If you want to see characters and plots of great literature, turn off Masterpiece Theater and turn your attention to the White House. No, George Bush isn’t reading Sophocles, he’s got the lead. I was fascinated this weekend to read about a new book, The Bush Tragedy, where political author Jacob Weisberg carefully builds the case for a messy, Freudian father-son relationship at the root of our commander-in-chief’s behavior.
Here are two seminal sentences: Bush “has been driven since childhood by a need to differentiate himself from his father, to challenge, surpass and overcome him.” And to do that, “he trained himself to be hasty, extreme and unbending.” Add a spoonful of sibling rivalry in the form of smarter brother Jeb, and we’ve got the makings of a real head-case in the White House.
While the president’s Oedipal leanings seem to have eluded much of the electorate, suave anchormen and political pundits, not so with Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. The vice president “appreciated, in a way more subtle than Rove did, the way in which Bush needed to make himself his father’s antithesis.” The book claims Cheney has been able to get Bush’s buy-in on countless darkside actions simply by presenting them as “bold, game-changing and the right thing to do.” Early on, of course, was “finishing Poppy’s business” by toppling Saddam Hussein.
It’s important to note that Weisberg’s book doesn’t appear to be the simple-minded psychobabble of a Bush hater. The tale he tells is replete with details and testimonials from the Bush family itself, with many of its descriptions and conclusions recounted from earlier credible volumes such as Peter Schweizer’s The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty, Jordan Frank’s Bush on the Couch, and Craig Unger’s more recent The Fall of the House of Bush.
If the premise of The Bush Tragedy is valid, you're seeing classical themes dating to 450 B.C. working themselves out in a contemporary theater of war, governmental overthrow, torture, sacrifice and human misery, all without even having to pay for cable.