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Crank Call


Published November 20, 2002 at 5:00 p.m.

A lot of people have asked me over the last two weeks if I intend to comment in this column on the unmitigated disaster of the recent elections. Put differently, many readers are wondering if I have anything to say about the overwhelming catastrophe that befell the nation on November 5.

And if that isn't clear: Friends and strangers alike have written and called, wanting to know if I'll be writing something about the sheer calamity of the midterm defeat.

I hate to disappoint anyone, but the answer is no, I won't. Here's why:

1) The elections changed nothing. They merely confirmed and made official what the United States has become since George W. Bush stole the Presidency in November 2000 -- a bullying, swaggering, plutocratic nightmare, which in two short years has lost the respect of every decent nation on Earth. Why bring up the obvious? (I believe the Democratic Party has already been scolded in the press for its ineptitude in this matter, so I won't bring that up, either.)

2) I'd rather not offend anyone in Great Britain. The Brits are all right when you get to know them, and they're solidly against the pending war in Iraq. But the British parliamentary system allows Prime Minister Tony Blair to suck up to Bush with or without the support of his constituents, for just as long as his party permits it. The British people per se won't be consulted until Blair calls a general election. He can do this anytime, at his discretion, but probably won't, for obvious reasons.

Now, I've long believed that Tony Blair -- like his first American hero, Bill Clinton -- has no morals whatsoever. But I see no advantage in making negative remarks about the Mother Country, because I may want to live there -- soon. In fact, I'm packing my bags. So that's another subject I won't be discussing. (Pssst! I told them I was going to England!)

3) We're entering dangerous terrain and we'll need all the help we can get. For the first time in 50 years, since the good old days of Joe McCarthy and Dwight D. Eisenhower, the U.S. will be living under its own kind of parliamentary system, without, however, a parliamentary form of government. With Republicans -- that is, just one of the two parties -- controlling both the executive and the legislative branches, we'll have rubber-stamp policy and rubber-stamp law, stamped a third time by the same Supreme Court that put Bush into power and by the raft of right-wing ideologues he intends to appoint to the federal judiciary.

What we won't have are parliamentary safeguards. The first of these is a head of state who, unlike our own, remains above politics and above disputes. A good example is the Queen of England, who provides a symbol of unity for all Britons and the Commonwealth nations -- when she's not fighting off butlers, that is, and charges of rape in the palace halls. "Homosexual rape," at that. If someone can explain to me what that means, I'd like to know. "Rape isn't about sex, rape is about violence."

But I digress. Under the British constitution, the Queen of England has only three rights that are distinct from her ceremonial duties. She has the right to be consulted, the right to advise and the right to warn. Plainly, no one in the United States fills this role, unless it's Barbara Bush. And this is not a good time to piss off the President's mother -- the only woman, as far as we know, who's allowed to box his ears. So we'll leave that one alone, too. (Poor Queen! She must lie awake at night wondering how it all went wrong.)

4) What? Do you think I'm crazy? My name's already on a list! I compared George Bush to Hitler before the Germans did! I haven't had a good word to say about him since 1998, when the gay Log Cabin Republicans were barred from participation in the Texas GOP convention in Fort Worth. On a good day, when confronted with Dubya, I fall into a dream, fantasizing that some huge joke has been played on the country and the world, and that this very small man, small in every sense, is just there for entertainment, the opening act, before the business of statesmanship can get underway.

But no -- Dubya's all too real, practically sanctified now by a press and media that can't, or won't, admit these elections were staged. "This is not a whine," writes Molly Ivins, "but I do think the major factor in the last-minute Republican tilt was television coverage. Almost the only political story for the last three days [of the campaign] was Bush Barnstorming. It's as though reporters were covering a presidential campaign with only one candidate rather than a midterm election."

She said it, not I. My eyes popped out on Sunday to see legendary Watergate reporter Bob Woodward's meditation on the Bush presidency to date, grotesquely and sentimentally headlined in The Washington Post as "A Struggle for the President's Heart and Mind."

What are those, do you think? Bush's mind is clear enough to tell Woodward, in words that ought to be engraved on a missile somewhere, "One of the things I learned is, the vision thing matters." As for his heart, I think it belongs in the just-opened Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville, one-time home of Sam Houston and final repository of "Old Sparky," the now-retired Texas electric chair. But don't say I told you.

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