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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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Electrolite: Brief pause for mental calibration.
January 24, 2004
Replies to main weblog entry on bogusness of media stereotypes such as "remote Eugene McCarthy" and "robotic Al Gore" — did not mention Bush.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: January 24, 2004, 11:15 PM

George W. Bush is not stupid. He's incurious, stubborn, and has a deep-down belief that the whole business of intellectual discipline is a conspiracy to keep him from doing what he wants to do. He's also startlingly passive at times, and clearly has substance abuse problems.
julia ::: January 25, 2004, 01:45 AM

I have distinct categories in my head for clever and intelligent - I don't have a problem with Bush being shrewd and simultaneously dumb as a pile of moldy bricks. Incuriosity and the placid acceptance of freefloating resentment and hostility as somehow an appropriate response to the world seems to me very stupid.

The thing is, though, that's a qualitative analysis of what it would be more useful to deal with in a quantitative way - is he mentally capable of understanding the terrible damage he's doing if he were even slightly interested? I'm quite sure he is [Therefore, he's incurious!], and I'm quite sure he nurtures the impression that he isn't, the better to make the election about defending An Ordinary Guy Like Us against those snotty elitists who think they're better than we are instead of How many kids making five hundred and something dollars a month got shipped home to their parents in a bag this week because this guy and his friends are sitting on their piles of other peoples' pension money and making decisions for us?
Xopher ::: January 25, 2004, 11:47 PM

There are (at least) two different kinds of stupidity. The familiar one is sheer lack of native intelligence. But there's also "learned stupidity" where a person wilfully rejects new information, ultimately becoming unable to learn new things. This is the kind an ex of mine had; it's very annoying.
Chuck Nolan ::: January 26, 2004, 12:20 PM
What strikes me about Bush is basically his unwillingness to do any hard work. . . . He does NOT spend time trying to understand information so as to formulate a policy.
Lis Carey ::: January 26, 2004, 12:21 PM

I've been reading Kevin Phillips' book, American Dynasty. One of his points about the Bush clan is that they've produced several generations now (Prescott, George I, and George II, at least) who've been very, very good at glad-handing and connecting to people, and very, very disconnected from intellectual curiosity or anything more abstract than the practical interests of themselves, their family, their friends, and other people very much like them.
Lenny Bailes ::: January 27, 2004, 03:45 PM

I haven't seen evidence that he exercises a significant amount of introspection and deliberation over the consequences of the policies handed to him by his "brain trust."

News & Features | MEDIA
Boston Phoenix
Paul O’Neill and the price of truth
January 23-29, 2004

If Bush emerges from The Price of Loyalty as an incurious, scripted automaton with a penchant for bullying his underlings, Cheney comes across even worse — as a man who’s traded in the intellectual rigor O’Neill saw him display in earlier administrations in order to become an ideological warrior.

The Globe and Mail
Toronto Globe and Mail
Book Club
Friday, January 23, 2004
Bush Whacked
review of The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House and the Education of Paul O'Neill By Ron Suskind

By late 2000, with a $60-million fortune and a reputation for fiscal expertise, towering integrity and fearless candour, looking born to the boardroom or GOP cabinet table, the prestigious, white-haired O'Neill seemed a ready selection for Treasury. With the new president knowing almost no one (and nothing) in the field, O'Neill the odds-on choice of Vice-President Cheney, and thus the appointee. . . .

Meticulously if often incredulously recorded, it is all here: a case history in the chaos theory of an administration even worse than its critics have imagined. "Go find me a way to do this," Bush blithely intones after a crude but confected National Security Council meeting effectively settles on an invasion of Iraq just 10 days after the inauguration and more than seven months prior to 9/11.

As to O'Neill's alarm and disgust, they careen in the same way toward crony tax cuts for the wealthy and calamitous budget deficits. Cheney waves aside any question with the old, painfully discredited myth that "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter," or the blatant claim of spoils: "We won the mid-term elections, this is our due."

Presiding over it all, of course, is the Incurious George, whose relentless, unquestioning ignorance and lack of self-awareness O'Neill finds shocking, especially by comparison to what he had seen before in the Oval Office with Nixon's high intelligence, Ford's mastery of the issues, the elder Bush's relatively judicious balancing of views. The portrait is ugly not only for an American leader's consummate, unconscious incompetence, but for the flashes of mean spirit as well.

Strand Book Store- Used, New, Rare and Out of Print
[The] Book on Bush : How George W. (Mis)Leads America
by Alterman, Eric
(VIKING, © 2004)
January 22, 2004

The book reveals a presiden t who is glaringly & determinedly uninformed, uncurious, and unyielding, whose decision-making process operates by the assertion of conclusions followed by a defensive search for supporting facts.

