I harmed my reputation with some of those people, largely in an effort, I can now see, to get attention.

I read parts of the cartoons-about-Bush book Bob gave us. It contains Tribune Co. cartoons from 2000 through mid-2007, and what struck me is how much Bush has gotten away with his stupid plans and actions. But then I remembered: yeah, I’ve been wondering that since he got elected. I’ve been wondering every year how he’s gotten away with as much sh!t as he has. And finally the public has woken up to Bush’s idiocy. I mean, you (any person) can do and say whatever rude and obnoxious things you want to, and politicians can — well, the president can — seemingly get away with doing even illegal things— and in truth, the worst — or only real? — consequences are impacts to your reputation. Talk-show hosts like Limbaugh can be as juvenile and crass and rude and insulting to others as they want to be — but other people retain the right to think worse of that person for their rude behavior — giving them enough rope to hang themselves. And there’s not much else to be done. If Rush Limbaugh says something stupid about Barack Obama (or something else — I can’t recall exactly who said what about whom, but I heard about a talk show host who said a dumb, mean, juvenile thing about somebody who didn’t deserve it), we have the 1st Amendment, and beyond libel protections, there isn’t’ much to be done. So you just wait til others pick up on this reputation. I mean, even if people don’t indict Cheney for the things he’s done, they would never put him in another position of power. They might not impeach Bush, but he’ll be remembered in history as an idiot. And in a sense, he can’t do much about that, and it’s good advice to do what you want regardless of others’ approbation. But that advice is better, maybe, for artists and positive innovators, than it is for bullies —maybe bullies should care what others thing.

And as I write this, I’m thinking about my own pot-stirring of years past — at the Daily Illini, … Yes, I harmed my reputation with some of those people, largely in an effort, I can now see, to get attention. I didn’t think I could just be a nice guy. I thought I had to have an edge, I guess, though it wasn’t always that conscious. Sometimes I’d just blurt things out, or I’d feel an impulse to point out someone’s hypocrisy, etc. That’s just who I was back then. I’m more mature now, less critical, but still don’t have many friends where I work. Oh, well.

But this is the thing about Bush — he can be and do what he thinks best. He can take crazy (to me) positions, he can do wrongheaded (to me) things. And well, this is the thing: I’ll think badly of him. But he has long been a polarizing figure. Bush seldom reached out to try to get consensus, or to really convince others of the merits of his position. He mostly just made up his mind and “forget the rest of you.” Books about him have been suggesting that his real decision-making process was, in fact, on the inside (and not just how it appeared from the outside) just a narrow-minded, ideological, differing-P.O.V.-ignoring process.

And so, he can work that way, but then he lives with the consequences — no broad support for his programs, no good favor, no willingness of the people to go along with him — and so it goes. You can be a jerk, but don’t expect others to like you.

[From journal of Fri., 28 Dec. 2007, Journal 95, page 44-7]

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