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Citations of George W. Bush as Uncurious, Explained

Web pages linked here all describe George W. Bush as uncurious, even if they don't use that exact word.
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Apr–Jun 2003

Time Is Brutal to GWB: Archive Entry From Brad DeLong's Webjournal
Posted by: Bobby on June 30, 2003 10:04 AM
Here Time refers to TIME.com: Who Lost the WMD? -- Jul. 07, 2003. If you're not a Time subscriber: "Who Lost The WMD?"

I think that people often fail to distinguish between Bush the man (who I think is lazy and uncurious/an empty suit/a spoiled brat who thinks that he is entitled to anything whatever wants immediately (hence his reaction in the Time magazine article)/without much thought or substance as to the consequences of his actions, etc., etc.) and his handlers, especially Karl Rove, who *are* quite cunning politicians, rule with an iron fist, etc. . . .

Maybe in person, one finds that Bush is asking questions whose answers anyone, who was actually engaged or even curious about the basics of what's going on, would have known long before. People often say that Bush is not interested in details, but not knowing who is in charge of WMD is worse than a detail (I wonder what Bush didn't know about his own tax plans, plans for social Security and Medicare, etc.). It could be that this guy does not know what is going on around him, and, worse yet, he is not even curious.

Can Bush Be Both Ignorant and a Liar? - Yes. There's no reason for Bush-bashers to choose between the two. By Timothy Noah
Monday, June 23, 2003
Explores the nature of lying, and whether Bush's knowingly unknowing, unknowingly untrue statements constitute lies. Well worth a read!

Why is the speaker unaware that his statement is a lie? In Bush's case, the answer is painfully obvious. It's because Bush is a functionally not-bright man. As Chatterbox has explained elsewhere, it's impossible to tell — and, ultimately, of little interest — whether Bush lacks the necessary mental equipment, or whether he's simply incurious. The end result is the same. Even Bush's allies concede that Bush is strikingly ignorant. In the July Vanity Fair, Sam Tanenhaus quoted Richard Perle as saying that when he first met Bush, it was "clear" that "he didn't know very much." Perle went on to argue (with what he failed to recognize as condescension) that Bush is an eager pupil. But there isn't much evidence to support even that. . . . [several paragraphs omitted]

In fact, it has yet to be proved that the two mobile labs were used (or even designed to be used) to build biological weapons. It isn't possible that Bush fails to grasp that. So, why did he say something so obviously untrue? Chatterbox posed the question to The Nation's David Corn, who has written extensively on the question of Bush's veracity. In Corn's view, the key to Bush's lies isn't necessarily that he doesn't know any better, but that he doesn't care. "He mischaracterizes situations to fit his pattern of thinking," Corn explained. "Does he believe he's lying? I don't know." But "he still should be held accountable, whether he made a mistake of this nature in good faith or in bad faith." Amen.

Former Bush Intelligence Insider Assails Counterterrorism Tactics
Boston Globe
Monday, June 16, 2003
Beers says enemy is underestimated
by Laura Blumenfeld
Regarding the resignation of Rand Beers, a top White House counterterrorism adviser

Part of that [burnout] stemmed from his frustration with the culture of the White House. He was loath to discuss it. His wife, Bonnie, a school administrator, was not: "It's a very closed, small, controlled group. This is an administration that determines what it thinks and then sets about to prove it. There's almost a religious kind of certainty. There's no curiosity about opposing points of view. It's very scary. There's kind of a ghost agenda."

More Thuds and Screams from the Topkapi Palace: Archive Entry From Brad DeLong's Webjournal
June 03, 2003
This could have been an "Uncurious Media" entry.

