I heard myself saying "right on" to Peggy Noonan, a columnist I usually cannot bear to read:
Thursday, July 27, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
Why does President Bush refer in public to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as "Condi"? Did Dwight Eisenhower call his Secretary of State "Johnny"? Did Jimmy Carter call his "Eddie," or Bill Clinton call his "Maddy," or Richard Nixon call his "Willie" or "Hank"? What are the implications of such informality?
I know it is small, but in a way such things are never small. To me it seems a part of the rhetorical childishness of the age, the faux egalitarianism of the era. It reminds me of how people in the administration and Congress--every politician, in fact--always refer to mothers as moms: We must help working moms." You're not allowed to say "mother" or "father" in politics anymore, it's all mom and dad and the kids. This is the buzzy soft-speak of a peaceless era; it is an attempt to try to establish in sound what you can't establish in fact.
In one way, the "Condi" issue is reminiscent of the unsolicited shoulder rub of the German Chancellor. It speaks to a lack of respect for one's colleagues, especially the women.
In another way, it absolutely nails the central issue of this Presidency: Georgie Bush is out of his depth in a very real way. He is that waitress who is totally inept, spilling drinks, getting your order wrong, but is just so goshdarned friendly (read: overly familiar) because she's hoping that some forced jocularity/camaraderie will help you to not notice that she's entirely in the wrong line of work. You know, the local Friendly F*ckwit, who although the executioner of several plates, cups and glasses, to her credit has never committed troops to war or banned stem cell research.