Tom Engelhardt: The President Who Talks to God ... Hello? Hello?

Roundup: Historians' Take

Tom Engelhardt, at (July 25, 2004):

The American Prospect's"Purple People Watch," which tracks the presidential election on a state-by-state level, reported that, on a recent presidential trip through Pennsylvania (where Bush is, by the latest polls, trailing Kerry),"while the White House press pool was dozing," Jack Brubaker of the Lancaster New Era got a modest scoop from on high. Our President had requested a meeting with an Amish woman who knitted him a quilt, and the result was an impromptu Amish get-together:

"Bush had never met an Amish person before, and he was clearly smitten with the group. He chatted with the women, and he tried on one of the men's straw hats. When he asked for their vote in November, one man told him that while not all members of the Amish church vote, the group would pray for him. According to one witness, the president teared up. Bush closed the session by reportedly testifying to having a very close relationship to God. 'I trust God speaks through me,' he said. 'Without that, I couldn't do my job.'"

This touching anecdote joins a growing shelf of similar tales in which our President claims to have consulted, or even channeled, a far greater Sovereign Power than the American people. For instance, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, in an interview with the President for his most recent book Plan of Attack, questioned him on whether he ever asked his father for advice:"And President Bush said, 'Well, no,' and then he got defensive about it…'Then he said something that really struck me. He said of his father, 'He is the wrong father to appeal to for advice. The wrong father to go to, to appeal to in terms of strength.' And then he said, 'There's a higher Father that I appeal to.'"

The Israeli paper Ha'aretz reported last year that the President said to then-Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, "God told me to strike Al Qaeda and I struck, and then he instructed me to strike Saddam, which I did."

In fact, it seems that the Sovereign Power he believes nominated him for his present job was not"we, the people" or even"we, the Republican Party," but Someone Higher. According to Paul Harris of the British Observer,"Bush said to James Robinson: 'I feel like God wants me to run for President. I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen... I know it won't be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it.'"

In this administration, the President is not alone. Lt. General William Boykin, Pentagon under secretary of defense for intelligence and war-fighting support, created a small firestorm of criticism by stumping the Christian evangelical circuit claiming that Bush's non-election was proof of divine intervention. "The majority of Americans did not vote for him…Why is he there? … Because God put him there for a time such as this."

We have much evidence, in other words, that the man in the White House believes sovereignty has a lot less to do with the American people, no less Iraqis, than with that Voice from Above. Let's also remember that his administration now has an almost unparalleled track record when it comes to getting (and taking) bad advice. In fact, almost every piece of earthly advice it bothered to garner on the nature of the world it was about to pummel was off-base or downright wrong; and its major acts, ranging from the setting up of an offshore mini-gulag of"information extraction" to invading Iraq, to ravaging the environment for immediate gain, seem intent on sowing chaos. Far be it from me as a nonbeliever to mention this, but given the record, I wonder whether our President should be quite so certain about Who he's been speaking with, about exactly Whose advice he's been following. Could our President actually be getting that advice from the wrong side of the Celestial Aisle?

Let's just consider his latest presidential positions:

"In a photo op with the Romanian prime minister yesterday, Bush said: 'Had we had any inkling, whatsoever, that terrorists were about to attack our country, we would have moved heaven and Earth to protect America. And I'm confident President Clinton would have done the same thing. Any president would have.'"

Imagine, a Bush defense of Clinton! Or consider that our war president, whose speeches not so long ago rang with a frightening and repetitive litany of terror, danger, destruction, and war, in a political pit-stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, spoke the"P" word ("peaceful")"a dozen times," according to AP reporter Deb Riechmann. Then the man who had launched two wars, who visibly gloried in his martial landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln at what looked like the end of the second of those wars, who later growled,"Bring 'em on," added:"The enemy declared war on us. Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president."

Assumedly these new tacks are also based on suggestions from a Higher Advisory Council. Whether that Voice from Above is actually Karl Rove's, Dick Cheney's, or Someone Else's, it's now threatening to turn George Bush into a flip-flop president. If I were him, I might consider hanging up the phone.