte as National Intelligence Director ("not alarmist enough about the Iranian nuclear threat)", and Generals George Casey and John Abaziad ("jettisoned for having shown a little backbone in their opposition to Cheney and Bush's politically-motivated insistence on throwing more troops into the Iraqi conflagration").

Miers is a bit of a quagmire. She was nominated to the highest court in the land and wasn't even close to being qualified, and because of her close ties to Bush, and she wasn't fired either. She resigned because of her direct role in the U.S. Attorney firings, but the point still stands for most everyone else.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who won the right to serve the rest of Democratic Governor Gray Davis' term when he was "recalled" by the voters in 2003. On the one hand I think election recalls for Governors, especially in that case, is ridiculous.

The people voted him into office, they ought to have the courage of their convictions and let the man serve the rest of his term. Many of California's problems relating to the energy production were not his fault, the amount of fraud and deception going on during that period was impressive to say the last.

On the other hand, many of CA's problems were the fault of Davis, and about 65% of the country desperately wishes the President could be recalled right now.

Schwarzenegger believed that his election victory was a mandate to push around a Democratic legislature with his moderate-to-right leaning policies. He was arrogant about them and honestly believed that he knew what was best for the voters, much in the way that Bush believes he knows what is best for the country even when public polling shows he lost their confidence almost as soon as he had won reelection.

Also in a very Bush-esque manner, Schwarzenegger called a special election so that the people could vote directly on measures that the legislature either refused to consider, or were outright rejecting.

Schwarzenegger was equally entrenched in what he considered to be his mandate in cleaning up gridlock. Asked whether he would seek bipartisan cooperation from the democrats in the State Senate, Schwarzenegger quipped that he saw no reason to "talk with losers." Building on a catch phrase from a sketch partly parodying his bodybuilding career, Schwarzenegger called the Democratic State politicians "girlie men,"[24] a reference from a Saturday Night Live skit called "Hans and Franz" for putting special interests ahead of the interests of the people of California. (Wiki)

After having sparred with Democrats in public and powerful unions, it turns out that Schwarzenegger couldn't have possibly been more out of touch with his constituents. Every single one of his ballot measures was rejected by the voters, many of them by significant margins.

Having suffered a stinging rebuke in an election that cost California taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in an event that could easily be compared to the 2006 mid-term congressional elections, it would have been easy for Schwarzenegger to push his agenda forward and continue his fight with Democrats and his own people, getting no where and hurting everyone involved.

Instead, Schwarzenegger proclaimed to have heard the message from the people loud and clear, and professed to work towards compromise with the legislature and to better serve the people of California.

With his renewed sense of cooperation and his acceptance that his will was not the will of the people, Schwarzenegger easily won reelection last year. Though there was speculation that Schwarzenegger's expensive special election massacre signaled a coming change, the contest was anything but close.

It turns out that voters have a soft spot for politicians that fight hard for what they believe is right, but who are also willing to accept defeat and compromise as a way of getting things done.

The difference between those two philosophies couldn't be more stark right now. With the president's approval rating glued near 35%, it would be virtually impossible for him to win another term, if such a thing were legally possible.

He is probably beyond the point where apologizing and making new pledges of cooperation would help.

Schwarzenegger on the other hand may very well continue as Governor of our most populous state for many years to come, and although he is a traditional conservative Republican in many ways, he does not seem to share this ever important trait: he does not place his ideas and himself above the will of the people.

It is a shame that Schwarzenegger will never be eligible for the office of President. This country could do a lot worse.

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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.