John Travolta may have played Bill Clinton on the big screen, but it's clear that the president he most resembles is none other than George W. Bush. Think about it. They've both made an almost obsessive-compulsive relationship with religion the center of their lives, they've both married women who appear to be Stepford Wives, and they both love to dress up in military outfits and pretend they're fighting men.
Recent revelations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina only add further weight to the Bush-as-Barbarino theme, especially in the ways that George W. Bush is starting to resemble the classic title character from the movie, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Much like the ill-fated Tod Lubitch, who suffered from a weak immune system and could be killed by the smallest germs, Bush is apparently unable to withstand even the slightest bit of bad news or, heaven forfend, criticism. Also, they both have last names that make teenagers snicker.
We've all known for years now that Bush was suffering from his own bubble-boy lifestyle, but this great round-up piece by Dan Froomkin shows that stories of Bush's inability to handle criticism or dissent and his childish responses to them are even bigger than we thought.
Mike Allen writes in Time: "Longtime Bush watchers say they are not shocked that he missed his moment -- one of his most trusted confidants calls him 'a better third- and fourth-quarter player,' who focuses and delivers when he sees the stakes. What surprised them was that he still appeared to be stutter-stepping in the second week of the crisis, struggling to make up for past lapses instead of taking control with a grand gesture. Just as Katrina exposed the lurking problems of race and poverty, it also revealed the limitations of Bush's rigid, top-down approach to the presidency. . . .Screaming at a young aide. Classy. Be sure to read the whole thing.
"Bush's bubble has grown more hermetic in the second term, they say, with fewer people willing or able to bring him bad news -- or tell him when he's wrong. Bush has never been adroit about this. A youngish aide who is a Bush favorite described the perils of correcting the boss. 'The first time I told him he was wrong, he started yelling at me,' the aide recalled about a session during the first term. 'Then I showed him where he was wrong, and he said, "All right. I understand. Good job." He patted me on the shoulder. I went and had dry heaves in the bathroom.' . . ."
It seems that Bush is intent on turning his presidency into a grand tribute to the original bubble boy, crafting his own bubble out of an intricate web of yes men, political cronies, and a stubborn refusal to see or hear anything that differs from the delicate world view they've created.
And Lord knows, Bush is clearly suffering while he's stuck in that bubble. Sadly, so are the rest of us.