I’ve never read a book by E.L. Doctorow, but this essay has many locutions beautiful to my ears:
A war will do that as well as anything. You become a wartime leader. The country gets behind you. Dissent becomes inappropriate. And so he does not drop to his knees, he is not contrite, he does not sit in the church with the grieving parents and wives and children. He is the president who does not feel. He does not feel for the families of the dead, he does not feel for the 35 million of us who live in poverty, he does not feel for the 40 percent who cannot afford health insurance, he does not feel for the miners whose lungs are turning black or for the working people he has deprived of the chance to work overtime at time-and-a-half to pay their bills – it is amazing for how many people in this country this president does not feel.
But he will dissemble feeling. He will say in all sincerity he is relieving the wealthiest 1 percent of the population of their tax burden for the sake of the rest of us, and that he is polluting the air we breathe for the sake of our economy, and that he is decreasing the quality of air in coal mines to save the coal miners’ jobs, and that he is depriving workers of their time-and-a-half benefits for overtime because this is actually a way to honor them by raising them into the professional class.
It is in these two paragraphs, a little gem of parallel construction, that Doctorow manages to encapsulate the damned insincerity of our President that so infuriates me. One might argue that Kerry is equally dissimulating, but I find the cries of “flip-flop” unconvincing. What is better, to give with one hand while the other takes away, all the time smiling, or to decide to give, then rescind the decision? Both are aggravating, but the first is more fundamentally dishonest.