The news that George W. Bush and his wife have signed up to be motivational speakers has to be one of the most absurd stories of the week. Here is a man widely perceived to be a failed President, who before his election was a byword for failed entrepreneurship. What can he say to motivate the go-getters who attend such extravaganzas?
The former first family will join a tour of motivators that made a stop in Albany a few months ago. Then, Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell and Steve Forbes were part of the caravan, and my understanding is that some of these worthies will appear with the Bushes on their performance dates. Some people who attended the Albany event expressed surprise at an unadvertised degree of Christian proselytizing tied into it. That bit of intelligence, combined with a certain concentration of Republican personages suggests to me that the "Get Motivated!" managers have hired Bush on the calculation that he will draw great crowds of people who still admire the man for ideological or religious reasons, who see him, despite all other failings, as a moral exemplar compared to his predecessor and an indisputable "real" American compared to his successor. While these encounters are apolitical events, they are also rallies of the small entrepreneurs and would-bes who have formed a major part of the GOP constituency since Barry Goldwater's time, and on some level, for some reason Bush is still an idol to them. That may be because he still shares their values despite his inability to practice them effectively in private life. He strikes me as a "power of positive thinking" type, which is perhaps not so different from "hope" as some might think apart from an inferred emphasis on self-enrichment. I have no doubt that even "Dubya" can come up with a medley of slogans, bromides and affirmations for his motivatable audience. They may in fact come naturally to him, as glossolalia does to some people. I'd be curious to learn what he does say, though I suspect it would take a Mencken or a Thomas Frank to do it justice.