By Deepak Chopra, president, Alliance for a New Humanity
One of the most unnerving things about George Bush is his smile. As the situation in Iraq has grown more calamitous, the smile hasn’t disappeared. It’s become markedly patronizing, saying, “I’m right on this. The rest of you just don’t understand.” A pitying smile. On the night of the State of the Union, the president kept his smirking to a minimum—a surprise. It’s been pointed out that until he became president, Bush didn’t smirk. It’s grown into a disturbing tic, expressing a mixture of contradictory traits: smugness, disdain, self-consciousness, doubt. It’s not the easiest smirk to read. People who read contempt in it are rightfully offended. They think of Bush’s most unpleasant attribute: his sense of entitlement. Having accomplished little in his life, he nevertheless expected the highest rewards. He wanted victory to come easily, as his birthright. When it did come in 2000—to the astonishment even of his family—the smirk said, “I told you so.” His smile turns into a go-to-hell smirk whenever Bush hears a hostile question. He’s shielding himself from impudence while reining in his own simmering anger. He’s smirking to put you on warning. In a moment he might blow his top. Bush’s smile also tells us, almost guilelessly, that he isn’t suffering inside. This fact maddens his critics the most. Lincoln suffered terribly during the Civil War, as Churchill did in World War II. Bush has to remind himself to put on a sad face when he talks about his war. The black dog, as Churchill called his depression, doesn’t nip at this president’s heels. Have we seen a more inappropriate smile from any politician since Nixon? I doubt it.