Sunday, January 30, 2005

This Is What 23 Minutes and 30 Seconds With the President of the United States Gets You

Interview of President George W. Bush by C-SPAN's Brian Lamb

C-SPAN's program notes indicate that "our intent was to direct our interview toward broader themes, including the development of the president’s governing philosophies." But what we get is: unilateral (Bush) banter; Barney talk; ranch talk; Dad talk (or not); presidential library talk; and, of course, plant-the-flag-of-freedom talk.

Bush admits that as a history major at Yale, he was "fascinated by the Roosevelt era, Franklin Roosevelt, probably because my teachers were -- I had a teacher that was so good in the Roosevelt era." Does Brian Lamb follow up and ask in what way he was fascinated by FDR? No. I have a few suspicions about what a legacy student at Yale might think about FDR, but Lamb is not even going to bother teasing these out of Bush.

Lamb makes much of Bush's reading of and meeting with Natan Sharansky, and a totally pointless Bush anecdote begins:

THE PRESIDENT: You know, Brian, I think I told somebody that the book was a really good book -- Bernstein, as a matter of fact, was the guy. The guy who gave me the galleys told me that Sharansky was in town. And he was promoting the book. And I said, well, let's find him, let's get him to come by and say, hello. Interestingly enough, he's with the brother of the Mayor of Miami Beach, Florida, who helped write the book. He's got his name on the front of the book with Sharansky.
LAMB: Ron Dermer.
THE PRESIDENT: Dermer, yes. Mayor Dermer is his brother.
LAMB: What's interesting, you said --
THE PRESIDENT: I knew Mayor Dermer because he was a -- happened to be a Democrat mayor supporting my candidacy for the presidency. And so kind of had the full circle deal.

So, do we ever find out what Bush finds so meaningful in Sharansky's writings and how they guide his presidency? No. To be fair to Lamb, it is well known that Bush does not like to be questioned too intensely about his reading because:
THE PRESIDENT: I can't remember all the books I read, but I do read a lot of books.

The rest of the interview was eaten up with quirky exchanges like the following.

THE PRESIDENT: Not everybody is going to look like America, and shouldn't.

LAMB: Tell us how you -- what you want to do, based on your inaugural speech, in the next four years, to bring about what your goal is?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, interesting that you brought that up, because it kind of confirms what I believe is necessary. I think you can be an idealist and a realist at the same time. And we have a war to fight and win….[A]s a result of engaging that war, it does give me a chance to speak candidly with leaders just like Ronald Reagan did, in terms of, as I said in my speech -- you free people -- you'll have a partner to walk with, and remind them that we're very serious about this…. There's a lot of hurdles that have to be crossed.

LAMB: The longer you're in this White House, with all those that have gone before you, do you see ghosts of past Presidents?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I quit drinking in '86. (Laughter.)

Bizarre. And that's what 23 minutes and 30 seconds with George W. Bush gets you.

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