mass media catching on about bush?

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    better late than never i suppose.


    The man behind the TV screen-paul kelly,the australian.

    October 16, 2003
    The contrast is striking. Across the desk George W. Bush is the same person - yet this is a different persona from that unconvincing television presence.

    Interviewed in the Roosevelt Room adjacent to the Oval Office, Bush sat to one side of a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt on horseback, former Republican, president and warrior.

    George W is tanned and fit. He wears a light blue-grey suit, light-blue shirt with red tie. He is businesslike and friendly, looks you in the eye and engages like all good US politicians do. But wait for it - he's funny, he tells jokes and his body language is relaxed and confident. A long way from the wooden wonder of the silver screen.

    He is a control freak, however. With a small group of journalists Bush takes command. He decides who asks the questions, when and in what order. There is a touch of executive management about this search for quality control.

    In the flesh his passion is stronger and more convincing. This is a man who knows who he loves, likes and hates. He returns, over and over, to the terrorists, the cold-blooded killers that will inevitably make or break his presidency. You feel in a physical way what you knew only in an intellectual way - that terror shapes his every waking moment, from the early morning security briefing until his early retirement, typically before 10pm.

    It is obvious he has a link with Australia or, more accurately, with John Howard's Australia. Bush sees Australia through Howard or through Howard's eyes. Australians are tough, maybe like Texans, they won't be intimidated and they love freedom and democracy. I begin to feel very patriotic. But does Bush grasp that we have turned cynicism into an art form? George W, like all politicians, operates via stereotypes - it's just that his stereotypes are more simple, sharp and stark than most.

    Bush is now a third-year president. He is no political amateur. Those Australians who compare Bill Clinton in his final year with Bush in his first always made a false comparison. I look up at Teddy Roosevelt on the wall - now there is a comparison that humbles Bush.

    With Bush there is a tension between his mind and his heart.

    His mind talks about the America of humility and compassion - on this visit to East Asia he wants people to realise that "our motives are pure". The US leads the global fight against AIDS. It champions peace and freedom. He values so much America's alliances and friends. He hails Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi as a "great figure" and "heroic woman". How does he feel being the most powerful man in the world? He gives a one-word answer, the right answer - "humbling".

    Yet once his passion is aroused it overwhelms. When he talks of the terrorists he taps the table; he cuts through; he polarises opinion. You can see it and feel it. Bush's presidency was formed by September 11 -- this was his defining hour. It still governs his moods and his policies. George W. Bush argues compassion but invokes God's wrath against America's enemies.

    When he visits, Australians should try to understand the source of his passion and the more complex character that he embodies - but then, they might see him only on television.
 
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