Face Off

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George W. Bush was famous for his infectious grin — it made the Left sick. Sometime during his first term it became the smirk that launched a thousand blogs. I still can’t figure out exactly why, except perhaps that it reflected not only self-confidence and self-satisfaction but also, at some level, the fact that he knew it would irritate lefties, simply because he’d got his way. Somewhat puerile (he was referred to as a frat boy); still — whatever you think of his policies — Bush was patently transparent (not really cunning enough for successful guile), artless, and guardedly candid (as candid as a politician might dare).

I’ll never forget his on-camera reaction to 9/11 while entertaining 6-year-olds. First, he listened to his aide without interrupting or reacting. Note that he didn’t cut the cameras. That would have been an indication that he was more concerned with his image than with the substance of what was happening. Then, seemingly at a loss for reaction and continuing the task at hand, he came across as indecisive — mostly, I suspect, because he didn’t react dramatically. However, I think his wheels were in overdrive as he digested the import of the news. Perhaps I’m too charitable, but I’d have reacted the same way. Impulsiveness during a crisis is no virtue.

Most refreshing about W’s character was his self- deprecating sense of humor. Remember him crawling out from under a table declaring — with that infamous smirk on his face — “No WMD’s here!”?

Lately, it seems as if each new president, after the honeymoon is over, makes the previous president — no matter how reviled he was at the end of his term — look oodles better. At the end of their second term the Clintons were widely despised. Then came George W., a breath of fresh air at the time. But by the end of W’s second term, the Clintons were nearly rehabilitated. George W. isn’t yet a George Washington, but Obama is certainly greasing the skids for him.

At the healthcare forum with Republicans, where Congressman Ryan stole the show, our current chief executive looked bored and dismissive — as if students in his law class had detoured into pointless, irrelevant error. That’s when I first noticed Obama’s smirk: a supercilious, arrogant, patronizing half-grin of condescending superiority.

He purses his lips, making them look unnaturally thin, displaying determination and resolve, deep in thought, implying an even deeper insight hidden somewhere inside; rolls his eyes, then looks around conspiratorially (to those in the know) and exudes the air of a teacher exercising endless patience with a bunch of students who “don’t get it.” Then — instead of persuading people or countering opposing arguments logically — he lectures his audience with an air of finality, as if only a crank might counter his summary words of wisdom. Finally, he looks around once more with a fastidious patience that dissembles a sneering impatience.

I just can’t imagine a future president who might make me wish for the good old Obama days.

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