How Many Degrees of Separation Between Bush and the People, Between Truth and Lies?
Published on Thursday, January 22, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
by Linda O'Brien

The Bush administration is filled with calculating people rather than with people who value truth. They are limited by that fact; it's impossible to hire honest people to fake compassion. So they don't know what genuine compassion cares about or how it should act and can't calculate forever what lies will be accepted as truth.

Someone--Rove, most likely--understood well enough the need to have a face with the appearance of honesty. Enter George W. Bush, who perhaps genuinely believes most of what he says, but is too incurious to find out if it's true and appears not to care, so long as it suits his purpose and gets what he wants. He could say, "What's the difference?" when confronted with his lies about life and death because he is so disconnected from people for whom life has not been that easy.

TIME.com: TIME Magazine Archive -- Confessions of a White House Insider -- Jan. 19, 2004
Confessions of a White House Insider
A book about Treasury's Paul O'Neill paints a presidency where ideology and politics rule the day
Jan. 19, 2004

So, what does O'Neill reveal? According to the book, ideology and electoral politics so dominated the domestic-policy process during his tenure that it was often impossible to have a rational exchange of ideas. The incurious President was so opaque on some important issues that top Cabinet officials were left guessing his mind even after face-to-face meetings. . . .

From his first meeting with the President, O'Neill found Bush unengaged and inscrutable, an inside account far different from the shiny White House brochure version of an unfailing leader questioning aides with rapid-fire intensity. . . . Bush was a blank slate rarely asking questions or issuing orders, unlike Nixon and Ford, for whom O'Neill also worked. "I wondered from the first, if the President didn't know the questions to ask," O'Neill says in the book, "or if he did know and just not want to know the answers? Or did his strategy somehow involve never showing what he thought? But you can ask questions, gather information and not necessarily show your hand. It was strange." In larger meetings, Bush was similarly walled off. Describing top-level meetings, O'Neill tells Suskind that during the course of his two years the President was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people."

As for the appetite for new ideas in the White House, he told Suskind, "that store is closed."

Article available without subscription:
CNN.com - Confessions of a White House insider - Jan. 13, 2004

reviewjournal.com -- Opinion: JOHN BRUMMETT: The president who wasn't there
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

"The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill," the story of the fired Treasury secretary written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind, portrays George W. Bush as asking no questions in meetings. It describes a pervasive cynicism in the White House by which all decisions are made either in ideological service or from an electoral prism.

Someone wrote the other day that these disclosures would have been scandalous in another place and time.

But we already knew that George W. Bush was intellectually incurious and unpossessed of any particular policy command. We already knew that the Bush administration had a hankering to take Saddam Hussein out in Iraq long before 9-11 provided a dubious, less-than-forthright excuse. We already knew the evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was scant. We already knew that Vice President Dick Cheney ran much of the show.

Star Telegram | 01/16/2004 | A Republican Rip Van Winkle
Fort Worth Star Telegram
By Matt Miller
Special to the Star-Telegram
Matthew Miller is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Beyond any specific outrage is the scary White House decision-making "process" that O'Neill describes. "It seemed," O'Neill wonders at one point, "there were no let's-look-at-the-facts brokers in any of the key White House positions."

O'Neill, who served earlier government stints under Presidents Nixon and Ford, clings quaintly to the notion that sound policy decisions should be made first, before you bring in the political types to help sell them. . . .

O'Neill explains in fascinating passages why Nixon was an exemplar of this approach. Nixon instituted a process of getting formal written briefs on all sides of major issues because he realized he could be unduly swayed in oral presentations by whoever was the better presenter, even if that person didn't have the better case.

Say what you will about Nixon, but that's a sophisticated and responsible approach to policy-making, one that elevates evidence above ideology.

Ford's White House took this notion further. Under William Seidman and Roger Porter, the process of vetting presidential policy options in an evenhanded way became institutionalized -- an early version of the "honest broker" process that Bob Rubin raised to an art form in Bill Clinton's National Economic Council.

That our stunningly incurious president and his top advisers have little interest in such evenhanded decision-making underscores the primary lesson of O'Neill's book: how radically conservative the Republican Party has become.

Salon.com | He cannot tell a lie
By Sidney Blumenthal
Jan. 15, 2004
Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior advisor to President Clinton and the author of "The Clinton Wars," is writing a column for Salon and the Guardian of London.

O'Neill sounds an alarm against an unfit president who lacks "credibility with his most senior officials," behind whom looms a dark "puppeteer," as O'Neill calls Cheney, and a closed cabal. "A strict code of personal fealty to Bush -- animated by the embrace of a few unquestioned ideologues -- seemed to be in collision with a faith in the broader ideals of honest inquiry."

