Worst president ever? Ahhh, those were the days. I'm already nostalgic for them.
For yesterday Mr. Bush's press conference made even that appellation seem rather comforting. For yesterday he departed the presidential-ranking territory of Buchanan, Grant and Harding and carved out a new cellar of decidedly sui-generis dimensions. For yesterday he transcended mere incompetence -- that pedestrian quality of beatable "worse-ness" -- and displayed a collection of deficiencies one would normally see only within the confines of a secure and padded institution.
We didn't think things could get worse. That seemed impossible. But every time we think that, sure enough, things get worse and the sucker punch gets poised. Yesterday was a splendid example.
What was that? It sure wasn't a "news" conference. It went far beyond spin -- even laughably outrageous Beltway spin -- and swiftly entered the spooky arena of downright derangement. It was, indeed, like a national diagnostic session, with President Curveball himself on the couch and behind the podium. I have never, never seen anything like it.
There he stood, facing an avalanche of status-quo obliteration, and pretended -- or rather honestly believed? -- that nothing had changed. Nothing at all. There he stood, grimacing and wincing and twitching, and swore that, in fact, he had been vindicated. The deranged bastard had me paralyzed with fear. It was like watching the disintegrating Captain Queeg on the witness stand -- only this commander has his unsteady finger on the nuclear button.
"Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon," said Bush, shifting effortlessly from the familiar "since" to the new product of "if"; again, as though nothing had changed. "What's to say they couldn't start another covert nuclear weapons program?"
Well, let's think. Maybe they could say that, you know, like they've been saying since 2003 and have now been proven genuine; like Saddam Hussein repeatedly said before we spent 4000 lives and a couple trillion dollars to prove him correct; and like the International Atomic Energy Agency could regularly verify if only we would talk and trade rather than threaten and withhold.
His other musings were no less demented or utterly disconnected, which some mental health professionals, if bribed enough, I suppose, might label as merely severely revisionist. Such as his claim that our relations with Iran in 2002 were "hopeful" -- as opposed to the later dark days of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reign -- forgetting, suppressing, or completely blocking from memory that that was the year he slapped on Iran the moniker of its "axis of evil" membership.
Senator Chuck Hagel, in reaction to the intelligence community's startling clarity that has only befogged Mr. Bush even more, declared that now is perhaps the time for talks with Iran since, as the New York Times paraphrased and quoted, "Iran’s government may be more rational than the one that Mr. Bush said in August had threatened to put the entire region 'under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.'"
Of course Iran is more rational -- certainly more so than the one portrayed by the irrational Mr. Bush. But here's what really worries.
The Times further reports, as is the consensus view among virtually all foreign policy mavens outside the twisted confines of the White BugHouse, that "For now at least, the main argument for a military conflict with Iran ... is off the table for the foreseeable future." Yet it's Mr. Bush who makes the "main argument," and yesterday he stood right there -- right there before the world -- and declared there was no substantive change in the basis for that argument. So how could it be "off the table"? -- and especially since he further and explicitly declared it isn't?
In fact, given Mr. Bush's most unsettling display of incontrovertible instability yesterday, the situation is more worrisome now than ever. For years we have witnessed his absolute, prep-boy intolerance for behavioral correction and his messianic determination to do, simply, whatever he thinks God wants him to do. Yesterday only publicly affirmed that his condition has passed the exceedingly frustrating stage and has entered, perhaps, Twenty-fifth Amendment territory.
He affirmed, in short, that he's exceedingly bonkers, and is skating on the very edge of a destructive mental collapse. This we are expected to find reassuring?