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Peering Inside Bush's Head

So a concerted effort to convince him of something that should have been obvious leads to a contrarian and potentially irrational response. That's not exactly something to brag about.

The few times Bush actually comes face to face with critics, another coping mechanism emerges: In some cases, Baker writes, "Bush can seem disengaged. When he flew to New York to visit a Harlem school and promote his education program, he brought along New York congressmen on Air Force One, including Democrat Charles B. Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The White House was in the midst of tough negotiations with Rangel over trade pacts. But Bush did not try to cut a deal with Rangel, chatting instead about baseball. 'He talked a lot about the Rangers,' Rangel said. 'I didn't know what the hell he was talking about.'"

And there's continued evidence of what Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald describes in his new book, "A Tragic Legacy," as the "good vs. evil mentality" that "destroyed the Bush presidency." Baker writes that much of Bush's discussion with outsiders has "focused on the nature of good and evil, a perennial theme for Bush, who casts the struggle against Islamic extremists in black-and-white terms. Michael Novak, a theologian who participated, said it was clear that Bush weathers his difficulties because he sees himself as doing the Lord's work."

The Intimidation Factor

But wait. Aren't all these invitations to the White House definitive evidence that the Bush bubble is overstated? No, because Bush has a no-so-secret weapon in these talks: The intimidating nature of the trappings of the presidency. As Bush himself often explains: "The problem with the Oval Office, it is the kind of place where people stand outside and say, I'm going to walk in and tell him what for; they walk in, and they're overwhelmed by the environment, and they say, man, you're looking beautiful today, Mr. President."

One Author Who Wasn't Invited

Historian and former Baltimore Sun White House correspondent Lynne Olson writes in an opinion piece in Sunday's Washington Post: "I've spent a great deal of time thinking about Churchill while working on my book 'Troublesome Young Men,' a history of the small group of Conservative members of Parliament who defied British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasing Adolf Hitler, forced Chamberlain to resign in May 1940 and helped make Churchill his successor. . . .

"I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the president has been reading my book. He hasn't let me know what he thinks about it, but it's a safe bet that he's identifying with the book's portrayal of Churchill, not Chamberlain. But I think Bush's hero would be bemused, to say the least, by the president's wrapping himself in the Churchillian cloak. Indeed, the more you understand the historical record, the more the parallels leap out -- but they're between Bush and Chamberlain, not Bush and Churchill.

"Like Bush and unlike Churchill, Chamberlain came to office with almost no understanding of foreign affairs or experience in dealing with international leaders. Nonetheless, he was convinced that he alone could bring Hitler and Benito Mussolini to heel. He surrounded himself with like-minded advisers and refused to heed anyone who told him otherwise."

Blogger Reaction

Christy Hardin Smith of Firedoglake assails Bush (and The Post) for holding a "presidential pity party."

DailyKos blogger LithiumCola marvels at the fact that in the entire story, "there is no hint of the influence or even presence of one Richard B. Cheney.

"It's as though [Jo] Becker and [Barton] Gellman's four-day series on the Vice President's pervasive influence, just last week in this same Washington Post, never happened."

Watch for continued blogger reaction during the day.

Bush on the Couch

Sharon Begley wrote in Newsweek a few weeks ago: "Denying the evidence of your eyes is the most extreme form of the coping mechanism called denial. . . .

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