[Crossposted from Hiram Hover]

If nothing else, E. J. Dionne deserves points for originality for his column last Friday, entitled “Bush the Egghead: Practicality Never Stops a Nice Theory.” 

President Bush’s critics have him all wrong. They think of him as an anti-intellectual, opposed to theory and disdainful of grand ideas.

To the contrary. George W. Bush’s spring of discontent arises from a fact that no one dares to notice: George W. Bush is an egghead.

What makes Bush an egghead, says Dionne, is his “profound commitment to theoretical notions,” and his determination to push them “regardless of the facts or the consequences.”  On a range of issues, Bush has abandoned “that old-fashioned brand of conservatism that sees experience and practicality as preferable to theory.”

On behalf of all eggheads, I’ll enter the obligatory objection:  Dionne resorts to a lazy bit of sterotyping when he defines a disconnect from reality as the defining quality of the breed.   

The bigger problem, though, is that Dionne just has it wrong.  Bush isn’t an egghead–he’s a fantasist.

The egghead thinks things through; the fantasist makes things up.  Theories, in one way or another, are supposed to be demonstrable–and falsifiable–by logic, evidence, or both.  Not so fantasies–they draw their vitality from the imagination and the will.  The notion that private accounts will help bring solvency to Social Security is not a theory–it’s an invention.  No one who’s listened to Bush speak on that topic for more than 30 seconds thinks he can articulate a theory about how privatization will have that result; it just will, because he says so.

And in that sense, Bush shares a good bit with my son, who at the age of 3 announced one day that he was a 13-year-old girl with 16 sisters.  (Their father was an Australian golf pro and their mother a professional tennis player, but alas, they’d been orphaned.  And yes, there’s more to that fantasy–much, much more.)  My son didn’t have a theory about why he was an orphaned Australian teen-ager.  He just was because he said he was.  He was in the thrall not of ideas or theories, but of fantasies, guided by his wishes and imaginings.  And like the president, he expected the rest of us to play along.

Of course, my 3-year-old’s fantasies weren’t nearly as destructive as the president’s–the worst part, as I can recall, was trying to keep his 16 sisters’ names straight.  Nor were his fantasies as tenacious–he was a 13-year-old girl, I think, for only about a month, before he moved on to being a dog (or maybe it was a pirate).   But when he did give up that fantasy, it wasn’t because he’d been argued out of it with facts or logic.  And if the president ever gives up his fantasies, that won’t be the reason, either.

0 0 votes
Article Rating