I’ve been re-reading Trotsky’s three volume History of the Russian Revolution. In chapter IV and chapter VI he gets into the personality of the Czar and the Czarina in a discussion of how much of the personality of a leader is accidental, and how much is determined by circumstances: in particular, the circumstances of the leader of a class doomed to extinction. In this context, he makes some comparisons of the traits of Czar Nicholas II, Louis XVI, and Charles I, as well as of their respective wives. The similarities are striking.
No doubt, those who consider personality to be supra-historical will conclude that it was exactly these “accidental” characteristics that caused the fall of the monarchy in each case; I’ll leave that for the discussion, or for someone else. What I want to mention are some of the specifics.
In brief: A complete disconnection from their subjects, a general apathy, a tendency to surround themselves by mediocirty combined with a contempt for anyone competent. In all three cases, there are reports of light-mindedness, and indecision; of being easily swayed by those mediocrates (I just made that word up) with whom they associated. “Tranquility and ‘gaiety’ in difficult moments…deprived of imagination and creative force…envious hostility toward everything gifted and significant…lacking firmness of character…a passive, patient, but vindictive treachery…” And in the case of all three wives, an even deeper isolation from the masses, and a love of the trappings of power. “…scorned the people, could not endure the thought of concessions…”
Okay, so, here’s the thing: We aren’t going to know until the exposes begin to appear after his presidency is over, but insofar as we can know, do these things strike anyone as familiar? No, Bush’s wife never said, “Let them eat cake,”* but his mother made an awfully similar sounding comment about the Louisiana refugees in Texas after Katrina. Look at some of the hints of Bush’s personality that leak out occasionally, and tell me if they don’t seem terribly familiar.
*Yes, I know Marie Antoinette never actually said that. The point is, the story spread because in every-one’s perception at the time, saying that was exactly in character for her.