The secret of GWB’s success—for a while there, anyway—was that he was so comfortable playing the role that Phil Nugent nails as, “Sure, he’s a different kind of cop and he doesn’t play by the book—but he gets results!”
So what’s up with the lame duck’s recent lameness?
By now, it’s clear that “We don’t torture” is going to be George Bush’s equivalent to “I am not a crook” or “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”—an embarrassingly transparent, obviously untrue statement that the speaker never would have even made in the first place if he hadn’t been obligated to deny something that everybody had already figured out was the case. In the earlier examples, you could at least understand the emotions behind the decision to go on TV and indignantly challenge these unfounded accusations that the sun is hot. In Nixon’s case, it must have been deeply nerve-racking for a such a rigid, uptight old Quaker, one who had built his administration on promises of restoring “law and order” to a nation that had lost its moral compass, to start seeing cartoons of himself and his top aides in prison stripes in the paper every damn day. The very idea undermined everything that he wanted to believe about himself and everything his supporters wanted to believe about him. As for Clinton, for a free-wheeling, charismatic dude who had a well-documented taste for the ladies and a serious JFK complex, it must have been…well, anyway, I’m sure he didn’t want to sleep on the couch. But George Bush is supposed to be our self-styled Mr. Grim Reality, President Bauer. Why the hell is he denying that we do what he must know his most hardcore supporters worship him for having the balls to do? Why doesn’t he respond to questions about whether we torture by barking “Damn straight,” and then pulling a former Gitmo resident’s spleen out of his jacket pocket to gnaw?