|By Tony Russell|
My friend Ed Jonas was sitting in the Koffee Kup, looking at the paper, and just shaking his head when I walked over to his booth. "You've gotta hand it to the guy," he said admiringly. "He pulls off one unbelievable stunt after the other."
"What are you talking about, Ed?" I asked cautiously. Ed's kind of unpredictable.
"El Presidente," he said. "The Baghdad Bomber. The Friend of Enron and Enemy of Evil. The Gulf Crusader. The Long Range Warrior."
"Okay, okay," I said. "What is it that our leader has done to evoke your admiration?"
"It's not some single thing," he said. "It's one thing after another. Who would have believed he could pull off the things he's done."
"Start with the election. Here's a guy who hid out during the Viet Nam war, running against a guy who volunteered to go overseas, and it's Bush the military goes nuts over. How can you figure that? Then he loses the election by half a million votes or so, but still winds up in the White House. Then half his administration is implicated in a sleazy corporate scandal, some crazies fly planes into the World Trade Center, and the scandal just disappears. He turns 9-1-1 and Iraq into giant erasers that wipe the American memory clean. He gives the rich a gigantic tax cut, the economy goes into the tank, he turns a budget surplus into huge deficits for as far as the mind can see, and he offers another giant tax cut for the rich as a solution. And it's going to happen! It's unbelievable!"
"That's all yesterday's news," I said. "You're taking the long way home again, old timer."
"You asked me for examples," he said somewhat testily. "I don't recall that you laid out timelines for a response."
He had me there. I held up my hands. "Take your time, Ed," I said. "I don't have to meet Patty for another hour."
He took a swipe at me with his John Deere cap, temporarily exposing his bald spot. "Are you calling me longwinded, Ace?"
"No, no," I said hastily. "Just eager to hear what you have to say."
He gave me a shrewd glance. "You're not as slick as you think you are, Ace. You're trying to slide out of this by buttering me up."
"Guilty," I grinned. "But get on with it."
"Okay," he said. "Look, after 9-1-1, he swore we'd get bin Laden. Bin Laden is still running around loose, and somehow we're hot after Saddam Hussein. Nobody even noticed. It's the old bait-and-switch: get the customers into the store advertising some item, and then talk them into a higher-priced product once they're there. He's got half the American public believing that Saddam Hussein was involved in the attack on September 11, when there's never been a shred of evidence that that's the case. Then the polls showed Americans wanted UN support for going into a war. No way the Security Council would give the green light to this war, but he went in anyway. And the public bought it. He has the U.S. media routinely talking about "coalition forces," when the clearest thing about this invasion is that there isn't any coalition. The rest of the world didn't want any part of it. The only two countries on the planet where this war gets at least 50% popular support are Israel and the U.S. Even Mexico and Canada held their noses to block the stench and said 'No thanks.' It's Bush and Blair, with maybe 2,000 Australians. When it comes to putting bodies in the field, that's the 'coalition.'
"He and Rumsfeld claimed we were going to 'liberate' Iraq, and implied that most Iraqis would welcome us with open arms. Instead, they welcomed us with small arms and mortars. Now thousands of Iraqis living outside Iraq are streaming back into the country to defend it against an invasion of their homeland. Saddam Hussein was the most hated man in the Middle East, and Bush is managing to make him into a hero. He's undermined the UN, alienated most of the rest of the planet, insulted our traditional allies, violated the UN Charter, and broken international law, and his approval ratings are off the chart!"
"It is pretty amazing when you think about it," I admitted.
"It's beyond amazing," said Ed. "It's like having an idiot savant Houdini for President, with a Bible in his hand."