It is very difficult to follow the faction-fighting within the George W. Bush White House. Here is a Washington Post article in which three different internal White House factions are trying to convince the outside world of three different things:

  1. President Bush is unintelligent, uncurious, and underbriefed. He has "baffled" advisers with comments that indicate he does not understand the points of disagreement between Israel and Palestine, and who has no clue what outcome he wants to see, for Bush has neither "the knowledge or the patience to learn this issue enough to have an end destination in mind."
  2. President Bush thinks that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah is a good person, and that both Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon are bad people. . . .
  3. Bush will continue to support Sharon because neoconservatives in the White House will script things carefully enough to eliminate any possibility for major conflict. . . .

Needless to say, only one of these three internal White House factions--or, rather, at most one of these three internal White House factions--can be telling the truth. But because Washington Post staff writer Glenn Kessler wants to preserve people from all three sets as sources, he is careful not to tip his hand, and not to tell us which two (or three!) are lying.

We really could use a better press corps...

TILTING AT WINDMILLS: Karl Rove has managed to hoodwink us all (E-mail webmaster for full text.)
Sunday Gazette-Mail (Charleston, WV)
May 4, 2003
by Charles Peters
Peters is the retired editor of The Washington Monthly, from which this column was taken.

Practically David Frum's only criticism of George W. Bush in his recent book, "The Right Man" - the title testifies to the book's general tenor - is that Bush "is impatient, quick to anger, sometimes glib, even dogmatic; often uncurious and as a result, ill-informed; more conventional in his thinking than a leader should be." All of these are worrisome, but the one that concerns me most is the lack of curiosity. It seems to me that a president should hunger for information and for arguments that might show him how he needs to refine his thinking. He should devour the newspapers and magazines, searching for facts and ideas that might not come to him through official channels. Compare John F. Kennedy's press conferences with W's. Kennedy consistently displayed a mastery of fact, an ability to make and understand distinctions, and an appre ciation of the subtext of questions. Can the same be said of W?

The above was taken from the Washington Monthly March 2003 issue at:
"Tilting At Windmills" by Charles Peters

LA Weekly News: Then and Now
APRIL 18 - 24, 2003
Then and Now
Iraq through the lens of Vietnam
by Howard Blume
LA Weekly interview of novelist and historian A.J. Langguth, who covered the Vietnam War for The New York Times.

[LA WEEKLY:] It must rankle when you hear Bush talking about how America has always intervened on the side of right and to promote democracy. He probably doesn’t know any better.

[LANGGUTH:] Oh, he doesn’t know anything. For a man of his social class never to have been to Europe until he was elected president shows such a fundamental incuriosity. He’s just a very limited man. . . .

But then there was September 11, and this man, with a fundamental disinterest and lack of curiosity in the greater world, is suddenly intervening in every geopolitical theater. It’s an astonishing turn of events, and frankly a little scary. . . .

To what extent is this dishonesty and to what extent self-deception?

You can’t rule out self-deception. It’s a big part of our foreign policy.

Who supports our troops? UPDATED
By Mike Hersh
Apr 15, 2003

What happens when a callow, uncurious, and unqualified CEO C in C [Commander in Chief] hears only what he wants to hear and ignores wisdom and caution? "As a result, almost every assumption the plan's based on looks to be wrong." That's the view of Bush's own insiders, not just his critics.

Jan–Mar 2003

TIME.com: Bush's Word of the Week: 'Resolve'
After a rough start, the White House is back on message about the war
Thursday, Apr. 03, 2003

Perhaps because he didn't appreciate what he saw of himself on television, the president stopped watching. Or did he? While much of the nation and the world was riveted by the opening scenes of the intense air assault on Baghdad, Fleischer suggested that the president was not tuned in. "I don't think he needs to watch TV to know what [is] about to unfold," Fleischer explained. The president was that confident in his plan and that cool in his carriage. He didn't need to watch how it unfolded either out of curiosity or to feed some need for confirmation.

The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town
by David Remnick
Issue of 2003-03-31
Posted 2003-03-24

it was hard to discern the contours of Bush’s foreign-policy thinking, even after he became President. Bush had been depicted, roughly but fairly, as a lightly travelled governor who, despite his lineage, could name hardly a foreign leader or capital, and who wore, as a badge of populist authenticity, a curious pride in his own incuriosity. . . .

