The wind must be shifting

The wind must be shifting when I actually read and link to a Maureen Dowd column. Yesterday in the NY Times, she wrote about the raw cynicism of Bush's handlers for actually trying to cast him as any sort of intellectual force. Dowd tells of the setup Ari Fleischer and John Bridgeland, an appointee running USA Freedom Corps gave a Bush speech last week in Ohio:

"[Bush]'s building on notions of duty and charity, human fulfillment and love of country; ideas anchored in great religious teachings and the thinking of the ancient Greeks and Romans and in the principles of the founding fathers."

[Bridgeland] said the president "derived" his ideas from the teachings of ó now follow along ó Tocqueville, Adam Smith, "the world's major religions," Aristotle, George Eliot, Emily Dickinson, William Wordsworth, Pope John Paul II, Cicero, Abraham Lincoln and the founding fathers Benjamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

Joe Conason was equally incredulous in his NY Observer column. In contrast, the Washington Post took the briefing at face value. Who's right? Is it possible that Bush is now a grave, serious, student of history?

Two additional datapoints may help clarify what's really going on the heads of Bush and his aides:
1) In this recent Slate column, Timothy Noah gave this rare quote from Fleischer "setting the record straight" on the President's claim to have "read" an EPA global warming report:
"I think the presidentówhenever presidents say they read it, you can read that to be he was briefed." Perhaps the same logic applies when the President (as opposed to Fleischer's slyly all-inclusive "presidents") "derives" something.

2) With the exception of de Tocqueville and Benjamin Rush, all the Bush sources alleged by Bridgeland are included in the 1919 Tenth Edition of Bartlett's Quotations (searchable on So. If, within the last 83 years, these two historic figures have been included in subsequent editions, we can confidently conclude that President Bush has been briefed on Bartlett's Quotations, a situation which should surprise no one.

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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