George W. Bush gave the last press conference of his presidency a few days ago. As expected, he was evasive of accountability and dismissive of criticism. No surprises there.
It's almost difficult for me to be outraged at this point, I'm just so happy that he's almost gone. But one last thing needs to be said. Conservatives have always said that one key element of their ideology is the emphasis on responsibility. Individuals are responsible for their own lives; governments should not try to impose extra burdens on them, but nor should individuals expect to be supported by the government. I'm sympathetic in some small doses to this argument, and I've seen more than a few liberals who seem to want to blame forces beyond their control for their own problems. I've been tempted to do that myself, and fallen victim to it. It's not a healthy approach to life. I try to avoid doing that.
What strikes me about Bush is how thoroughly he avoids accepting responsibility for his mistakes. This, of course, is not news. But I haven't seen much discussion of it in the context of conservative's firm belief that individuals need to take responsibility for their lives. In this respect, I suppose, George W. Bush was not a real conservative. Then again, there are many conservatives who are currently unwilling to accept responsibility for George Bush's catastrophic administration.
So maybe we should regard this whole idea that conservatives believe in "responsibility" as a myth.
Culturally, Bush is also a failure for refusing to take responsibility. Bush is from Texas, the land of "Real Men," tough guys who stand up tall for what they believe in.
But the ethos of the "Real Man," who was defined in the classic Real Men Don't Eat Quiche, had the same belief in the importance of taking responsibility. Real Men may not each quiche, but part of being tough is being able to deal with your own mistakes. Real men don't whine or blame others when they are obviously to blame. Real men take responsibility, and then they deal with the consequences. If they have to fix something because they screwed up, that's what they do. And then they learn from that mistake, and they make sure that they don't do it again. And then other real men respect them for being able to admit that they're wrong.
This is George W. Bush's great failure. Real men admit it when they fail. Quiche eaters argue and whine and try to come up with complicated theoretical reasons why they are the victims of society, or a tragic upbringing, or why they're oppressed and can't be held responsible for their own failures.
George Bush is a quiche eater. George Bush is not a real man.