This always seems most shocking when Bush has his "public" forums where hand picked people just tell him how much they agree with him or ask him embarassing softball questions. Like the following from a recent Social Security event:
"I think what you're proposing is giving someone that's in my situation an opportunity to be able to take a personal account into my retirement and to look forward to something -- particularly a higher return in what you're proposing."
"So to have something like [a private account] that is left behind to you, that can help you through a very difficult period, I think would be a very, very good thing. It would be a godsend, and it would be fair and it would be just."
My question isn't why the White House organizes this type of event. As Brendan, Bryan and I discussed in depth in All the President's Spin, Bush and co. have no compunctions about embarassingly upbeat public events where there's not a single negative quote for the press to pick up on.
I just honestly wonder what goes on in Bush's head. He obviously knows that many people disagree with him since 48%-plus of the country voted against him. But does he understand what they think? Does he ever pay attention to the opposing sides' arguments?
Or does the president who never hears a regular citizen disagree with him, is surrounded by single-minded advisors who brief him on what he needs to know, and who famously brags about not reading newspaper and is regularly dismissive of the press, live in a bubble? Sometimes I honestly wonder whether he comprehends the serious arguments against his policies.
Remember this is the guy whose campaign wouldn't let any non-supporters into rallies last year. (I always thought Kerry should have made a stink about that; to me it defined W's arrogance and detachment from reality)
I'm struck in debates and the occassional press conference at how he dismisses opponents by caricaturing their arguments so it sounds like they're saying he doesn't think civil rights matter or he never heard that there were no WMD in Iraq. It's not a question of the way the he goes about defining protecting civil rights, or how much it matters that he misled the country about WMD when he describes it.
Of course it could all be rhetorical expertise. But I honestly sometimes think he just doesn't know that there are other valid ways to see the world and his policies. More scarily, I think maybe he doesn't care that he doesn't know.
But at least his public events make great comedy for those of us with a sense of irony.