back to the Black Table

We’re all going to hell. The question is whether we do so of our own accord or whether George W. Bush leads us there, slapping the back of the missile with his cowboy hat.

A few things.

Dubya, for all that people say, isn’t an idiot. He’s not in hock to oil companies, and he’s not doing Dick Cheney’s bidding. He’s an aggressive, elitist bully, used to getting what he desires without having to work terribly hard for it.

As a politician, he’s brilliant at managing the media in a way that even Bill Clinton would have to acknowledge. As a president, he’s a black hole, an empty suit, morally bankrupt except for the notion that people ought to be nice to each other, a theme that seems to present itself in just about all of his public addresses, with his most recent State of the Union address a prime example.

How about that speech? Lots of heavy marketing slogans, like “our union is strong” and “jobs” and “fart.” Sorry, wait, that was Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live.

Somehow, the government ought to inspire people to try to do a bit better in life, to sacrifice something of themselves other than their taxes. Now, if only this president showed anything approaching that.

There’s no sense of theme here, just a long list of nonsense about what he’s going to maybe try to do, while coming out in favor of things no one would be against, like employment. What president has ever been anti-employment? There are no aspirations that as a government, Bush can lead by example, or be someone that sets a pace and can accomplish great things -- and seeing as how he referred to Washington as the place where nothing gets done, he's already resigned to that fact.

Instead we get a compendium of clichés about what the government is going to do for us -- funny, I thought that’s what the GOP hated doing -- and how much money we’re going to spend on improving the environment, building hydrogen-slash-flatulence-powered automobiles, give out all sorts of drugs to “the seniors” while keeping ‘em out of the hands of those damned terrorist enablers (a.k.a. Generation Y), and still find a way to cut taxes. It’s an easy job, and hell, all we have to do is get the citizens of Newark, New Jersey to pay for it all! Hooray!

In addition to that, we get principled stands on human cloning (IT’S BAAAAAD!). Solid stuff, bro. This is an issue, which, in terms of priorities, ranks somewhere below fishing out insect parts from a jar of peanut butter and funding research on ingrown toenails. We were also treated to his constant Homer Simpson-esque pronunciation of “nuc-u-lar.”

I’m beginning to think, somehow, that there’s some kind of mad genius in the way Bush approaches problems. He basically casts them in the light he wants -- such as, say, the idea that “seniors” are suffering under the heavy hand of horrid dividend taxation, even though these “seniors” are also “filthy, ridiculously rich” -- and then doesn’t let anyone question it. So people after a while just sort of start to believe him.

Bush's entire line of logic regarding Iraq must have been cribbed from the Salem Witch Trials. Let's follow this, for a moment: We know Iraq has weapons, and we’ll find them. But if we don’t find them, it means Saddam must be lying and still has them. And if he has them and we can’t locate them, and aw, hell, let’s just bomb the hell out of everything anyway. Innocent if he sinks, guilty if he floats -- either way Bush gets his dead body.

And the idea is, "trust me." Bush made a remark last night about the average citizen not seeing the things he’s seeing -- which, in effect, is the kind of attitude that screwed us up in Vietnam -- this "I’m from the government, I control the information, I control the debate" style of political brinkmanship.

Osama bin Laden is still out there, we haven’t found him, but to Bush, he no longer matters. But if he mentions this, it becomes open to debate -- suddenly, the American people will be reminded that he didn't make good on his promise and blew the chance to catch a skinny, sick, evil mastermind who was pinned down by missiles in Afghani caves. By avoiding bin Laden, America is supposed to just sort of forget about it -- let’s move on, doesn’t really matter, trust me.

Then there’s this bizarre moment where Bush says that certain people haven’t been arrested, but aren’t alive anymore, and “let’s just say they’re no longer a problem for the United States.” Great. Foreign policy as practiced by Karl from <I>Sling Blade</I>. Did you hit him with the lawnmower blade once or twice, George?

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s this country called Iraq, and no matter how crazy George Bush is, it’s got a leader who sucks. And it’s got a leader who, by all means, the world would be better off without, and so I’ve got to take people to task who yell “NO WAR!” without considering the notion that maybe Saddam ain’t exactly a bastion of human rights either, and war might actually be correct, even if it’s a plate of smoked Texas brisket that’s suggesting we do so.

No, the biggest failing in last night’s speech -- other than the voodoo economics that Bush is spouting -- was the fact that he still hasn’t prepared America for what would be the biggest job since rebuilding the South after the Civil War (which, come to think of it, we bailed out on anyway).

We’d have to rebuild a country that hasn’t seen much other than chaos and brutality since, well, forever, really.

Getting rid of Saddam ain’t a terrible idea. But what then? If Afghanistan is any kind of example, then my hopes aren’t very high, and the terror we unleash could be worse than what we’re facing with Saddam now, who, for all his craziness, certainly cares about one life -- his own.

Those who are reflexively against war, think of it this way -- what is it about Saddam that you want to preserve? Is your anti-war sentiment a knee-jerk reaction to our schmuck President? And why say you're against war, when you're really against the way American is going about diplomatically?

Because if Bush were putting out the case -- a credible case -- that America, despite whatever ire it raises in the Middle East and potential deaths we face, would rebuild Iraq, would help spread democracy in the region, and commit to a likely 30-year investment in this area of the world, I’d support that.

But he’s not doing that, and so he’s fueling my skepticism too. I may be a Know-It-All, but something has me stumped. Maybe you know the answer.

Is there a whiff of hope that we might do the right thing here, as we did in World War II?



David Gaffen, Mr. Know-It-All, has lived in six New York neighborhoods in six years. During that time, he has never once lost an argument with his television.