These days I'm busy writing an anthropology article for a conference, so I'm not spending time updating my new blog. But I thought I could at least offer an "oldie" from about a decade ago, an article I wrote for The Ledger in the spring of 2001 when George Bush's character flaws seemed merely a joking matter rather than the recipe for full blown disaster that they turned out to be.
My article appeared in the New York Times-owned Ledger on May 17, 2001. Interestingly, exactly ten days later in the actual New York Times, Maureen Dowd published a piece featuring a number of similarities to mine. Dowd's article has a sleeping George Bush suddenly sitting "bolt upright" when he is visited by a tall, craggy ghost who chides him for his failings. I'll post first my article and then an excerpt from Dowd's.
How Would Bush Explain Self to Lincoln?
By R.L. Moore
The Ledger, May 17, 2001
President Bush’s coy and reticent approach to governance has led to some wild speculations about the key events that are shaping his political philosophy.
In order to add to these speculations, I offer the following account of a White House incident reported by my associate, Carson Fulano. The incident occurred in the middle of the night one week ago when President Bush was awakened in his bedroom by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln.
President Bush is said to have sat bolt upright in bed exclaiming, “Wow! A ghost! And one who was a president just like me, except in the 18th century!”
“Nineteenth century, “corrected Abe.
“Whatever.” Dubya replied. “Anyway, why are you here?”
Abe explained that he wanted to see how the Republic was faring. “I have always believed,” he said, “that our great nation was destined to be blessed with leaders of increasing wisdom and magnanimity as the American people refine the machinery of democracy.” Then, looking closely at President Bush he asked, “What do you see as the basis of American freedom?”
Dubya: “Well, I believe freedom means less government.”
Abe: “But you do understand, do you not, that democracy is a quality found in government and not in private enterprise?”
Dubya: “What I understand is that we need to get the government off our backs. So I have a plan to weaken the government through privatization. For instance, I plan to privatize operations right here in the White House.”
Abe: “Are you saying you want to get the government off the back of the White House?”
Dubya: “Sure. Why not start at the top? We have found a corporate donor who will pay for all White House operations. This will save the taxpayers a bundle and Mr. Cheney says we’ll soon get used to the name ‘ExxonMobil White House.’”
Abe: “It may be that there is a profundity to your thinking that I’m failing to grasp. Perhaps you can tell me what great crisis you have faced that forced you back on the resources of your own character?”
Dubya: “Well we had an exciting election last year. Brother Jeb and I both showed we have character by being brave enough to stand up to the voters of Florida.”
Abe gave young Bush a solemn, disapproving look, so Dubya quickly spoke up: “Come on, Top Hat, you have no idea what it’s like to be in a tough election. At one point I even had to round up a gang of Republicans to harass the ballot counters in Miami, just to make sure democracy didn’t get out of hand. I mean, what would you have done?”
Abe: “Not that.”
Dubya: “But I wanted to be president. How could I let a bunch of ballots stop me?”
Abe threw another dark look toward young Bush and was about to speak when Dubya again piped up: “Anyway Old Timer, one thing you can say about my character is that I understand the meaning of the word generousness. All the guys who gave me money to run for office are getting paid back handsomely through my tax cuts.”
Abe: “So you see the office of the president as an investment opportunity?”
Dubya: “Well, yes. Is that wrong?”
Abe: “I always thought that my first duty, after preserving the union, was to see the needs of our most distressed citizens. Does your tax plan do that?”
Dubya: “You sound kind of liberal, Top Hat. Are you sure you’re a Republican?”
Abe: “Well, I…Oh, never mind. I’ve seen enough to understand what’s going on here. I’ll depart now, but I’ll come back in about four years.”
Dubya: “Don’t rush off, Scarecrow. I want to explain what I’ve done to change the environment.”
A mournful sobbing is heard that gradually fades into the background.
Dubya (to himself): “Boy that old dude is sure hard to please. There must be a Republican ghost from the past who would appreciate what I’m doing. But who could it be? Whoever he is, I wish he’d pay me a visit.”
Concerning other ghostly appearances in President Bush’s sleeping quarters, I can only say that my office has received reports of a second visit within the past few days. I have been unable to determine who that ghost was, though he reportedly got along extremely well with President Bush who addressed the visitor as “Shadows.”
Immediately following that second visitation, President Bush declared that the GOP had outgrown its title as “the Party of Lincoln.” From now on the official designation will be “the Party of Nixon.”
Now, here is an excerpt from Dowd's May 27 New York Times piece, which she titled "No Whiff of Poof." In Dowd's article the ghost is Bush's grandfather, Senator Prescott Bush, who appears just as "W" is “safely tucked away in the Aspen cottage for his nap.”
A deep voice pierced his pout.
"George," the voice intoned, "you know I always leave the room when anyone utters a vulgarity."
W. shivered. He recognized the Brahmin tones and unmangled syntax of his late grandfather, Prescott Bush, who always made him wear a tie at dinner. The craggy 6-foot-4 specter was frowning at him from beneath bushy eyebrows. He looked like a Roman senator, his gray hair swept back in a pompadour style and parted in the middle. He wore a double-breasted gray suit and shoes polished to a high shine.
Prescott Bush was just as full of Episcopalian rectitude as a ghost as he had been as a Connecticut senator and Wall Street banker.
W. reflexively bolted upright, hiding his plastic cup of Cheez Doodles under the covers.
"George," Prescott said, "we need to talk about noblesse oblige."
W. got squinty. "That's near Sierra Leone, right?"
Coincidence or "the sincerest form of flattery"? You decide.