Friday, November 10, 2006

Father issues still haunt George W. Bush
Patti Davis: Bush’s Father Issues
Father issues still haunt George W. Bush.
By Patti Davis

Nov. 9, 2006 - A few years ago, during my father’s memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., I saw a telling moment between the two George Bushes. Bush 41, the former president, had just finished his eulogy, a poignant, touching tribute that hit all the right notes—soft humor, sadness and a clear affection for the man he was there to remember. The current President Bush followed him, and though father and son passed each other so close their shoulders almost brushed, George W. Bush passed his father as if he were invisible, keeping his eyes straight ahead and walking briskly to his destination. To me, it looked like there was some trepidation in the eyes of Bush the Elder, as if he knew his son would slight him.

I thought about that scene as the midterm election results came in Tuesday night. In the wake of a stinging defeat for his party that has clearly put the president in a terrible mood, it seems a good time to ruminate on the story of Oedipus. In the Greek tale, Laius, believing a prediction that his son would one day kill him, had his infant boy hobbled with nails driven into his ankles and then taken to the mountains and left there. Laius believed he had successfully killed his son long before Oedipus could grow up and murder him. Of course, he was wrong, and years later a roadside altercation between the two men resulted in the prophecy coming true.

After getting into more trouble by unwittingly marrying his mother and after she hanged herself upon discovering the truth, Oedipus was so overcome with remorse he blinded himself with the pin of her brooch. Granted, it was a dramatic way to show humility and shame, but at least he did come around.

Which is more than we can say for the president. I’m not suggesting George W. Bush reach for a brooch and blind himself, but I am saying that life is always inviting us to be more humble. Whether we accept the invitation is a matter of choice. What we saw in Bush’s post-election statement Wednesday was an angry man reading from a prepared speech that was supposed to sound conciliatory but didn’t at all because his voice bristled with resentment. No humility there, no reflection or introspection on the dissatisfaction of a majority of Americans. And, the irony of ironies, with the firing of Donald Rumsfeld, W. finds himself working closely with many of his father’s old advisors.

The term "oedipal" has fluttered around the younger Bush’s presidency from the beginning. Much has been made of the psychology behind the scene of the competitive son marching onto the battlefield his father had vacated, determined to win a war Dad walked away from. When the son raised his fist (symbolically) and cried out, “Mission accomplished!” it wasn’t just about the statue of Saddam being dismantled, ripped to ruins in the center of Baghdad. It was about (again symbolically) conquering his father.

If the purpose of life is that we grow wiser, more open and receptive, more willing to step back and learn from mistakes, more willing to change, then there are three words that should come to mind for this president today: Mission not accomplished.