Bush the Stoic

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Completely apart from views, policies, and issues, this is the sort of thing I most appreciate about President Bush (from Realpolitics.com):

It was on Air Force One on election day that strategist Karl Rove started calling around to get the results of early exit polls. But the line kept breaking down. The only information that came through as the plane descended was a BlackBerry message from an aide that simply read: "Not good." Not long afterward, Rove got a more detailed picture and told the President and senior aides the bad news. Florida Governor Jeb Bush had been saying the state was looking good, and the Bush team had expected to be ahead in Ohio. But Kerry was leading everywhere. "I wanted to throw up," said an aide onboard. Bush was more philosophical: "Well, it is what it is," he told adviser Karen Hughes.

According to an email I received, his Myers-Briggs type is ESTP, and I'm ISTJ (apparently Kerry is INFJ). I think it's an ST thing. There are lots of reasons the Stoics are my favorite of all the ancient philosophers. It's excellent to see their ethical views modeled in the Vulcans on Star Trek and their metaphysical views in the Wayists on Andromeda, at least while Robert Hewitt Wolfe was still behind the helm before it got really stupid under the Twin Peaks guy who now runs the show. One of my reasons for liking the Stoics is this aspect of their ethical views that just makes sense to me.

Some things are not in your power, and there's not much reason to care about such things. If you can't do anything about it, it's best to train yourself not to try. This theme in Stoic ethics picked up in the reasoning in some of Paul's letters, so it's a thoroughly Christian idea as well (and it has roots in the Hebrew scriptures too, which is probably why Paul saw something in the Stoics' use of similar ideas). Augustine also saw more good in the Stoics than in any of his other interlocutors (except maybe the neo-Platonists). This key Stoic doctrine is the basis of Reinhold Niebuhr's famous prayer:

Lord, Give me the courage to change the things which can be changed.
And give me the patience to accept the things that cannot be changed.
But most of all, give me the wisdom to know the difference.

For those who care about how Bush's faith really shapes his presidency, look for things like this, not the paranoia of those who misunderstand and misrepresent him as if he's a theonomist or accuse him of assuming every idea he has comes from God.


It's interesting that you say that Kerry is an INFJ. One of the things about an INFJ (and I am married to one) is that they can be hard to understand sometimes. They have a strong intuitive understanding of the world and tend to do well in an academic setting in a variety of subjects, but they also tend to be idealistic and hold unrealistic expectations (my wife actually happens to be quite reasonable in this regard).

INFJ also does not tend to display the kind of charisma or "likeableness" that is often expected of a presidential candidate. Someone like an ESTP or ENFJ (or even an ENTJ) will do much better. So when people say that they "like" Bush better, they are reflecting the natural differences of personalities between the two main candidates. More people than not think that Kerry is not saying what he really thinks and feels, and think that he is hiding something.

The three debates, on the other hand, put Kerry in a very familiar and more advantageous environment in which to do well (at least better than flesh-pressing rallies and whatnot). Both his training and his personality have been geared toward something approaching a classical exercise in rhetorics, and I must say he turned in solid performances on all three occasions.

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