Letters to the editor

The Mind of Bush

Richard Brookhiser's article "The Mind of George W. Bush" (April Atlantic) was refreshing. Most of the time, in religious circles, the President is either demonized as evil, patronized as stupid, or divinized as a savior. Brookhiser's portrait was of a full human being. I am not sure, however, that the unknown quantity is imagination. I fear that we have evidence of its absence at the very center of the President's faith. Brookhiser writes, "Practically, Bush's faith means that he does not tolerate, or even recognize, ambiguity: there is an all-knowing God who decrees certain behaviors, and leaders must obey. Such beliefs, however much they may alienate him from opinion-makers, are part of his bond with one other leader—the devout Anglican Tony Blair." Spiritual maturity requires a high tolerance for ambiguity, because although God is all-knowing, we aren't. Tony Blair, I hope, is aware of this distinction. The world would be a safer place if leaders could tell the difference between God's will and their own.

The Very Reverend Alan Jones
Dean of Grace Cathedral
San Francisco, Calif.

Our Constitution has for more than 200 years provided us with assurance that we have the rights to assemble, to publish, read, and speak freely, and to worship as we choose. That document also erects a wall between Church and State protecting some of us from religion. Accordingly, I am disquieted by the role that religion plays in President George W. Bush's decision-making process as described by Richard Brookhiser. Bush's religious beliefs are, of course, as protected as any other citizen's. However, do we want our most important and powerful decision-maker to render those decisions against the background of a belief that "there is an all-knowing God who decrees certain behaviors, and leaders must obey"?

John Stouffer
East Greenwich, R.I.

The subhead to Richard Brookhiser's detailed analysis "The Mind of George W. Bush" concludes, "The unknown quantity is imagination—the imagination to foresee consequences, the imagination to be a wartime President." If the author had been able to dispel the widely held perception that George W. Bush is an intellectual lightweight, the imagination question would have become moot.

Jerome C. McMahon
Ormond Beach, Fla.

Richard Brookhiser's article seems to suggest that George W. Bush has qualities of character and intellect found in Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Winston Churchill. Harry Truman and the first President Bush are conspicuous by their absence from the list.

During the Civil War, President Lincoln, unlike Bush, demonstrated a certain humility, expressing concern that we be on God's side rather than He on ours. Roosevelt, despite his conviction that the United States should go to war against Hitler, understood the need for public support before taking up arms. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, realized the strategic importance of fighting the war in concert with our allies, including the Soviet Union and a recalcitrant Charles de Gaulle. Kennedy certainly had sufficient cause to invade Cuba in October of 1962 but chose instead to achieve the removal of the missiles without going to war. Nixon, a man who rose to political prominence as a hard-line anti-communist before he was President, achieved rapprochement with both China and the Soviet Union. And whereas Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!" he did not say, "Or I will do it for you!"

Harry Truman, the first American President of the Cold War, realized the need to oppose a communist takeover of Korea through the then fledgling United Nations. The present President's father, at the time of Desert Storm, also recognized the importance of working through the UN.

As for Winston Churchill, I think Brookhiser has set the bar much too high for George W. Bush.

John A. Viteritti
Southold, N.Y.

What are we to make of Richard Brookhiser's curious article, which offers an exhaustive discussion of decision-making style yet is willing to substitute the notion of a "phantom framework" for a serious examination of the values that underpin decisions? When professed values and actions are as strikingly discordant as they are in the President's case, it is integrity, not imagination, that seems to be lacking. Irony doesn't get much more painful than it is when Bush invokes Jesus Christ as his favorite political philosopher. Many terms come to mind to describe a man who mocks the clemency plea of a death-row inmate, but "Christian" is not one of them.

Margaret Hornick
Great Barrington, Mass.

Richard Brookhiser implies that all graduate schools of business follow the case method of instruction. In fact Harvard Business School is unusual in this respect. Most graduate schools of business follow the Wharton School approach, which is to teach fundamentals.

Brookhiser mentions Peter Drucker, who many years ago introduced an approach to managing organizations called "Management by Objectives," which is still widely followed under other names. If Bush had followed this method of management, he would not be in the mess he is in today. His analysis would have shown that he needed to support the efforts of other nations to treat global warming instead of angering all of Europe by trashing the Kyoto treaty. He would have supported similar efforts of the leading world powers to deal constructively with other global problems, instead of irritating long-established allies by taking the position that he was always right and they were always wrong. He would have given greater support locally and internationally to activities to combat terrorism, made certain that world opinion supported the need for regime change in Iraq, supported the desires of France, Germany, Russia, and China to share the leadership of the United Nations, made certain that NATO would support his efforts and assist in the postwar recovery of Iraq, produced acceptable evidence that Iraq was an imminent threat to peoples in other nations, held off amassing U.S. military power to engage in a pre-emptive attack, and so on. In fact, especially in Iraq, he made the mistake common to many failed businesses. He did not have a well developed plan that would lead to attainment of his objective.

R. L. McDonald
Castle Rock, Colo.

Male Chauvinism

The surprising thing about David Brooks's Agenda essay on male chauvinism ("The Return of the Pig," April Atlantic) is his omission of the key factor in the revival of cynical attitudes toward women: the complicity of us women in our own degradation. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." How true!

Without female participation (sometimes shockingly enthusiastic) the whole edifice of misogyny would collapse. Some men may read pornography, but we women consume a milder and still insidious version of porn (for example, Cosmopolitan) that also essentially degrades and objectifies women. I recently walked out of the film Chicago in disgust after two minutes of watching Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renée Zellweger thrusting their abdomens in a poor and vulgar imitation of 1920s wildness. (Real flappers had much more class.) How many actresses willingly participate in the degradation of women by playing such roles? How many women tacitly support the women-hating images in pop culture by spending money to consume it?

Nadia Silvershine
Kentfield, Calif.

David Brooks's piece lamenting the rise of "retro-sexism" in popular culture fails to note a critical distinction between old-fashioned male chauvinism and the new sexual ethos Brooks criticizes. The modern sexual politic, as presented in Maxim and its imitators, is mostly devoid of the ideological freight of past eras (in which, not coincidentally, nearly all sexual imagery and references were taboo). Nowhere in Maxim—or, indeed, in even the most explicit rap music—is the message either stated or implied that women belong only in the home, should not do "men's work," should limit their contribution to society to raising children, and so forth.

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