Describing it as an encounter that was “like entering a different universe,” New York Times columnist David Brooks recounts a recent conversation he had with President Bush in the White House. In the editorial entitled “Heroes and History,” Brooks writes:
I left the 110-minute session thinking that far from being worn down by the past few years, Bush seems empowered. His self-confidence is the most remarkable feature of his presidency.
110 minutes with Bush, and all Brooks appears to be able to offer his readers is a superficial diagnosis of Bush’s psychology that any right-wing pundit on Fox News could render. In his last column, Brooks wrote: “I figured that sometime between now and September the White House would be so isolated that it would have to launch withdrawal plans. But ending a war is as complicated as starting one. In order to wind up the Iraq conflict there has to be some general agreement about how to do it. We’re nowhere close to that.”
Presented with an opportunity in a meeting with Bush to determine where this “general agreement” might lie, Brooks uselessly offers that Bush “feels no need to compromise to head off opposition from Capitol Hill and is confident that he can rebuild popular support. ‘I have the tools,’ he said.” (This was one of only two quotes Brooks managed to gather from a 110 minute session.)
Enamored with Bush’s self-confidence, Brooks writes of the two sources from which it flows:
The first is his unconquerable faith in the rightness of his Big Idea. Bush is convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy [...]
Second, Bush remains energized by the power of the presidency. Some presidents complain about the limits of the office. But Bush, despite all the setbacks, retains a capacious view of the job and its possibilities.
In an effort to head off the obvious criticism over his panderific column, Brooks argues, “Bush is not blind to the realities in Iraq.” His evidence? Bush “lives through” difficult moments: “the trips to Walter Reed, the hours and hours spent weeping with or being rebuffed by the families of the dead.”
To hear Brooks say this, one might forget that thousands of Americans and Iraqis live painful personal trials of the same sort each day, and many of them have come to the self-confident realization that the war needs to end. And where Brooks had an opportunity with Bush to shatter some illusions about the future course in Iraq, Brooks opted instead to reinforce the neoconservative faith in the “rightness of his Big Idea.”