I discovered today that George W. Bush is a better leader or a better Christian than I knew.
Here he is facing a barrage of Katrina criticism, some of it almost surely coming from the people who helped create the Katrina crisis, and what does he do?
He reaches out and thanks these people for their criticism. After his meeting with Bush, the mayor of New Orleans, Mr. C. Ray Nagin, said, "If anything, he told me he kind of appreciated my frankness and my bluntness."
This might be the triumph of a Christian generosity, a turning of the cheek. It's hard not to notice that no one takes Bush's Christianity seriously, unless, in my opinion, they take it too seriously. No one seems ever to read Bush's behavior as if he were being animated by Christian beliefs or practices. Instead, people treat his Christianity as if it were somehow "part of the act," an opportunistic play for sun belt, heart land, anti-coastal voters. No one seems to believe that George W. Bush is ever actually listening when in church. He's there as part of the theatre of his presidency, to show that he stands with certain conservative verities and against the godless Dems.
I know it's not fashionable to talk this way about George W. Bush, but that should give us pause. Actually, the problem goes deeper than that. It is indeed barely intelligible to talk about George Bush this way. To refer to the kind or effect of his religious feeling, do we ever do this? To refer to the selflessness of his presidency, this too trembles on the verge of incoherence. In sum, we have read certain interpretive possibilities out of analysis before analysis has begun. And we all did it. Intellectuals all did it. Intellectuals all did it. (It always astonishes me to see that the intellectual is first and foremost a pack animal.)
George W. Bush, maybe for all of his take-charge, Texan, just-folk transparency, there are complexities we have not discovered. Discovering complexities, I thought this was what the chattering classes were for.
Which is something that some of us - who have known men of good Christian charity up close and personel - have long known. He's a stand up guy, he believes what he says, and his artiface is at a minimum. Grant says a fair bit, and writes far better than I - it's worth a few minutes.