The Administration hawks seem oblivious, too, of the consequences of a unilateral, imperial-style occupation of Iraq. They welcome it. By embracing imperialism frankly—by proclaiming that the goal of their policy is the maintenance and expansion of unchallenged power—they congratulate themselves as honest and hardheaded. (No mewling about the world community, or about democracy on any terms but their own.)

Philadelphia Inquirer | 03/19/2003 | Letters | Wage war only with support of the people
Philadelphia Inquirer
March 19, 2003
Wage war only with support of the people

In the presidential debates, Bush demonstrated that he knew very little about the world outside Texas. What has he learned since? His admiring biographer David Frum admits that he is "often uncurious, and as a result ill-informed."

Ignoring demonstrations and polls is one thing. Being ill-informed and ignoring world leaders who have taken the time to learn and understand the Middle East is something else.

Lynn Biddle

Is George W. Bush Following the Reagan Model? PDF file.
A Lecture at the Ronald Reagan Library
March 19, 2003
Peter J. Wallison

Several weeks ago, an article by Bill Keller in the magazine section of the Sunday New York Times set off a long media discussion of the similarities between our current President, George W. Bush, and President Reagan. Keller found many similarities, but most of them were superficial. He spent a good deal of time on personal qualities: Reagan and Bush, he said, were not introspective, but they were both self-disciplined, devoted homebodies and had reputations for being intellectually lazy, incurious and not especially bright.

Niagara Falls Reporter
By Bill Gallagher
March 11, 2003

In January, some Iraqi exiles were summoned to the White House for a session with the president himself. But they had to spend a good portion of their time explaining to George W. that there are two kinds of Muslims in Iraq: Sunnis and Shiites. That fact, and the notion that there actually was an Iraqi opposition, seemed totally new to the president.

That's ever so instructive. Such knowledge is covered in the first class session of "Middle East 101" and requires no subtlety or sophistication, but is fundamental to understanding the geopolitics of Iraq.

Our incurious, untraveled president may not know who it is we're going to save in Iraq, but by God, we will.

More on the Liberal Media
Posted by Ogged on 03.10.03

Liberals are just proving how very liberal they are when they strain not to say that George Bush is an inarticulate, incurious, stubborn man-child who bears a striking resemblance to a chimpanzee, even what that is precisely what they think. But they are only doubling their own grief by keeping quiet. . . . So, a note to the liberal media: if you think it’s a lie, do your job and call it a lie.

Our Place in the World: Misunderstandings cross the Atlantic
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Friday, March 7, 2003
Merv Montacute lives in the Puget Sound region

Bush is a man of few words, and some of those are incomprehensible. This is unnerving for the articulate polyglots of Europe. It is easy for them to dismiss him as a cowboy, just as they grossly underestimated that B-movie actor, Ronald Reagan. Admittedly, Bush's credentials for foreign policy aren't reassuring. He has scarcely ever traveled out of the United States and never seemed to show the slightest curiosity about the outside world before becoming president.

The Certainty Crisis
The daily Standard
From the March 7, 2003 London Times: George W. Bush's waffle-free directness alarms the fashionably doubtful commentariat.
by David Brooks
Reprint of the next article.

Times Online - Comment
The London Times Guest contributors
March 07, 2003
The United States is in the grip of a certainty crisis
David Brooks

The US press is filled with psychologising. And two explanations have re-emerged. First, Bush is stupid. Intellectually incurious, he is unable to adapt to events. Secondly, he is a religious nut. He sees the world as a simple battle of good versus evil. His faith cannot admit shades of grey.

The problem with the explanations is that they have nothing to do with reality.

That's what you think, David Brooks! Read this website!

