If you haven’t seen the DNC’s video montage of Bush’s debate grimaces, “Faces of Frustration,” you should.
This video poses the question of why a president who one the last election largely because of Al Gore’s sighs in the 2000 debate, would make such a mistake? Josh Marshall has the best explanation I’ve seen:
What occured to me … was just how long it’s been since President Bush had to face someone who disagrees with him or is criticizing.
Every president gets tucked away into a cocoon to some degree. But President Bush does notoriously few press conferences or serious interviews. His townhall meetings are screened so that only supporters show up. And, of course, he hasn’t debated anyone since almost exactly four years ago.
Frankly, I think it showed. It irked him to have to stand there and be criticized and not be able to repeat his talking points without contradiction.
To which Brett Marston adds:
Folks who are steeped in political argument of the 17th and 18th century should be alarmed at this description of Bush. Drawing on a history of criticism of political flattery, enlightenment authors argued that it is one of the grave disadvantages of monarchy that the monarch surrounds him- or herself with sycophants who do not have the courage to criticize the monarch’s policies. According to the liberal tradition, free speech is supposed to counteract this tendency of monarchical powers to lumber along on the wrong course without internal corrections.
Bush’s demeanor last night is further proof for the claim that Bush has fallen into the trap of isolating himself from open, honest, trenchant criticism.