Friday, October 21, 2005

Oedipus Tex; or, Everyone's a Critic 

As the alcoholic George Bush approached his 40th birthday in 1986, he had achieved nothing he could call his own. He was all too aware that none of his educational and professional accomplishments would have occured without his father. He felt so low that he did not care if he lived or died . . . .

Peter Neumann, an Andover roommate, recalls that, "He idolised his father, he was going to be just like his dad." At Yale, a friend remembered a "deep respect" for his father and when he later set up in the oil business, another friend said, "He was focused to prove himself to his dad."

On the other hand, deep down, Bush had a profound loathing for this perfect model of American citizenship whose very success made the son feel a failure. Rebelliousness was an unconscious attack on him and a desperate attempt to carve out something of his own. Far from paternal emulation, Bush described his goal at school as "to instil a sense of frivolity". Contemporaries at Yale say he was like the John Belushi character in the film
Animal House, a drink-fuelled funseeker.

He was aggressively anti-intellectual and hostile to east-coast preppy types like his father, sometimes cruelly so. On one occasion he walked up to a matronly woman at a smart cocktail party and asked, "So, what's sex like after 50, anyway?"

A direct and loutish challenge to his father's posh sensibility came aged 25, after he had drunkenly crashed a car. "I hear you're looking for me," he sneered at his father, "
do you want to go mano a mano, right here?"
The Bush administration is bracing for a powerful new attack by Brent Scowcroft, the respected national security adviser to the first President George Bush.

A Republican and a former Air Force general, Scowcroft is a leading member of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, and his critique of both of the style and the substance of the Bush White House, is slated to appear in Monday's editions of the New Yorker magazine.

The article also contains some critical comments on the handling of U.S. foreign policy by the current President Bush from his father, whose 1989-1993 presidency is hailed for deft management of the end of the Cold War, German unification, the first Gulf war and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The new attack comes hard on the heels of the denunciation of "the cabal around Cheney's office" by Col. Larry Wilkerson, the chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell in a widely reported speech to the New American Foundation in Washington this week. Wilkerson said the national security decision-making process was effectively "broken."

Scowcroft's criticisms will be taken seriously at the highest levels of the Bush administration because he is seen as a mentor by some of its senior figures, notably Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose political career began when she worked under Scowcroft as an adviser on Soviet affairs.
As he grew older, the fury towards his father was increasingly directed against himself in depressive drinking. But it was not all his father's fault. There was also his insensitive and domineering mother.

Barbara Bush is described by her closest intimates as prone to "withering stares" and "sharply crystalline" retorts. She is also extremely tough. When he was seven, Bush's younger sister, Robin, died of leukaemia and several independent witnesses say he was very upset by this loss. Barbara claims its effect was exaggerated but nobody could accuse her of overreacting: the day after the funeral, she and her husband were on the golf course . . . .

-- Oliver James, author of They Fuck You Up:
How to Survive Family Life

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