He is upset at the regular violations he sees against his notion of "sound" government. There is, he concludes, "a pattern: either no process, or a truncated one, where efforts to collect evidence and construct smart policy are, with little warning, co-opted by the White House political team, or the Vice President, or whoever got to the President and said something, true or not."

Invading Iraq was on the agenda of the first meeting of the Principals Committee of the National Security Council, which O'Neill attended, months before 9/11, and it was pushed relentlessly. Regressive tax cuts creating massive deficits were implemented without economic justification as "the administration has managed to kill the whys at every turn." When the political team distorts basic economic numbers on tax cuts and inserts them into the 2001 State of the Union address, O'Neill yells, "This is complete bullshit!" It is "something that knowledgeable people in the U.S. government knew to be false." The business executive is shocked at the derogation of policy in favor of corporate special interests -- a "combination of confidentiality and influence by powerful interested parties" -- at the expense of even scientific evidence. He learns that moderate Republicans such as Secretary of State Colin Powell, EPA director Christie Whitman (whose effort to affirm policy on global warming is in her word "slaughtered" by Cheney and the politicos), and he himself "may have been there, in large part, as cover." . . .

He appears incurious and, above all, intently political.

Forgive this long excerpt, but we couldn't resist. more

Baltimore City Paper: COLUMNS
The Naked Emperor

O'Neill's book promises to give credence to many allegations that have been floating around for a long time--that the Bushies were seeking any excuse to attack Iraq; that the three Bush tax cuts were all about funneling money to the rich; that Bush himself is isolated, incurious, and a tool of Vice President Dick Cheney; and that the administration looks at everything through a lens of partisan politics.

BuzzFlash Mailbag - January 14, 2004

When has Bush ever revealed any interest in space, or even the basic curiosity to go exploring on *this* planet? Heck, he never left this country for most of his adult life even though he certainly had the connections and financial means to do so. . . .

Phoenix, AZ
Everybody knows George Bush lacks curiosity in the things around him. . . .

A BuzzFlash Reader

Columns: Rush, George, Paul, Ariel, together at last
St. Petersburg (Florida) Times
By BILL MAXWELL, Times Staff Writer
Published January 14, 2004

Written by Jeffrey Record, a defense expert and a visiting research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College, the report blasts President Bush for claiming that Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaida were "a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat."

Pentagon officials dismissed Record's findings, arguing that the respected scholar is entitled to his opinion. And whose opinion on terrorism does the Pentagon value? That of George W. Bush - our most incurious president ever.

Matt Miller Online
Matt's Miller's syndicated column is distributed by Tribune Media Services.
Miller is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress
Jan 14, 2004

Beyond any specific outrage is the scary White House decision-making ``process'' O'Neill describes. ``It seemed,'' O'Neill wonders at one point, ``there were no let's-look-at-the-facts brokers in any of the key White House positions.'' O'Neill, who served earlier government stints under presidents Nixon and Ford, clings quaintly to the notion that sound policy decisions should be made first, before you bring in the political types to help sell them. . . .

That our stunningly incurious president and his top advisers have little interest in such evenhanded decision-making underscores the primary lesson of O'Neill's book: how radically conservative the Republican Party has become.

The preceding was widely reprinted, including in the Akron Beacon Journal on January 16, 2004, under the headline Once Bush's pet, now O'Neill gets his revenge.

Amazon.com: Books: The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill
reviewed by John Moe
January 14, 2004 [estimated]
This review is widely reproduced and quoted; here is the start from the original.

The George W. Bush White House, as described by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, is a world out of kilter. Policy decisions are determined not by careful weighing of an issue's complexities; rather, they're dictated by a cabal of ideologues and political advisors operating outside the view of top cabinet officials. The President is not a fully engaged administrator but an enigma who is, at best, guarded and poker-faced but at worst, uncurious, unintelligent, and a puppet of larger forces.

O'Neill denies revealing secrets for book on Bush
Former treasury secretary says all data were cleared
Baltimore Sun
Jan 14, 2004
by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and David L. Greene

His remarks came as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld defended Bush against O'Neill's criticisms, leveled in The Price of Loyalty, by Ron Suskind. O'Neill portrays the president as strikingly incurious about policy and quick to base decisions mostly on political calculations.

CNN.com - Transcripts AMERICAN MORNING
Controversy for President Bush Back Home
Aired January 13, 2004 - 08:15   ET

AULETTA: Well, he took whacks at his boss when he was at treasury. I mean he disagreed with the tax cuts and said it would increase the deficit. And, by the way, the deficit has increased to a record. So, O'Neill was fired in part because he was critical of the Bush administration.

He's now come out with what could be considered a kiss and tell book, or cooperating with a book that sounds like kiss and tell, and Bush pretends that he's not upset, but it's very bad for George Bush. I mean it's basically saying he's an inattentive, incurious president.

