The Modern IcarusTime is notoriously rough on Presidents, not so much in the historical sense, but in the aging sense. Anyone who doubts this only has to look at pictures of our modern Presidents. Most of them came in looking relatively youthful - even the old birds like Reagan - and departed heavily wrinkled, white haired, and visibly tired.
That's no great surprise. The demands of the office are high and the escape from pressure difficult. Presidents can run off to the ranch or sneak up to Camp David, but for the most part these are "working vacations". Living a life where your slightest movement is accompanied by an entourage big enough to make Britney blush gets tiring I'm sure.
Time Waits for No Man
For the longest time, the current White House occupant escaped such wear and tear. He spent his first term racking up vacation time like a Club Med addict, but his vacations held noticeably less work time than the Presidential average. He was famous for maintaining regular and none-too stringent office hours, going to bed by 9 PM, and taking plenty of time out to crash his bike or choke on pretzels while he watched the 'Horns on TV.
It also helped that he enjoyed high poll numbers, spoke only to groups of hand-picked and cheering supporters, and got to do cool stuff like dress up like a pilot and land on aircraft carriers. After all, it's much easier to tell people "Mission Accomplished" than to explain how hosed up the central event of your administration has become.
To see Bush today is to see a man who would have been almost unrecognizable six years ago. Gone is the nattily-tailored flight suit. In is the rapidly whitening hair. He no longer walks briskly out to the helicopter pumping his arm in a perpetual Presidential wave. Now he spends much more time looking at his shoes instead of smartly saluting the Marine guard at the bottom of the steps. And the famous smirk! It still creeps out from time to time, but for the most part his lips no longer curl up at the corners like the Grinch Who Stole Liberty.
Reality Sinks In
Despite valiant attempts to ignore the obvious, reality may finally be sinking in. He may still talk about victory, but I think even George has finally realized that this time he's screwed up big time. This is a mess with no way out. This is a mess than not even Daddy and all his wise men can undo for him. If his poll numbers go any lower, he'll pop out of the hole in China. Many of his generals are leaving him to twist in the wind. His party has lost its majority and even his friends are beginning to desert him. Yet, he is a man of overwhelming pride, a selfish pride that would have him sacrifice other people's lives instead of just saying, "I screwed up."
He only has two years to go before he can hand the mess over to someone else and the early indications on his "new way forward" seem to suggest that's exactly what he's aiming for. His boasts about sleeping well are just that, boasts. I'm sure he tosses and turns, haunted by his worst nightmare - being seen for what he is...an incompetent boob who is too cowardly to face his failures and begin fixing the mess he's wrought on us all.
If what he's been through already has aged him this rapidly, two more years might just turn out to be catastrophic. By the end, his famed bubble will be truly and finally burst. The enormity of what he's done and the intense heat of public loathing will finally pierce his thick skin and cook him from the outside in. He'll leave office much like Lyndon Johnson did - broken and pathetic and headed for that firey place where all bad people go. He can take some solace in realizing he won't be alone though. Dick and Condi and Rummy will all be there too, courtiers to a man who tossed the country over a cliff in his rush to be King.
Of all the things that age a person, hubris may be the worst. It pays it adherents back with a cataclysmic karma of ruin and George, I'm sure, will be no exception.
Just ask Icarus.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, January 08, 2007