Dubya, that is.
I scored a ticket to tonight’s Lubbock Christian University scholarship fundraiser event, featuring 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush. (It’s a little bit like winning a free kick in the teeth, but with a nice dinner first.)
Let me begin by saying that I value and support LCU as an institution. They are a great asset to our community. I hope they made a boatload of money from this scholarship fundraiser, and I hope they have success doing it again next year.
That said, this is the Lubbock Left blog, so — as you might guess — I had some problems with what GWB had to say.
Points for style
I will say that GWB’s famous ability to put a crowd at ease was in full effect. It felt like 2000-campaign GWB, not 2008-President GWB, was addressing us. I suppose that without all the stress that comes with being the leader of the free world, he’s more relaxed. Good for him. Seriously.
He also spent a significant part of his speech presenting things that are immune to criticism: valuing family, reading books, walking his dog, the “rainbow speech” in Romania. Good for him.
There was but one new Bushism — “explorationist,” which GWB played up for comedic effect (one of his public speaking secret weapons, along with a decent sense of comedic timing and fratboy charm).
The Decider: Defending an indefensible model
GWB described qualities of leadership: optimism, a vision of the future, and decision-making.
The aspect of leadership that GWB stressed the most was deciding something and sticking to it. I can’t begin to describe how problematic that is. Without the ability to self-correct, you can decide your way right off a cliff. Sound familiar?
Another way of stating this problem is that GWB has always thought like a modern CEO. The financial crisis has made clear some of the problems with that worldview, to say the least.
If only he listened to his own advice…
President Bush did give one piece of good leadership advice in addition to the above. He stressed the importance of surrounding yourself with competent, objective people. I only wish he had listened to that advice while he was in office.
The Bush Administration was known for hyperpartisanship, one-sided policy, and politicizing areas of government that shouldn’t be politicized. With a few exceptions (Colin Powell and Robert Gates, for example), he had advisors that were either competent or objective (one of the two, like Karl Rove) or were neither competent nor objective (like Brownie).
GWB giving advice on “how to select your advisors” is like a fat dude giving diet and exercise tips.
Spreading freedom at the barrel of a gun
A significant portion of GWB’s speech was wrapped up in a defense of American Exceptionalism and armed freedom-spreading. This was predictable, especially given the fact that he’s already decided it as described above.
I believe that Democracy succeeds best when a nation frees itself, like ours did. Revolution, not invasion. Evolution, not imposition. Obama’s handling of Iran (time will tell), not GWB’s handling of Iraq.
Indeed, the Democracy in Romania, celebrated by GWB’s rainbow speech, is the result of revolution within Romania, not U.S. intervention.
Near the end of the event, LCU President Ken Jones led the sold-out audience in a prayer for President Bush (who was still sitting right there on stage), and at the end of the prayer, an LCU choral group sang a prayer song for Bush. (The choir performed beautifully, by the way.)
Now, I suppose I don’t have a problem with an auditorium full of people praying over someone who’s there, even though it’s a little awkward. It’s ok to to pray for current and former Presidents too, I think. But something about the closing prayer experience didn’t sit right with me.
Let me put it this way: they didn’t pray or sing like that for Colin Powell, who was the keynote speaker at last year’s event. I suspect that whoever is next year’s speaker (how about Jimmy Carter?) won’t get a similar prayer-and-song treatment either.
It felt like a political prayer.
One unexpected benefit of this event was witnessing a live-art painting done by Dallas-based artist Rolando Diaz, whose work can be seen at rodiaz.com. I had a chance to chat with him at the dinner before the speech, and he’s a wonderful guy. His art is worth your time regardless of your political persuasion.
And now it’s time for bed, with visions of glowing “W’s” in my head.