September 30, 2004


Ever read E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime? It's terrific. But Doctorow, writing about George W. Bush, reminds us of the old adage: "Trust the art, not the artist":

I fault this president for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our 21-year-olds who wanted to be what they could be. On the eve of D-Day in 1944 General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was almost more than Eisenhower could bear.

But this president does not know what death is. He hasn't the mind for it ... He does not mourn. He doesn't understand why he should mourn ... you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it ... He is the president who does not feel.

Study him, Doctorow. Look into his eyes.

UPDATE. The director of the French Center on the United States -- who knew? -- also senses Bush badness:

"If foreigners could vote, there's no question what the result would be," said Guillaume Parmentier, director of the French Center on the United States. "Bush's image, even before the war in Iraq, was not good. The way he comports himself, the vocabulary he uses -- good versus evil, God and all that -- even his body language, most people think is not presidential." He added, "I've never seen such hostility."

Never seen such hostility, Guillaume? Check out a Michael Moore movie. Or read Doctorow's article.

Posted by Tim Blair at September 30, 2004 04:38 AM

"But this president does not know what death is." His little sister died when he was a child. Supposedly they were quite close.

Posted by: Larry G at September 30, 2004 at 05:12 AM

It's a damn good thing the votes of ordinary people who "don't know what's good for them" will count every bit as much as those of condescending left-wing elitist poofs.

Posted by: Spiny Norman at September 30, 2004 at 05:16 AM

BTW, although the esteemed Mr. Doctorow may have forgotten, Eisenhower was not yet President in 1944.

Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival,

Like the war that was declared against us... or should we suppose radical militant Islam will just go away if we pretend it doesn't exist.

Posted by: Spiny Norman at September 30, 2004 at 05:24 AM

I'm not a religious man, but "God and all that"? Sheesh.

Posted by: Sean M. at September 30, 2004 at 05:56 AM

"If foreigners could vote, there's no question what the result would be,"...

Someone slip this guy a note about that Revolution thingy we had awhile back.

Posted by: geezer at September 30, 2004 at 05:59 AM

"French Center on the United States"
WTF is that?

"...even his body language, most people think is not presidential"
I guess having sex with an intern your daughter's age in the White House is okay though.

"I've never seen such hostility."
Most French never see much hostility. They're usually marching towards the rear with a nuance to their step under a waving white banner at the first sign of hostilities.

Posted by: bc at September 30, 2004 at 06:25 AM

He added, "I've never seen such hostility."

He ain't seen nothin' yet. Wait until all the distracting business of campaigning for election is over and the guvmint can get down to real business.

Posted by: Rebecca at September 30, 2004 at 06:49 AM

If "the world" could vote there is no question they would elect either Nader or Tickle me Elmo as the US president because the majority of people who turned out would be the "american haters" crowd and even if they did care would be pretty uneducated on the issues anyway.

Posted by: Genius at September 30, 2004 at 06:52 AM

Larry G is correct. George lost his little sister to leukemia when she was five years old.

The Bush family (and to his credit, John Edwards) unlike Al Gore refused to use family tragedy for political gain.

Doctorow was rightly booed last spring at a college commencement speech. So many of these artists put me in mind of the film, "Barton Fink", in the way they can be so unfeeling and unaware. Astonishing.

Posted by: JDB at September 30, 2004 at 07:08 AM

And another thing...

After 9/11, Laura Bush was on television speaking to America's children in that steady, kind, concerned elementary school teacher manner that she has. It was quite touching.

I simply can't help but shudder thinking about Theresa Heinz Kerry called upon to give a similar performance when the next attack comes.

Visualize that and despair.

Posted by: JDB at September 30, 2004 at 07:26 AM

Doctorow has always been a poor excuse for a "journalist." He wrote a piece on Minuteman missile launch officers in the late '70s for Playboy that got pretty much everything wrong, including fouling up the interviews he did.

Posted by: John Donigan at September 30, 2004 at 07:42 AM

Foreigners can vote. In places where they're not foreigners.

Posted by: ak at September 30, 2004 at 07:55 AM

Visualize that and despair. Visualize that and vote Bush, early and often.

Posted by: YoJimbo at September 30, 2004 at 08:17 AM

It's amusing to see all this discussion about how foreigners should be able to vote in the United States.

One wonders where all this concern about voting was, when the US attacked Afghanistan. Remember the millions of Afghan refugees that would occur? or the aid packets that were yellow, JUST LIKE SUBMUNITIONS?!? Or how the Taliban should be given more time to think about handing bin Laden over?

Or Iraq. I mean, where were all the people calling upon Saddam to allow real elections (or were all these people credulous about Saddam's 100% approval rating)?

But one has to wonder, w/ Doctorow's description, whether FDR, who never served a day in the military despite having ample opportunity (he didn't develop polio until he was 39) understood death, when he dispatched American sailors to die in the freezing North Atlantic before Pearl Harbor?

Posted by: Dean at September 30, 2004 at 08:22 AM

If foreigners, a word encompassing the world's population, were allow to vote in some sort of global process the ticket would be a competition between the Communist dictator and Theocracy parties.

No thank you.

