Seeing Bush’s face last night and hearing his voice, I got the feeling that he’s fighting, not only the Islamic totalitarians or his opponents on the Hill, but an exhaustion that comes with the fact that he’s spent almost all of his six years as President under a degree of stress and attack (foreign and domestic) that is unusual even for that pressured office. It’s often remarked how much Presidents age during their terms, and although it doesn’t come across as lines in the face for Bush (at least, I don’t see them), it comes across as a diminishment of energy and more than a trace of bitterness that wasn’t there at the beginning.
This makes sense. Perhaps it’s almost normal for Presidents in the last two years of their second terms–but, funny thing, I haven’t seen too many Presidents in the last two years of their second terms in my lifetime. The only Presidents who fit that bill were Eisenhower (barely remembered by me) and Reagan (well, he always looked good–he was a movie star, after all). Clinton qualifies, I suppose, with his last two years taken up by Monicagate–which had a certain stress of its own, but it wasn’t the usual stresses of office. Nixon and Johnson didn’t quite make it, and the others were all one-termers.
I cannot truly imagine the pressures of being President, but they are formidable, to say the least. To be a successful President and not buckle under that stress, one must have intense confidence in one’s own decisions. And yet it’s best not to be a narcissist, a character trait that often goes along with both politicians and surface (although not true) confidence in decisions.
And speaking of narcissists–this is one of the best news items of the day. Too bad we won’t have Kerry to kick around anymore in the 2008 Presidential race.