Portrait of a Very Small Man in a Very Big Crisis:

Look at him there, with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko yesterday. It's just after the Wall Street bailout - oh, wait, sorry - rescue bill failed because Republicans just don't give a happy monkey fuck about his opinions anymore. Look at him. He looks like nothing so much as the kid with spina bifida who everyone feels sorry for while he wheels around the high school cafeteria. Hunched over, suit rumpled, as Nixonian as any politician could look without actually being Nixon. And, remember, this is the official White House photo of the event.

Here's what he looked like in a Reuters picture, more manic depressive who just got out of bed than, say, leader of the free world, if such phrases have meaning anymore:

This morning when he spoke, he may as well have just said, "Can we just have the election tomorrow so I can get the hell out of here? Really, I'm just in the way," and, truly, would anyone have argued with him? Instead, he spouted nonsense like, "Producing legislation is complicated, and it can be contentious" and held to his standard lines no matter what the scenario, "The sooner we address the problem, the sooner we can get back on the path of growth and job creation." These were not words of comfort. They were words of utter diminution and defeat. He may as well have just walked out to the lectern and vomited.

The people of the United States do not want this bill. They do not want this bailout, and that's for so many reasons: we've been told for the last couple of decades how wealth equals wisdom, even if it's not Bill Gates-type wealth where somebody made something and sold it; we've been told that government only gets in the way of the free market; we've been told to invest in shit that's so complicated that we need fuckin' PhDs in post-fordist macroeconomic theory just to have a chance to understand our 401Ks; and we have completely lost faith in the small man in the White House, the man who made himself small and insignificant in the eyes of the people by design so that he may creep around and commit his crimes in the shadows. In times when we demand a benevolent giant, we have a syphilitic dwarf, mad Rumplestiltskin in a suit.

Another kind of leader might have truly realized the magnitude of what may happen if financial institutions are not stabilized (and let's not be fooled by yesterday's megadrop in the stock market - that's a fuckin' shell game - it's already up nearly 250 as this is written). That other kind of leader, even one who has made all the same mistakes as this one, might have pushed aside thoughts of himself and his legacy, been honest with people, and said, "Okay, look, you are all right about me. I fucked up. I fucked it all up. Iraq, Katrina, Afghanistan, the environment, whatever you wanna name. I should have never been president in the first place. But you gotta understand: it's real this time. The weapons have been found and they're about to go off under your feet and there's no one to torture to find out how to stop them from detonating." Oh, that such Jimmy Stewart fantasy moments were real.

He needed to level with us and speak to us straight, not with childish bullshit like, "That, no question, is a large amount of money. We're also dealing with a large problem." That's like reading us My Pet Goat instead of talking to us like we have a stake in whatever happens. He'll be gone in less than four months, rich and obligated to no one. He can go live in a mansion and wipe his ass with gold-leaf toilet paper for the rest of his years.

Once more, we needed him to stand tall. Once more, he did not. He could not. It's not his nature. Instead, he has opted to become even smaller, trying, as the picture there shows, to disappear into himself. And hoping that we don't even notice. He shouldn't worry. We stopped noticing him a long time ago.