Something pops out to me from this transcript of Brian Williams’s interview with George W Bush
WILLIAMS: Is there a palpable tension when you get together with the former president, who happens to be your father? A lot of the guys who worked for him are not happy with the direction of things.
BUSH: Oh no. My relationship is adoring son.
WILLIAMS: You talk shop?
BUSH: Sometimes, yeah, of course we do. But it’s a really interesting question, it’s kind of conspiracy theory at its most rampant. My dad means the world to me, as a loving dad. He gave me the greatest gift a father can give a child, which is unconditional love. And yeah, we go out and can float around there trying to catch some fish, and chat and talk, but he understands what it means to be president. He understands that often times I have information that he doesn’t have. And he understands how difficult the world is today. And I explain my strategy to him, I explain exactly what I just explained to you back there how I view the current tensions, and he takes it on board, and leaves me with this thought, “I love you son.”
Rewind. Why in the world would George W Bush say:
But it’s a really interesting question, it’s kind of conspiracy theory at its most rampant.
Who said anything about any “conspiracy theory”? Bush is being asked about his relationship with his father, who although hasn’t said anything or made any public nudges in any direction, some of his aides have over the past few years publicly opposed some of Bush’s foreign policies. Nothing untorrid about that, and nothing “conspiratorial” about it.
But to mention it, out of the blue, is to suggest that he has it on his mind, and it is to suggest that, yes my dear, there is something X-Filey, aluminum or tin-foil hat going on. Otherwise, why would he mention a goddamned “conspiracy theory”, and have it on his mind as though it something he wants to dismiss and is hyper-aware of?
I may as well plunge on with the next curious moments of this interview.
WILLIAMS: We always talk about what you’re reading. As you know, there was a report that you just read the works of a French philosopher. (Bush laughs)
BUSH: The Stranger.
WILLIAMS: Tell us the back story of Camus.
BUSH: The back story of the the book?
WILLIAMS: What led you to…
BUSH: I was in Crawford and I said I was looking for a book to read and Laura said you oughtta try Camus, I also read three Shakespeare’s.
WILLIAMS: This is a change…
The back story of Camus’s The Stranger is that Laura recommended he read it? Can you get away with that as an answer on a school book report?
I hate these presidential reading lists. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind a president who reads the required reports concerning his job, and has for his Summer reading list — say, the latest Dean Koontz novel. Yes, I would hope he (or she) would be pretty well read throughout his life, but let the “heavy history of world literature” (or in Camus’s case, sort of middling — “a quick read” I hear) reading slide during his presidency.
If we pretend that Bush read The Stranger, we then have to wonder exactly what he got out of it. More importantly, we have to wonder what the Bush Administration was trying to signal by having him read it (or having him say he read it.) The premise:
The plot is simple. A young Algerian, Meursault, afflicted with a sort of aimless inertia, becomes embroiled in the petty intrigues of a local pimp and, somewhat inexplicably, ends up killing a man. Once he’s imprisoned and eventually brought to trial, his crime, it becomes apparent, is not so much the arguably defensible murder he has committed as it is his deficient character. The trial’s proceedings are absurd, a parsing of incidental trivialities–that Meursault, for instance, seemed unmoved by his own mother’s death and then attended a comic movie the evening after her funeral are two ostensibly damning facts–so that the eventual sentence the jury issues is both ridiculous and inevitable.
Does that describe his administration somehow?