Digby has an interesting post about Danner's essay which I also commend to your attention. If you don't want to dig into the whole long NYRB article, Digby helpfully provides some of the choicest quotes from it.
Along the way, Digby makes a number of interesting observations about what the Bush administration teaches us about the presidency, including the most basic one of all.
The president matters.Indeed. Digby and I are agreed that Bush is obviously a poor choice for the job. But I have a different reading
[Before being elected President, Bush] had not ever been truly interested in the job of governance, nor did he take it particularly seriously.Or, as Digby said in a much earlier post,
Still, one would have thought that when it came to running the most powerful nation in the world he would have grown in the job. He didn't. He and Cheney created a small, insular circle of incompetent advisors that fed his ego and his tiny mind. What wasn't clear until now is how well they controlled him. It turns out --- not so much. An amazing amount of power resides in the person of the president, regardless of how dim or ill informed he is, and as that anecdote shows, when the president speaks, even if he has no idea of the consequences of his decision, people obey.
Nobody ever really believed that Bush was in charge, particularly before 9/11. Even those who support the Bush administration always trusted in his advisors --- the vaunted grown-ups.But I have always suspected otherwise. In an old post of mine about Ron Suskind's long essay on the subject “Without a Doubt, I said:
I think that Bush was originally chosen by the kingmakers of the conservative movement as an empty suit with name recognition that they could use to get their team into place in government, but once Bush was President, those same kingmakers, being conservatives, felt compelled to respect Bush's authority.A healthy skepticism for authority figures—the will to question authority, in bumper sticker terms—is integral to much of the left's philosophy of governance, as any episode of The West Wing will tell you.