Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Make him listen

It seems that one effect of the Obama presidency is already apparent: better punditry. Here's Maureen Dowd making exactly the right comparison of Obama's blistering but implicit criticisms of George Bush in his inauguration speech --

After thanking President Bush "for his service to our nation," Mr. Obama executed a high-level version of Stephen Colbert’s share-the-stage smackdown of W. at the White House correspondents’ dinner in 2006.

With W. looking on, and probably gradually realizing with irritation, as he did with Colbert, who Mr. Obama’s target was — (Is he talking about me? Is 44 saying I messed everything up?) — the newly minted president let him have it

Indeed, Obama's speech has triggered outrage at National Review's The Corner (Jay Nordlinger, Yuval Levin), which raises the question: when do these people think that it's OK for George Bush to have heard criticism of himself?

He was not a Prime Minister, so there was no parliamentary gauntlet. He did the bare minimum of news conferences, which in any case are a stilted Q&A format that can be easily filibustered (the same problem with the 2004 debates). All his set-piece speeches were before selected audiences. There've been so few times when he's had to directly confront a sustained critique -- and his lousy body language when it was happening shows that he's not good at it.

So in the glorious US constitutional system, two people got to the situation of George Bush sitting down and listening to how bad he was: a comedian (transcript), and the guy who took over from him 8 years after he started the job.

Heckuva job, Founding Fathers!

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