Posted by: Eric Pobirs at September 30, 2004 at 10:06 AM

The day I really got to like George W was when he was speaking in Federal Parliament and Bob Brown (who always reminds me of a fish when he starts talking - blub, blub, blob) got up and interrupted.

George W broke into a big smile, turned to (I presume) John Howard and winked. I loved it that he could find Blob's silly rudeness so amusing, and that he dealt with the interruption so graciously. The man is seriously well adjusted.

Posted by: Janice at September 30, 2004 at 10:17 AM

'Never seen such hostility'? He doesnt get out much, does he?

If you want to see 'hostility', look into the eyes of the mad mullahs and their rancid followers who want to kill us, or into the eyes of the Islamic 'spiritual leaders' who tell us one thing, and their followers another. Or better yet, look into the eyes of the barbarians taking human parts as 'souvenirs' from bombed cars in Israel.

Anyhow, if foreigners could vote in US elections, I would vote for Bush.

Posted by: dee at September 30, 2004 at 11:08 AM

Another loser trying to get attention. Jeez! What, are these turkeys underemployed or something?

Posted by: The Real JeffS at September 30, 2004 at 11:35 AM

"Never seen such hostility"? Did he miss 9/11?

Posted by: Jim at September 30, 2004 at 11:42 AM

What amazes me is that a person of some note like Doctorow-- not only a novelist but a former editor, thus someone in touch with reality, business, etc.-- nevertheless gets up and thinks, "I need to tell the world the TRUTH about George W. Bush!" And then fills the article with such keen, no-one-ever-had-them-before insights as "He's not very smart" and "He only cares about the rich." Thanks, E.L., never heard that anywhere before, apart from EVERY WORD MOLLY IVINS EVER WROTE.

Posted by: Mike G at September 30, 2004 at 11:48 AM

I am not american nor do I have a clue about Texas.
But I have read many of President Bushs speeches, and seen some of the many touching anecdotes showing his character. His speeches show a wisdom, depth and a far reaching vision. I cannot see how anyone can fail to be impressed.

President Bush would get my vote any time.

Perhaps if more people spent their time reading the speeches and less time watching Michael Moore, 90% of the world vote would favour President Bush.

Posted by: dawn at September 30, 2004 at 12:04 PM

E.L Doctorow? Second-rate. Can't hold a candle to Ishmael Reed or Nicholas Mosley.

Why those two? Dunno, just came to mind.

Posted by: ForNow at September 30, 2004 at 12:25 PM

I remember when Doctorow was for the Nuclear Freeze movement. Just another herd animal of a litterateur, & a second-rate one at that, for our unilaterally halting in the arms race versus the Soviet Union.

Posted by: ForNow at September 30, 2004 at 12:33 PM

Never seen such hostility...

Well you wouldn't, when your head's in the sand and your ass is up in their air waiting for the inevitable.

Posted by: Freddyboy at September 30, 2004 at 01:48 PM

It's a good thing the whole world can't vote. Robert Mugabe, Yasser Arafat, Kim Jong-Il, Fidel Castro, Hu Jintao, and a bunch of petty Third World autocrats would be out of work.

Posted by: Alan K. Henderson at September 30, 2004 at 02:23 PM

I'm a foreigner and I'm a bit anti-American: everything I hate about Americans is epitomised by the Democrats - patronising, pretentious, presumptuous, promiscuous (I'm on a roll!)... and simplistic ('zero tolerance for...').

Mind you the French are even worse!

I don't think Bush is perfect, but the more I see of him the more I like. A leader doesn't need to be an intellectual, but he does need to be truthful, sympathetic, and able to delegate. Just on those 3 points Bush is superlative.

Yes, I'd vote Bush for sure!

Posted by: Om at September 30, 2004 at 03:25 PM

The French Center on the United States, well isn't that a coincidence. Because we have The United States Center on France. Yep. It meets the third Tuesday of each month at 7:00pm sharp in the men's room at Big Mike's Fina station. This month's featured speaker is Ed the fry cook at Dobb's Pancake and BBQ. The topic this month, "The French and Soap; What Gives?" It is BYOB and the meal will consist of expired Krispy Kreme Doughnuts that were tossed into Big Mike's dumpster. The public is invited to attend and help us all better, if not to understand, then at least to tolerate anything French.

Posted by: Pierre at September 30, 2004 at 09:22 PM

Doctorow lauds Eisenhower for praying for the boys on D-Day, but if Bush did something similar, the Doctorow types would be screaming "SEE!!!! HE THINKS JEEBUS IS RUNNING THE WAR FOR HIM!!!!! GAAAAAAH!!!"

Also, how do we know Bush isn't praying for the soldiers? Last I heard, not everybody feels it necessary to share the details of their prayers with the rest of the world.

Posted by: Combustible Boy at September 30, 2004 at 10:51 PM

I was going to pick up a copy of Ragtime once but remembered there were so many Judith Krantz novels waiting to be read instead.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at October 1, 2004 at 01:55 AM

To tell yo the truth, I've never been able to get through any of his novels, even though I read probably 15-20 books a month. He's one of those "important" authors that I find boring.

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