Last week, in anticipation of George W. Bush's State of the Union address, I took steps to prevent a full-scale attack on my intelligence and credulity by shutting off the television, powering down the computer, turning out the lights, canceling the newspaper, drawing the blinds, locking the doors, hopping into bed and pulling the covers over my face for two whole days. I believe this is what the people at Home-land Security recommend during a Red Alert, which, in my opinion, any speech from Boo-Boo Brain automatically is.
Well, it didn't work. I got a nice rest, but that was all. Because, when I dared to come out again, there he still was, reprinted, re-broadcast and re-spun, lying through his teeth about "peace" and "prosperity," vowing to keep the world safe from "terrorists," posing, strutting, taunting, smirking, turning black into white and tin into gold.
"Jobs are on the rise," said Bush, when jobs emphatically are not. "We can cut the deficit in half in just five years," he declared, when, in truth, we won't. We'll throw a lot of money at "traditional" marriage, fly men to the moon and build ranches on Mars. "No child," of course, "will be left behind," and there'll be Starbucks in Baghdad by Christmas. It might take a little longer in Kabul, but, hey -- as soon as they get a taste of gingerbread latte, they'll stop growing opium in no time!
"We've not come all this way," said Bush, "through tragedy, and trial and war, only to falter and leave our work unfinished." So, terrorists, watch out! Rogue states, beware! Homosexuals, come to Jesus! In the Chinese calendar, this is the Year of the Monkey, and you'd better believe that our monkey means it. The only reason Bush hasn't banned evolution in the schools is because he doesn't want people looking too closely at his face.
Happily, and to my surprise, a lot of people didn't fall for the gag. CBS News dismissed Bush's speech as "politics without fingerprints," "rhetoric" and "spin." The Arizona Republic called it "really just a stump speech, using half-truths to pitch a failed presidency." And Molly Ivins, while expecting "a painful skewing of the statistics on jobs," wondered "why anyone would believe anything the president says about our fiscal situation. Keep in mind, this is a man who took three Texas oil companies into bankruptcy."
"It's got that reek," wrote Mark Morford in the San Francisco Chronicle, commenting specifically on Boo-Boo's plan to colonize space. "It's got that reek of typical macho Republican election-year BS all war and guns and rockets and oil and big slabs of chemically blasted, hormone injected, semi-rancid Texas beef Our schools are desperate. The Wal-Mart/SUV mentality is a national cancer. Basic services nationwide are being starved and shut down as cities scramble for fiscal scraps. John Ashcroft still has a job."
So does Dick Cheney, I'm sorry to say. The Vice President of this pack of rats went to Switzerland last week to represent the United States at the World Economic Forum at Davos, and instructed the assembled billionaires, once again, that when diplomacy fails force will be used.
"Direct threats require decisive action," said Cheney, mentioning no threat in particular, much less a direct one, but adding that the events of September 11 -- well, you know the rest. How many times do you need to hear it? And who wears the biggest boots in town? We must "nurture democracy" where we find it, said Cheney, and impose it where we don't: "Democracies do not breed the anger and the radicalism that drag down whole societies or export violence. Terrorists do not find fertile recruiting grounds in societies where young people have the right to guide their own destinies and to choose their own leaders."
Like where, for instance? Not in Florida, where a lot of votes from the last election were made to disappear. Not in Iraq, where the "Coalition Authority" still prefers an appointed government to an elected one. Not in Azerbaijan, that "oil-rich Muslim nation," according to Sunday's Washington Post, whose leader, Ilham Aliyev, came to power last year by "blatantly fraudulent" means.
"When members of the opposition tried to protest, they were brutally beaten by police," the Post reports. "There followed a massive, nationwide crackdown in which more than 1000 people were arrested, including opposition leaders, activists from nongovernmental organizations, journalists and election officials who objected to the fraud." Aliyev is now the absolute ruler of his country, a dictator of the kind we were so recently urged to regard as "evil" in other parts of the world. But he grants "billions of dollars in contracts to such companies as BP-Amoco, ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil. He also has supported a $3 billion pipeline that is to carry oil from the Caspian to a port in Turkey."
"The United States has a relationship with this country," says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "We value it." We value it so much, in fact, that Boo-Boo, while Governor of Texas, gave Aliyev honorary Texan citizenship "in appreciation of his support for American oil companies." The Post, which normally can be counted on to kiss this president's ass, now asks him, strangely, to put his money where his mouth is: "Azerbaijan, in short, might look like a good place for President Bush to start implementing his frequently declared policy of spreading freedom' to the world."
That'll be the day. As the light returns and the year grows darker, just keep this fact in mind: We didn't put him there, but we can lose him if we want.