The Answer Guy Online
Monday, January 12, 2004
posted by Tim @ 2:54 PM
The Boy In The Bubble

Anyone holding signs critical of Bush at any of his public appearances is confined to a "free speech zone," often a mile or more from wherever Bush happens to be at the time. Bush's audiences wherever he goes are carefully selected in advance to include only his supporters.

He doesn't read newspapers or follow the news much, if at all. . . .

Here we have someone with no real connections to the outside world. He's never known what it was like to ever not have everything handed to him. The bubble he appears to have constructed for himself may not be all that different from the bubble he's always lived in. . . . Bush has to be one of the least curious men ever to ascend to the highest office in the land, an incuriosity that extends (if former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is to be believed) to nearly every policy issue the administration touches.

National Affairs
The RS Blog
By Tim Dickenson
January 12, 2004

Perhaps most disturbingly, O'Neill portrayed our president as a most Incurious George, a man who, in his first, hour-long, one-on-one meeting with his economic chief failed to ask a single question.

Fragmenta Philosophica: Initial impressions regarding O'neill
January 11, 2004

There seems to be quite a stir in light of the new book by former Secretrary of the Treasury, Paul O'neill, The Price of Loyalty.

The headlines seem focused on three main claims; on O'neill's reckoning: (1) There was a drive by the administration of G.W. Bush to invade Iraq, almost from the start (2) There was no evidence that Iraq possessed WMD (3) Bush practices a haphazard, unfocused kind of leadership, and is "incurious" (I only put that in scare quotes because it seems to be one of the new media buzz words, alongside others which to my taste are annoying, such as "disingenuous" and the verb "blast"!). . . .

As to (3) above, Bush's alleged incuriousity seems to be conceded by his supporters as well as condemned by his opponents. Hence there probably is truth in the claim of his "provincial" character.

The Nation
The Daily Outrage
by Matt Bivens
Uncurious George

Paul O'Neil, the former Treasury Secretary who was canned for not selling Bush's tax cuts with sufficient ardor, will be on "60 Minutes" Sunday talking about working for the President -- a boss so non-involved in Cabinet meetings that O'Neil says he "was like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people." Nor is he much better one-on-one. Imagine the scene O'Neil describes: Here is the President, meeting for the first time his top economic official. . . . O'Neil says of their first meeting, "I went in with a long list of things to talk about and, I thought, to engage [him] on ... I was surprised it turned out me talking and the president just listening ... It was mostly a monologue." [First ellipsis introduced here; others found in The Daily Outrage, as were the 3 uses of O'Neil for O'Neill.]

CBS News | Bush Sought ‘Way’ To Invade Iraq? | January 12, 2004 13:18:16
Jan. 11, 2004
Though this has January 12 in the title and is dated Jan. 11 in the text, it was originally published Jan. 9, as can be seen by its citation in the Jan. 9 article Thrasymachus Online: Price of Loyalty and by its own URL. Here, President Bush tried to be curious, but Karl Rove manages to "un-curious" him.

The former treasury secretary accuses Vice President Dick Cheney of not being an honest broker, but, with a handful of others, part of "a praetorian guard that encircled the president" to block out contrary views. "This is the way Dick likes it," says O’Neill. . . .

Everything came to a head for O'Neill at a November 2002 meeting at the White House of the economic team.

“It's a huge meeting. You got Dick Cheney from the, you know, secure location on the video. The President is there,” says Suskind, who was given a nearly verbatim transcript by someone who attended the meeting.

He says everyone expected Mr. Bush to rubber stamp the plan under discussion: a big new tax cut. But, according to Suskind, the president was perhaps having second thoughts about cutting taxes again, and was uncharacteristically engaged.

“He asks, ‘Haven't we already given money to rich people? This second tax cut's gonna do it again,’” says Suskind.

“He says, ‘Didn’t we already, why are we doing it again?’ Now, his advisers, they say, ‘Well Mr. President, the upper class, they're the entrepreneurs. That's the standard response.’ And the president kind of goes, ‘OK.’ That's their response. And then, he comes back to it again. ‘Well, shouldn't we be giving money to the middle, won't people be able to say, ‘You did it once, and then you did it twice, and what was it good for?’"

But according to the transcript, White House political advisor Karl Rove jumped in.

“Karl Rove is saying to the president, a kind of mantra. ‘Stick to principle. Stick to principle.’ He says it over and over again,” says Suskind. “Don’t waver.”

In the end, the president didn't. And nine days after that meeting in which O'Neill made it clear he could not publicly support another tax cut, the vice president called and asked him to resign.

EROICO | Is Dean Going to Get Gore-ed? by Ari Dimitriades
7 January 2004

Bush’s incuriosity about the world is practically legendary: before he occupied 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he’d barely ventured outside the United States and didn’t seem inclined to do so.

Citations, Explained, 2007
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