Pity poor President Bush, who as recently as April Fool's Day imagined he had the leisure to shuffle off to Crawford and pretend to be a Texan. As the descendant of Texans -- indeed, East Texan farmers who migrated to Dallas looking for a lump of lard to keep them from starving -- I'm allowed to say that. Capisce?
"President Bush on Thursday opened his expansive central Texas ranch to sporting aficionados and conservation groups, including the National Rifle Association, Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever." This according to a sappy and abruptly outdated press release from the lower colon of the White House, dressed-up as a "Reuters wire report" and published, unfortunately for Bush, just hours before the "post-invasion" Iraqi shit hit the "coalition" fan in Fallujah.
"During the private tour," Reuters burbled on, "Bush spokeswoman Claire Buchan said he wanted to discuss his clean air, wetlands and healthy forests initiatives in addition to showing off the energy conservation features of his home and the native grasses that have been replanted." But apparently there were so many ducks, pheasants and rifles around he never got to it.
Understand that neither Reuters nor any but a docile, "embedded" news service is allowed within 50 miles of the Crawford loony bin, and all this will make sense to you. Just close your eyes and dream.
"While Bush proposed increasing the 2005 budget for forest fire programs and protecting endangered species," says Reuters, "he has been criticized for trying to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and cutting the Environmental Protection Agency's budget by 7 percent for next year." Bush's record on the environment is, in fact, the worst of any president in history; even if we're lucky enough to see his backside in November, it'll take decades to undo the damage he's done, if it's possible at all.
Still dreaming? Then dream about Junior pretending to be a statesman. If you're a journalist taking part in this charade, torture yourself and your readers for another four years while destroying whole forests of trees in the effort to prove that you haven't been duped; that Bush has "a vision" beyond his role as a corporate stooge; that he "makes his own decisions after careful prayer;" and that his "born-again" bullshit is any different from the rest of his bullshit. It's all bullshit, and it's been bullshit from the moment Bush was first thrust on a nation so cynical about politics that it allowed a Republican vendetta against Bill and Hillary Clinton to waste $60 million of American money looking for semen stains on a Valley Girl's dress.
Monica Lewinsky will forgive me, I hope, for lumping her together with a tired American cliche -- she is, of course, from Beverly Hills. And my aunt in Shelburne, Claire Collier, undoubtedly understands why I quote her now, in the interest of distinctions: "I happen to regard Bill Clinton as the scum of the earth. But I regard George W. Bush as whatever lies beneath scum."
Compare l'affaire Lewinsky, if you dare, to Pfc. Keith Maupin, 20, of Batavia, Ohio, kidnapped by Iraqi "insurgents" in a country -- theirs -- that he should never have seen in the first place; or to "four Iraqi children, shot dead" "by U.S. troops firing at random." Without a craven press to endorse it, there would be no war in Iraq, no palaver about "weapons of mass destruction," and no "President Bush," either. There aren't that many dime-store Christians, even in America, gleefully waiting for Armageddon and a "Rapture" they imagine will sock it to their enemies, to account for this grotesque fantasy of national leadership.
At the recent surreal, slo-mo press conference in Washington, a reporter asked Bush why he can't testify before a powerless committee, investigating the worst crime committed on these shores since the end of slavery and the slaughter of the native population, unless he brings along Rasputin -- a.k.a. Dick Cheney. Bush answered, "Because the 9/11 commission wants to ask us questions, that's why we're meeting. And I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions."
"I was asking why you're appearing together, rather than separately," the reporter continued, "which was their request."
"Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9/11 commission is looking forward to asking us. And I'm looking forward to answering them."
If he does, it'll be a new act for sure:
Q: "After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?"
A: "I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it."
It doesn't matter where it went from there -- it's unthinkable that this conversation could haven taken place before the final debasement of the office of American President. And who debased it? Not John F. Kennedy, with his daily (or twice daily) bangs in the closet. Not Jimmy Carter, currently the most admired international ambassador America has. Not Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican and a general, whose warnings about the unchecked power of "the military-industrial complex" are still unheeded. Not Lyndon Johnson, who took enemas in front of his staff, or even Richard Nixon, whose impeachable crimes are nothing -- literally, nothing -- next to the devastation the Bush machine is wreaking on the world.
So keep dreaming, everybody, and when it all comes crashing down around your heads, don't bother asking how it happened. Just climb in the Humvee, grab your golf clubs, your Wal-Mart cards and your Passion movies and run for your lives. You'll need to.
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I am a historian and have been a member of the Coolidge Foundation since 1972.