WaterBlog: Uncurious George [Blog permanently down]
February 23, 2003
Posted by brianm at February 23, 2003

It sure seems that the "curiosity gene" is barely functional in the President. For someone with his background, the fact that he never travelled abroad until his presidency is rather unsettling and likely contributes to his poor reception in other countries. [Expired Washington Post link moved to Common Dreams.]

BW Online | February 19, 2003 | Deep Inside the Bush White House
BusinessWeek online
FEBRUARY 19, 2003
Speechwriter David Frum's bestseller about his year with the Administration helps to explain why the rest of the world is so nervous

Here, for instance, is a key passage characterizing Bush: "George Bush is a very unusual person: a good man who is not a weak man. He has many faults. He is impatient and quick to anger; sometimes glib, even dogmatic; often uncurious and as a result ill-informed; more conventional in his thinking than a leader probably should be. But outweighing the faults are his virtues: decency, honesty, rectitude, courage and tenacity." Notice how the criticism is specific and convincing; the praise is generalized and seems canned by comparison.

Frum is equally hard on Bush's top advisers. Only Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's mind "really sparkled," the author says, adding that "Bush valued steady, sensible, solid people and distrusted abstract thinkers -- but the way one gets a reputation for being steady, sensible and solid is by repeating in a grave tone of voice exactly whatever everybody else thinks."

Vulnerable Giant
The Vulnerable Giant
By Ernest Partridge
Co-Editor, "The Crisis Papers."
February 13, 2003
For more on this topic see the rest of this article, and Preparing for postwar Iraq on this website. Ernest Partridge deserves special credit for raising this issue before the war.

The Bush regime’s “brain trust” (an oxymoron if there ever was one) is singularly uncurious about “side effects” and “unintended consequences.” And they never seem to ask, “and then what?” Thus, for example, we have heard precious little about what they plan for Iraq “post-Saddam.”

The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town
Hendrik Hertzberg
Issue of 2003-02-17 and 24
Posted 2003-02-10
Events have caught up with this piece. Incurious George did propose a manned mission to Mars, with completely inadequate funding. But, adequate funding is far beyond what can be afforded in the final years of the Bush usurpistration.

We did have a President once who proposed a Mars mission. George H. W. Bush—how we miss him!—put it this way, in 1989, in his trademark style: "For the new century, back to the moon. Back to the future. And, this time, back to stay. And then a journey into tomorrow. A journey to another planet. A manned mission to Mars." . . . His son—whose incuriosity in these matters is such that until last week he had never in his life visited the Johnson Space Center, in Houston—is not likely to repeat the call, much less find the money, amid wars and tax cuts, to carry it out. The day will come, but it will have to await a leader of vision, someday, in the far future.

Toby's Political Diary - 'Let it Begin Here'
February 07, 2003
The Tale of the Uncurious Man

Once there was an uncurious man. He did not ask why everyone wasn't born rich. He did not ask who put food on his plate, or who cleaned his house, or who got him into Yale. He did not ask why he was chosen to receive millions of Texas taxpayer dollars, but others weren't. In short, his life was good. He didn't have to ask any questions, he deserved it.

This uncurious man was highly popular and sought after by political parties. "He is so uncurious that he never knows when some one lies to him" said Ken Lay, CEO of Enron. "That's the kind of leader we need."

Ex-Speechwriter for Bush Shares Views of President
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Feb. 2, 2003
Reviewed by Stephen J. Farnsworth
THE RIGHT MAN: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush, by David Frum; Random House, $26.
The second paragraph excerpted here is included to honor Mr. Farnsworth's astute forecast of the O'Neill-Suskind book that arrived about a year later.

Although Frum at one point describes Bush as "dogmatic, often uncurious, and as a result ill-informed," he argues that the President's assets are more important, particularly the President's "decency, honesty, rectitude, courage, and tenacity." . . .

Frum's book, which is somewhat thin on domestic-policy matters, leaves an opening for another inside memoir from someone who may be less biased in favor of Bush. Perhaps that might be former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, the plain-speaking former CEO sacked by the President in late 2002.

