Friday, September 23, 2005

Bush's Favorite Book

Pinoy Kasi : Noli and George

Michael Tan
Inquirer News Service

I WAS chuckling as I read about the US Federal Bureau of Investigation's report on Vice President Noli de Castro, with dire warnings about more economic and political "uncertainties" if he succeeded Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

One passage in the five-page report, dated July 15, was particularly striking: "There is no indication De Castro has much knowledge or interest in foreign policy issues."

It was that part that got me thinking, "Well, I beg your pardon guys, but how much does your president, George W. Bush, know about foreign policy issues ... or, for that matter, about anything at all in the United States or in the world?"

Searching for words

The US report, apparently based on several meetings and visits with De Castro, claimed that our Vice President was unable to answer many of their questions. Asked about his legislative priorities, the report said they had to "wait patiently as he searched for words."

I guess they're not used to having to wait with Bush, who is quick to answer questions. So eloquent is Bush that there are several Internet sites that specialize in collecting quotable quotes from him. I'm going to share some of these "Bushisms," mainly gathered from the online magazine Slate, as we figure out how he compares with our own Tito Noli.

Before Bush was elected president, he was asked how he was with foreign policy. This was his reply: "The fundamental question is, 'Will I be a successful president when it comes to foreign policy?' I will be, but until I'm the president, it's going to be hard for me to verify that I think I'll be more effective."

He did make it into the White House and has been a source of endless gaffes and laughs. He's called the Greeks "Grecians" and thought "Mexican" was the language spoken in Mexico.

Mere slips of the tongue? Maybe. Bad grammar and syntax? Maybe, as we see in this wonderful Bushism: "Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYN's aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."

And what about the time when he asked the visiting Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso: "Do you have blacks, too?"

Some of the Bushisms suggest this man knows little, and the little he knows, he can't think through. We see this, certainly, in his views about the world, simplistically defined in terms of good and evil as we see in this gem of a quote in the Washington Post, May 31, 2000:

"This is a world that is much more uncertain than the past. In the past we were certain, we were certain it was us versus the Russians in the past. We were certain, and therefore we had huge nuclear arsenals aimed at each other to keep the peace. That's what we were certain of. ... You see, even though it's an uncertain world, we're certain of some things. We're certain that even though the 'evil empire' may have passed, evil still remains. We're certain there are people that can't stand what America stands for.... We're certain there are madmen in this world, and there's terror, and there's missiles and I'm certain of this, too: I'm certain to maintain the peace, we better have a military of high morale, and I'm certain that under this administration, morale in the military is dangerously low."

Bush certainly isn't a man of few words. That Bushism was made even before 9/11, which helps us understand why eventually he dragged the United States, and a whole "coalition of the willing," including the Philippines' Ms Arroyo, into a wild goose chase for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.


The US report recounts a visit to Noli de Castro: "We inquired about the biography of [former New York Mayor] Rudy Giuliani sitting atop a small stack of books on De Castro's desk and he said that it was a gift and he hadn't read it."

The insinuation here is that this was a man who won't be able to govern because he doesn't read. But we could ask, too, about George Bush, not just whether he reads, but whether he knows how to read. Watch him deliver his speeches and you'll find he stumbles all the time even with the teleprompter.

In fairness to him, there have been reports that George Bush is dyslexic, which is a reading disorder where you get letters mixed up. But again, one has to ask, dyslexic or not, does this president really care to learn about anything?

Let's get it straight: He does seem to read. In New Hampshire back in 1999, reporters asked him about his reading habits and he replied, "I read the newspaper."

Evan Thomas, writing in a recent issue of Newsweek, offers this bit of information: "It is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography or an hour or two of ESPN here and there."

So there, maybe if De Castro had read Giuliani's biography, he would have made a better impression on his American visitors.

No doubt, there's more to the acquisition of knowledge than reading, but I have very real fears that the world's fate lies in the hands of a man who has been diplomatically described in Salon, another online magazine, as "incurious."

Because he has such fixed views of the world, it is unlikely he cares to read anyone or to listen to people other than those who share his views.

The result? Massive incompetence, displayed time and time again in his military adventures and in his bungling on domestic issues, the most dramatic being the disastrous disaster management around Hurricane Katrina. In many other countries, citizens would have demanded his resignation. But Americans seem to be a tolerant and forgiving lot.

Which takes me back to De Castro. We seem ready to live with Ms Arroyo till 2010 because we're so afraid of getting him as president. Maybe there are good reasons for that fear but really now, if someone like Bush could get elected, and reelected, president of the United States, it pretty much shows that nations will get by, in spite of fools pretending to govern.

But, you might argue: Bush has good advisers. And I could retort, "Noli could get good advisers." But really now, I can't even agree that Bush has competent men and women around him. What he has is a bunch of chicken hawks who evaded military service but now sends off America's young men and women to be slaughtered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Americans deserve better, and we deserve better. The problem is we seem to have decided "better" means the certain uncertainties of incumbent incompetents.

Something light

This has nothing to do with politics. Tomorrow Dr. Margy Holmes is launching a revised edition of her controversial book "A Different Love" at Powerbooks, SM Megamall. I've been ever so gently persuaded to go and give my thoughts about the book and what's happened in the last 10 years since it was published. That's tomorrow at 3 p.m. Yes, the public's invited. And we can check if Powerbooks has a copy of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," which is said to be Bush's favorite children's book. Well, maybe favorite isn't the right term. It's the only book he reads to children whenever he visits schools.

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