When the next Shakespeare pens an Oedipus Rex or Richard III, his largest problem might be picking our president’s central, tragic flaw. Would he choose the epic lack of intellectual curiosity?* It would be sorely tempting to pick the overdeveloped messiah complex which blocks out the faintest hint of self-doubt. Merely separating phenomena (the oedipal masculinity gap between himself and poppy, and probably Barb as well) from epiphenomena (pathological fixation on knocking over Saddam) will take entire PhD theses. It might be easier to rewrite the rules of drama than pick a single pathology. Still, in a pinch it’s hard to disagree with this:
A prominent conservative complains: “With this White House, there is loyalty not to an idea, but to a person. When Republicans talked about someone in the Reagan administration being ‘loyal,’ they didn’t mean to Ronald Reagan but to the conservative movement.”
The president is psychologically incapable of examining an issue in depth, but he is also unable to tell disagreement from betrayal. Add together the ideological reflexivity and the gilded class demand of fealty in the place of what most of us would have called loyalty, and you have somebody who is both unable to make the right decision and incapable of revisiting it.
But then the tragedy of our last eight years probably won’t star an actor playing the president. More likely the guy taking the last bow at the end of the night will have just finished showing just how much damage a vice president can do with enough skill to exploit the president’s personal faults to the hilt, along with an almost unprecedented lack of scruples and judgment. Like one of those binary explosives A combines with B to make something that you would never have guessed by looking at either one alone.
(*) Pedant alert – yes, I know that Sophocles wrote Oedipus Rex. Next time I will write clearer.