The Unreliable Narrator
by Paul H. Henry
2/2/2003 06:58:02 PM

[Space Shuttle Columbia astronaut] Dr. Kalpana Chawla was Hindu. Hinduism is a mystical, polytheistic religion that does not recognize a Creator or an afterlife in the Christian sense, and it doesn't seem right for Bush to seek to plead her case with his own personal god on her behalf, something we may assume she would not have asked for. . . .

Even if we assume he's not simply too incurious to realize that the India-born Chawla might not have shared his evangelical Christian tradition, we see from Bush the same blithe assumption the Mormons make—my God is the one true God no matter what the heathens believe, the thinking seems to go, so it's up to me to save their souls. When Ronald Reagan, himself no atheist, eulogized the Challenger astronauts in 1986, his only mention of God came in a quotation from John Gillespie Magee's poem "High Flight", leaving spiritual intercession to the families of the deceased. I just wish Bush had followed Reagan's lead.

How I created the axis of evil
The Guardian
January 28, 2003
This review, like many others of The Right Man, includes the "often uncurious" quote. Also interesting is the uncuriosity of those including Bush who believe (second paragraph below) that God is on their side — especially since the "extraordinary circumstances" included thousands of criminal acts that prevented Democratic voters from casting their ballots and having them counted.

He [Frum] talks about the disconcerting grip evangelical Christianity has on the White House, its squeaky-clean gentility and generally low level of intellectual curiosity. The president, Frum tells us, is "sometimes glib, even dogmatic; often uncurious and as a result ill-informed; more conventional in his thinking than a leader should be". . . .

While most people saw the extraordinary circumstances of the 2000 election as a fluke, Bush and his closest supporters saw it as yet another sign he was chosen to lead. Later, September 11 "revealed" what he was there for.

AMARAR NA CAPITAR: O site do Danilo Amaral
Historietas e curiosidades de um advogado piracicabano em N. York
27 de Janeiro de 2003 [January 27, 2003]
This appears to be a weblog in Portuguese by a lawyer from Brazil living in New York.

David Frum, o ex-speechwriter de Bush, recentemente publicou um livro sobre o antigo chefe: The Right Man – The Surprise Presidency of George W. Brush [sic]. O New York Review of Books desta semana publica a resenha. O livro é laudatório e Frum é fiel ao ex-chefe. Mas lá pelas tantas Frum solta o que todo mundo já sabe, só de olhar pra cara de Bush: “...he is often uncurious and as a result ill informed”. Nada a adicionar. [There's nothing to add.]

Reagan's Son
January 26, 2003, Sunday
By Bill Keller (NYT) 7881 words
Originally in The New York Times; long and interesting but only a brief discussion of Bush's lack of curiosity.

As for the idea that Bush is lazy, incurious or just not very bright, his supporters argue that critics have tended to judge the president by standards that are superficial or misleading. Bush is not, like Bill Clinton, a polymath who can dazzle you with his mastery of detail, who can speak for hours without notes, who can argue an issue from a dozen sides. He is, they say, adept at focusing an issue, asking the pertinent questions, relegating distractions to the sidelines, driving on to a decision and sticking to it.

AEI - News & Commentary
How George W. Bush Went from Prodigal to President
By Ronald Brownstein
Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2003
Los Angeles Times
Publication Date: January 19, 2003
The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush
By David Frum
Random House, 303 pages, $25.95
Ronald Brownstein is a Los Angeles Times political writer in Washington, D.C. David Frum is a resident fellow at AEI.

In his [Frum's] telling, the White House seems pleasant and punctual, but lacking in curiosity, imagination and sheer candlepower. . . .

In a remarkably candid summary of Bush's strengths and weaknesses, Frum describes the president as "impatient and quick to anger; sometimes glib, even dogmatic; often uncurious and as a result ill-informed; more conventional in his thinking than a leader probably should be."

