Listening to Himself
By Peter D. Kramer, author of Listening to Prozac and Freud: Inventor of the Modern Mind
People are hard to gauge from even a short distance; I may imagine I have a good read on someone, only to discover a different person when he shows up for a consultation. That said, I’m not inclined to give Bush the benefit of the doubt. If you or I failed in this catastrophic fashion, we would be crushed to the point of—who knows? It’s nearly unimaginable.
But Bush may not be devastated. Frustrated, rather, by new limitations to his power or harm to his image. Or self-satisfied, at having achieved power in the first place. Or vengeful, and distracted by petty slights. Or simply able to live with confusion, to tread water, to continue to find reasons to pat himself on the back. I don’t doubt his intelligence, but it’s possible to be, say, adept or cunning without being insightful.
I suppose that I’m speaking out of fear and anger as much as anything. My concern is precisely that Bush is not undone by the current state of the nation and that he’s not going to prove thoughtful in the service of seeking change. Then again, a contrasting possibility—that Bush is more self-aware than I imagine, and more panicked and overwhelmed—might be more humanly attractive but no more reassuring.