Friday, October 13, 2006

The Decider: George W. "Jeremiah" Bush

Interesting article in the Washington Post analyzing Bush's language, in particular his denouncing various events or situations as "unacceptable." The author of the article, one R. Jeffrey Smith, counts them up:

In the first nine months of this year, Bush declared more than twice as many events or outcomes "unacceptable" or "not acceptable" as he did in all of 2005, and nearly four times as many as he did in 2004. He is, in fact, at a presidential career high in denouncing events he considers intolerable. They number 37 so far this year, as opposed to five in 2003, 18 in 2002 and 14 in 2001.
So lots more has become lots less acceptable to President Bush. Why is this? Could it have to do with his increasing impotence on the world stage, and more importantly at home? Possibly. Indeed, probably. Smith notes that declaring NK nuclear tests "unacceptable" is not the same as sending in troops . . . but it isn't far from a threat to do so. Given the situation in Iraq, this is speaking loudly when your big stick is already being used . . . and that not very effectively.

But it also clearly has to do with declining poll numbers, where the idea is to become strident and so get people on board with your authori-tie. This hooks into Bush's self-image. Smith notes:
[Stanley A. Renshon, a political scientist at the City University of New York], who wrote a mostly-favorable book in 2004 about Bush's psychology, said the president's declarations are in keeping with his apparent self-image as a Jeremiah, "railing against the tides" and saying what "people ought to be doing something about."
So what exactly does his God (who speaks through prophets like Jeremiah) consider "unacceptable"?

As a presidential candidate and in his early presidency, Bush was more apt to denounce domestic events. His assertions that school performance and achievement gaps between white and black students were unacceptable account for almost a third of his usages of that term since 2000.

Bush's targets expanded from 2003 to 2005 to include nine condemnations of "unacceptable" actions by Iraq and Iran, as well as the Social Security system and the administration's own response to the Katrina hurricane. This year, he has hurled the term "unacceptable" at actions by Iraqi insurgents and police, at supporters of a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, and at a U.S. law making the degrading treatment of detainees a war crime.

So it looks like some of his declarations are rather "Father Knows Best"-ish: "Your grades are unacceptable! You will respect my author-tie! Go to your room! Wait! Not until you've cleaned your plate!" But what is he going to do about these things?

If the Jeremiah of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is railing against ungodliness (Jeremiah's primary complaint), let us consider his ungodly targets: those who find American adventurism and imperialism "unacceptable;" those who find his prosecution of the war in Iraq "unacceptable;" those who find the legalization of torture "unacceptable."

And what, according to Jeremiah, happens to those who behave "unacceptably"?
22 And if you say in your heart,
"Why have these things come upon me?"
it is for the greatness of your iniquity
that your skirts are lifted up,
and you are violated.
23 Can Ethiopians change their skin
or leopards their spots?
Then also you can do good
who are accustomed to do evil.
24 I will scatter you like chaff
driven by the wind from the desert.
25 This is your lot,
the portion I have measured out to you, says the LORD,
because you have forgotten me
and trusted in lies.
26 I myself will lift up your skirts over your face,
and your shame will be seen.
27 I have seen your abominations,
your adulteries and neighings, your shameless prostitutions
on the hills of the countryside.
Woe to you, O Jerusalem!
How long will it be
before you are made clean?
But if we turn back to God from our idols, God will not let the terrorists/hurricanes/bad teachers rape us. God will not Himself expose our private parts in order to shame us. So if the Jeremiah of 1600 can just make us all set aside our other gods for God, everything will be OK. Because in the end, it is our godlessness that is "unacceptable."

And this is the sense in which W is not Jeremiah, but is, instead, foretold by Jeremiah:
5 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The LORD is our righteousness.

Bush is the heir to the Davidic throne, executing justice and righteousness. And it is his job to decide what is and isn't unacceptable. Because he is the decider.

Here endeth the lesson.

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