There is undoubtedly a rhetorical virtue in stating the obvious, in getting back to the fundamental crux of the argument, but President Bush takes this virtue to a disturbingly tautological extreme. A few months ago, when asked at a press conference about rising gas prices, the President declared that, if he had one, he would wave a magic wand to reduce them; the stark reality was, however, that he didn't have a wand, magic or otherwise. (This was also the same press conference where he said he had yet to hear about gas prices nearing four dollars per gallon.) Today, at another press conference, the President invoked the same device, and pleaded the same impotence: that magic wand just doesn't exist:
There is no immediate fix. This took us a while to get in this problem; there is no short-term solution. I think it was in the Rose Garden where I issued this brilliant statement: If I had a magic wand -- but the President doesn't have a magic wand. You just can't say, low gas. It took us a while to get here and we need to have a good strategy to get out of it. (Link)
Extemporaneous speaking is difficult, especially when dealing with complex issues. But a pattern of this kind of non-logic substituting for genuine thought and argumentation belies a deeper, more disturbing problem.
Witness, for example, President Bush's recent gag at a "private meeting" at the G8 summit:
The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."
He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.
Mr Bush, whose second and final term as President ends at the end of the year, then left the meeting at the Windsor Hotel in Hokkaido where the leaders of the world's richest nations had been discussing new targets to cut carbon emissions. (Link, via clusterflock)
This kind of critique is almost too easy to make, but apathy presages a surrender of freedom. By focusing, perhaps necessarily, on the larger themes, the press fails to take note of the nuances of these arguments, which are not arguments at all but weak apologetics for a hardened epistemology.
(The New York Times and NPR on the today's press conference)