by Jan Baughman
(Swans - November 21, 2005) Even though Mr. Bush does not read newspapers nor pay attention to the silly and meaningless polls because he has a more important job to do -- knowing what's best for the country and the world and all -- the frying pan seems to be getting a bit hot for the man who's been in over his head from the beginning. And now he finds his legacy infected by the Second Term Curse. From the hurricane PR disaster, being caught red-handed not caring about black people; to the profoundly important Supreme Court nomination in which he chose a friend about as qualified to run FEMA; to the Scooter Libby thing that will be an ongoing investigation that he can't talk about until the investigation is complete or he is out of office, whichever comes first... Next the traitorous, lying Democrats dared to rewrite the history he invented and to criticize the occupation -- err -- liberation of Iraq, suggesting we manipulated intelligence as if it were a Scott McClellan transcript; others have the gall to say that we torture when the whole world can see that we don't torture despite what the photos show -- if we did, we would have convicted someone for it; or that we use white phosphorus as a chemical weapon when we don't, really, except when we need to against evil insurgents, but they aren't really human beings and besides, the American people expect us to do whatever it takes to keep them safe...
And then Bill Clinton said that invading Iraq was "a big mistake," and Jimmy Carter publicly criticized the America we've become, though Carter's polls were as bad as Bush's, and well, Clinton's credibility was no better and they're both lame ducks too, so no worries there. That some Democrats and Republicans are backtracking on their support of the war, and trying to be fiscally responsible to the poor people is downright irresponsible, reprehensible, and unpatriotic! So what's a lame (duck) president to do when his approval rating slides into the 30s and his base starts crumbling but get out of town, about as far from the White House as one can be outside of Crawford, Texas. Time to visit Alaska and build some bridges with the few supporters there; head for Mongolia to tell the friends and family of the 160 coalition forces in Iraq about their noble cause. Talk to Asian leaders about free trade, and bird flu, and nuculer weapons; try to appear important and leaderly in a less hostile environment, while the staff back home attends Introduction to Ethics courses and prayer vigils for a terrorist attack in hopes of deflecting the criticism. Send an inspirational message to China, that "once the door to freedom is opened even a crack, it cannot be closed"; don't mention that at that very moment, in a different time zone, the US Congress is renewing the USA Patriot Act, thereby demonstrating to China with a wink that if freedom gets out of control, you can always slam the door shut again... Funny that for once the Chinese didn't get a lecture on Human Rights.
Another fledgling politician in the form of Arnold Schwarzenegger sought exile in China from an approval rating even worse than the president's. The Acting Governor, having been summarily defeated in the most expensive California election in history, ran away from the union workers, teachers, nurses, and 75% of the state who think he's a disaster, and joined a more comfortable cabal of 75 wealthy businessmen -- from Abbott and Pfizer, Qualcomm and Chevron, Disneyland and Universal Studios, Miller Brewing and Sunkist -- who paid $10,000 apiece for a ticket on the private Asia Express to try to bring trade to the flailing state of California, when all that money could have paid down some of the cost of the senseless election that was a 262-million-dollar lesson in political process for the actor. Arnold was introduced at his ceremonial event by none other than President Bush -- Herbert Walker, that is -- who was also in China and who stumped for his "dear personal friend" and not his son, much to the dismay of W., who long ago distanced himself from both California and its leader, not to mention his namesake. The Chinese were star struck and unruly and mob-like over Arnold The Actor, not Free Trade Arnold, but for a brief, shining moment his approval rating was right with Mr. Universe.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, but Arnold returned to California invigorated, saying he can "go to sleep at night and say we did great work today," and Mr. Bush will return to Crawford for a festive Thanksgiving weekend, giving praise to god for all the good people in China and their potential for freedom, free trade, and democracy; and praying for Cindy Sheehan outside in his ditch -- irresponsible, reprehensible, and unpatriotic.