Rule By the Ridiculous - Jeffrey A. Tucker Mises Institute
Mises Daily: Friday, January 17, 2003 by Jeffrey A. Tucker
review of The Right Man by David Frum

In Frum's account, Bush has no core, no real understanding; he seems to wake up with a hankering for something and then order everyone to fall into line. Bush's nescience is matched only by his edgy arrogance, constantly on display. Page after page reports this kind of thing: an insular White House run by an "impatient," "dogmatic," "uncurious," and "ill-informed" president who believes he has been appointed by divine providence; a staff fixated mainly on what the mainstream media is saying day to day; advisers who specialize in election hokum and the art of propaganda; a widespread lack of clarity concerning what the administration believes on any issue; and a complete lack of concern about much of anything or anyone outside their immediate orbit.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Insider reveals 'sharp side' of Bush
Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 09:56 GMT

But he [David Frum] adds [in The Right Man]: "He has many faults. He is impatient and quick to anger; sometimes glib, even dogmatic; often uncurious and as a result ill informed; more conventional in his thinking than a leader probably should be."

Amazon.com: Books: The Right Man : The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush
reviewed by John Moe
January 8, 2003 [estimated]
This review is widely reproduced and quoted; here is the start from the original.

According to former White House speechwriter David Frum, George W. Bush is "a good man who is not a weak man. He is impatient, quick to anger; sometimes glib, even dogmatic, often uncurious, and as a result ill-informed."

AEI - News & Commentary
Book Offers Rare Insights into Bush Presidency
By James Gerstenzang
Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2003
Los Angeles Times
Publication Date: January 7, 2003
The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush
By David Frum
Random House, 303 pages, $25.95
James Gerstenzang is a Los Angeles Times staff writer. David Frum is a resident fellow at AEI.
Also published January 7, 2003 in the Chicago Tribune as "Ex-staffer has mixed verdict on Bush" and in the San Francisco Chronicle as "Insider book tattles about White House life / Ex-staffer gives mixed verdict on Bush". Abbreviated versions published January 7 in the Houston Chronicle, the Cincinnati Post, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, and the Bergen County Record; and January 12 in the Grand Rapids Press and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In the first insider book about the Bush White House, a former speech writer depicts a president who is impatient, quick to anger and sometimes lacking in curiosity, but whose shortcomings are outweighed by his decency and tenacity. . . .

On his impressions of Bush's staff: "One seldom heard an unexpected thought in the Bush White House or met someone who possessed unusual knowledge. . . . Conspicuous intelligence seemed actively unwelcome in the Bush White House."

Note: In the L.A. Times version on AEI's website, the above ellipsis actually appears, but in the San Francisco Chronicle, there is actual text instead of the ellipsis. Thus, the L.A. Times or AEI truncated Gerstenzang's article, while the Chronicle printed at least this paragraph in full.

NPR : David Frum's 'The Right Man'
Morning Edition, January 7, 2003
Renee Montagne, interviewer
David Frum, interviewee, author, The Right Man
Hear David Frum speaking these words. Click "Listen" on the page linked here.

DAVID FRUM: George W. Bush is a very unusual person. A good man who is not a weak man. He has many faults. He is impatient and quick to anger, sometimes glib, even dogmatic. Often uncurious, and as a result, ill-informed. More conventional in his thinking than a leader probably should be. But outweighing the faults are his virtues: decency, honesty, rectitude, courage and tenacity.

Stanislove - Song Lyrics: "Talkin' Election 2000"
Copyright © 2003 Stanislove
Published 2003 as part of "Rant - Journey - Anthem;" Suwimbo Music #535-03
First performed January 1, 2003 at a New Year's Day peace rally in Ballard, Seattle

So it's "Hail to the Thief!" we cry.
Uncurious George is now the guy
To represent our USA
To rulers terrified of democracy.
"Don't worry, guys - it ain't so hard! Election laws and human rights are safe to disregard!"

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