Bush's presidency: Hobbled from the start

By Alan Wolfe

By Letters to the Editor

Published December 18, 2000 8:38AM (EST)

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Can there be a "postmodern president" without a postmodern theory?

To say that Bush approached the election standoff in Florida with a cynical, relativist approach to truth, consistent with nihilistic left-wingers, assumes a level of self-consciousness that we all know Bush does not have. Bush gets his punch from the hefty weight of millions of donated dollars, and a power-hungry Republican Party. Wolfe should go back a few centuries in philosophical thought and remember the rule of Occam's razor: the straightforward solution is usually right. Power and competition motivate both men.

-- Corey Young

I found Alan Wolfe's article a refreshing and perceptive alternative to the blathering of columnists informed only by a shallow sense of Realpolitik or a severely one-sided perspective. However, a quibble: I can claim no special expertise, but Wolfe's characterization of Bush as Machiavellian does an injustice, I think, to Machiavelli. Though indeed Machiavelli's writings in "The Prince" are often shockingly cynical, he also recognizes (in his "Discourses on Livy," for example) that deceit, manipulation and the like are justified only in the service of the common good (e.g., a country's survival), a goal greater and more glorious than one man's appetite for power. Unless George Bush turns out to be the next George Washington, I think W. will have fared poorly by Machiavelli's standards.

-- Eric Yun

I suppose the aspect of George W. Bush that appalls me the most is his distinct lack of ideals. When you think of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or even, God bless him, Pat Buchanan, you can actually visualize what each man stands for, be it the environment, pro-life, healthcare, etc. But when I think of George W. Bush, all I get is a void, a vast wasteland filled with the mantras of his handlers. I suppose this is hereditary: I cannot think of anything his father stood for, either. Both men, instead, attach themselves to slogans that they think carry the day, be it "A thousand points of light" (what did that ever mean?) or "compassionate conservatism" (like "jumbo shrimp"). George W. is an empty vessel, and he is likely to sink himself before the year is through.

-- Kim Taylor-cloud

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