Surely two more different people are hard to imagine. In fact I think they represent the two extremes of the American male personality: the good old boy and the analyzing intellectual.
Bush is — or more likely chose at some point in his life to act like — the classic Texas shit-kicker. I remember those guys well from growing up in Texas! They are strong and silent. But underneath that they are explosively emotional. They don’t know much about anything except business (which they often know a very great deal about indeed). When put in a tight spot they can be vindictive, even dangerous.
On the other side is a classic type from back east: articulate, elegant, widely-knowledgeable, and highly self-controlled. Many of our best technocrats are probably like this. And so are lots of people with Old Money (some of whom I met many years ago in college). Yet, through a delicious irony, Bush, having chosen to doff his inherited persona of Old — or in his case Middle Aged — Money, has been succeeded in the highest office in the land by a man who comes from the lower middle class yet acts like a gentleman.
How could one People have elected two such different men in succession? I think the answer in the case of Bush is very clear. He was what a bunch of very scared and angry Americans called out for to save them. After being traumatized by the 9/11 attacks, we wanted someone tough to go somewhere, anywhere!, and whip some Arab ass. Bush, having chosen much earlier in his life to portray primitive American manhood, was just the man to embody our rage. He proceeded to act as ragefully as we could have wished, so we re-elected him in 2004.
Easy to understand.
But what about Obama, the cool, elegant, mixed-raced, smart guy? How could a country with a history of racism, and a streak of anti-intellectualism as wide as the Mississippi River, possibly have elected him President? I’m 61 years old, and the only time I remember our picking such a president in my lifetime was when Jack Kennedy (a Catholic, and therefor arguably unelectable at the time) was elected in 1960, whereupon his urbanity proceeded to charm the nation.
Needless to say, I have a theory about why Obama made it. Read my next post on this subject and see what you think about it.