This week in Advancement Jason Hartley raises a shocking new question.
I don’t usually write about politics, mostly because I don’t want to do anything to put off someone who might want to buy my book. (To paraphrase Michael Jordan, “The-Rent-Is-Too-Damn-High’ers buy books too.”) But the events of the past week are so important, I feel compelled to comment on them, even if it means I make some people mad. So I’ll just come out and say it: George W. Bush might just be Advanced.
In an interview with Matt Lauer this week, President Bush recalled the moment when the highly Advanced Kanye West suggested that the government’s poorly coordinated response to Hurricane Katrina was evidence of the president’s lack of empathy for African Americans. Bush said to Lauer, “I resent it, it’s not true, and it was one of the most disgusting moments of my presidency.” My initial thought was that Bush is just a straight-up idiot. But my training in Advancement has taught me to look for alternative explanations for odd behavior by people who are more successful than I am, so I dug deeper.
As I thought more about it, I realized that bringing up Kanye was possibly an Advanced move on his part. He said that the “Bush doesn’t care about black people” assertion was more upsetting than criticism about the handling of the war in Iraq and his tax cuts, which is basically saying that Kanye West’s opinion is more important to him than, say, Paul Krugman, Thomas Ricks, and the American people. So though it may be true that he does not care about black people, he does care about Advanced people. But not in the pandering way of, say, Bill Clinton.
Comparing the two is pretty interesting, especially considering President Clinton also mentioned a rapper in an interview this week: Lil’ Wayne. Clinton said that he loves Lil’ Wayne (Chelsea got him hooked), admiring not only his music but his intelligence. Clinton, who wears dark sunglasses, loves rock’n’roll, had Lou Reed play the White House, and now apparently loves rap, seems like a perfect Advanced Politician. But is he too perfect? Is it possible that he is merely trying to seem Advanced without actually Advancing, like Bono? Or is he just doing all the things Advanced people are “supposed to do” like Billy Joel did in the “We Didn’t Start the Fire” era? I don’t think a guy who needs to be liked as much as he evidently does can really be Advanced.
If you look carefully, Bush actually looks more like an authentic candidate for Advancement than Clinton. He was misunderstood as a youth, abused alcohol, embraced religion, embraced baseball, became a fake cowboy, spoke unintelligibly, was dismissed as a failure, became wildly popular, and then disappointed his original fans by expanding the government, increasing the deficit, engaging in nation-building, and bailing out banks on his way out of the White House. By the time he left office, he had almost no fans, like Dylan in the 1980s.
But to be Advanced, you have to be ahead of your time, and this is where his case is weakest. Most of his efforts in the business world were just plain failures, as opposed to the head-scratching variety favored by the Advanced. The only interesting thing about his failures was that he kept making more money the more he failed. This may be some kind of Advancement reserved for well-connected people, though I can’t be sure. He did well by investing in the Texas Rangers, but he traded Sammy Sosa, so I don’t know how much credit he gets there. Unless, of course, he knew beforehand that Sosa’s accomplishments would be diminished by a corked bat (and, reportedly, body). There was “the surge” in Iraq, which seems to have worked better than most people believed it would, but it is premature to declare it a real success.
However, the outcome of the elections held this week could very well have been the work of President Bush. As his presidency was coming to an end, Bush saw that it was likely that a Democratic candidate would be elected president, and Democrats would be controlling congress as well. Furthermore, he remembered that his father worked with Democrats to reduce the deficit when he was president, but it was Bill Clinton who got all the credit for balancing the budget. Knowing this, he did as much damage to the country as he possibly could, making it impossible for the next president to fix the mess in time for midterm elections. On top of that, he let Obama appear to be involved in TARP to the point where voters forgot that it happened under Bush. He may have even told McCain to act confused and oblivious to what was going on so he wouldn’t be associated with TARP when it was time for his reelection to the Senate.
If in fact Bush torpedoed Obama’s presidency in an effort to bolster the long-term health of the Republican Party, then he may just be an Advanced Genius. I think, though, that it is more likely that he was just not a very good president in a time where we needed a great one. Then again, it is still possible that there was an Advanced politician pulling the strings in the Bush White House, a person so visionary, so inscrutable, so infuriating, so duplicitous, that his Advancement has gone undetected. I’m talking, of course, about Dick Cheney. If Kanye West ever said anything about him, Cheney wouldn’t write about it in a memoir, he would shoot West in the face.