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Training Wheels

Crank Call


Published June 2, 2004 at 4:00 p.m.

Sunnis and Ba'athists and Shi'ites -- oh my! Let's talk about something funny for a change, like George W. Bush and the spoils of war.

Have you heard about Dubya's new handgun? No? It was Saddam Hussein's personal pistol, make unspecified, which the Iraqi dictator reportedly had on him when he was "rousted from his spider hole" last December near Tikrit. According to Time magazine, Saddam's little power-packer is now in the White House.

"Sources say that the military had the pistol mounted after the soldiers seized it from Saddam," writes Time, "and that it was then presented to the President privately by some of the troops who played a key role in ferreting out the old tyrant."

Mind you, it was Kurdish troops, not Americans, who lay the trap for Saddam -- if you don't believe me, you can look it up ( Without the Kurds, the Evil One might still be on our Most Wanted list, along with ... uh ... the other Evil One, Osama bin Laden. But Bush has never met a fact he couldn't twist; according to Time, he relishes Saddam's last "weapon of mass destruction" as if it were the dictator's balls on a stick.

"He really liked showing it off," said a recent visitor to the White House. "He was really proud of it."

Well, why wouldn't he be? This is as close as Dubya has ever come to a real war. Time reports that he keeps the trophy in the same small room off the Oval Office "where Bill Clinton held some of his infamous trysts with White House intern Monica Lewinsky." And, if that's not funny enough, he shows it only to "select visitors after pointing out better-known White House pieces like the busts of Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower" -- two "wartime leaders" that Dubya apparently thinks are in the same league as he is.

Again, why wouldn't he? On Sunday, this running joke of a president, this disaster in a Reagan suit, was cheered at the unveiling of the World War II memorial in Washington as if he were Alexander the Great; when you figure that Alexander the Great is about to be portrayed on-screen by Leonardo di Caprio, the scrawniest boy on the lot, you begin to understand. As Wall Street Journal pundit Peggy Noonan moaned in the wake of 9/11, "A certain style of manliness is once again being honored and celebrated in our country." Call it Chickenhawk Chic -- just don't be surprised if those busts of Churchill and Ike spontaneously explode.

But I promised something funny, didn't I, something to take our agonized minds off the reality of Bush II? Here's one for the books: Senator Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) thinks it was quite all right for "interrogators" at Abu Ghraib prison to threaten naked Iraqis with snarling German shepherds, since the dogs didn't eat anyone.

That's right -- "Nothing wrong with holding a dog up there unless it ate him," Lott declared last week, before turning his attention to domestic matters. Lott thinks Dubya could be doing a better job scamming Americans about the high price of gas: "They pull up to that pump every week, and it's not costing 20 bucks now to fill up, it's costing 40. And they don't like that. And I think the president, if I could talk to him, I'd say, 'Mr. President, address this issue. At least jawbone it, and do it in multiple ways.'"

Question: Why can't Trent Lott talk to the president? Is he still "in disgrace" for making racist remarks at the late Strom Thurmond's centenary party? Or is it because no one can talk to His Majesty without bringing him a lollipop? After Dubya took a spill on his bicycle last week at the ranch in Crawford, Democratic challenger John Kerry asked, "Did the training wheels fall off?" and was roundly condemned for it.

"The analogy, of course, was meant to further the notion that Bush is a bumbling incompetent," said an indignant editorial in the Gazette of Kalamazoo: "Bush's tumbling off a bike is no more an example of presidential ineptitude than Gerald Ford's ... whacking a golf course spectator with one of his wayward drives. Or of Jimmy Carter collapsing during a long run. Or of George Bush the first throwing up during a dinner in Japan."

Right -- how reassuring! But it was Dubya who started the "training wheels" flap, when he told Republican leaders on May 21, at a "45-minute pep rally" on Capitol Hill, that the Iraqi people were "ready to take the training wheels off" and, by golly, get their own sovereign government.

If you still believe that, you've got a screw loose. Hardly anyone noted the GOP's dismay to discover that Bush -- even in private, at their own little pow-wow -- could barely form a sentence, "rambled incoherently" and refused to answer questions of any kind, according to CNN's Robert Novak.

"The emperor has no clothes," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told the media later that day. "He has on his shoulders the deaths of many more troops."

The response from Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, proves that no one over the age of 12 can play in Dubya's sandbox.

"If Nancy Pelosi has nothing to offer our troops, who are living and dying thousands of miles away, besides taunting them by saying they are needlessly dying and are risking their lives on a shallow mission," Reynolds said, "then she should just go back to her pastel-colored condo in San Francisco and keep her views to herself."

Now that's funny -- "Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah!" Who's next?

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