The Bush Conundrum
A reader writes:
I think there is no doubt that Bush must know that many of the statements he makes are simply false. There's too much of a track record of this to doubt it.
On the other hand, it is also quite clear that Bush is in well over his head, and he has turned over the actual thinking about his job to others - Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, etc. He pretty much has abandoned leadership on issues except when he gets something fixed in his head, and then he ignores any advice or information to the contrary.
In other words, the answer to your questions: "Is he lying? Or is he just drowning in a job that he is simply unable to do?" is "Both."
There is also the unnerving possibility of psychological denial. I was struck, for example, by the fact that the president recently cited Abu Ghraib as one event that he regrets and that has deeply damaged the war on terror. So I scratch my head and ask myself: has it occurred to him that even the various official reports he commissioned trace that incident to decisions the president himself made to relax detainee standards in the war? Is he even aware that these incidents, again according to his own government's reports, have been replicated in every theater of combat? And yet, when given the chance to draw a line under all this, and embrace and enforce the McCain Amendment, the president still refused, and issued a signing statement reserving the right to break the law.
My only rational conclusion is that the president cannot face the consequences of his own actions and so simply blocks them out. Confronting Cheney and Rumsfeld on this is beyond his capacity. His psyche, rescued from alcoholism by rigid fundamentalism, has been sealed off from rational assessment of empirical reality, from basic concepts of responsibility and accountability. The people he has surrounded himself with have only one thing in common: the knowledge that the maintenance of his denial keeps them in their jobs. And so we have this bizarre unending war of attrition, where no strategic logic can be discerned, where goals are set with no means to attain them, and where American soldiers and Iraqi civilians are put through a grinder of brutality and terror. I'm saying this as someone who desperately wants us to succeed, but simply cannot understand why the president refuses to commit the necessary resources to do so.