Home » As the Buck Screeches to a Halt

As the Buck Screeches to a Halt

by Douglas Anthony Cooper

“He’s a vile, detestable, moralistic person with no heart and no conscience who believes he’s been tapped by God to do very important things.”

No, that’s not an assessment of George W. Bush. It’s the beginning of the smear campaign against the prosecutor: the quotation is from a “White House ally… referring to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.”

I’m not the first to note the irony that the White House, which is being prosecuted for a smear job, is beginning to resort to just that tactic in response. They have to; they’re not much good at anything else. But a smear campaign without Rove is like the Astros sans Clemens — here you have a talent that comes along maybe once in a generation. Rove is the Great One, the Gretzky of Libel; can you imagine anyone else cooking up that bit about McCain’s illegitimate black child? Perhaps he’ll continue to orchestrate the slander from his cell, but it won’t be easy.

I took that quotation from the New York Daily News, by the way, and it’s a fine time to be reading the tabloids. The best sports writing is always found in the tabs; and now that Washington politics is beginning to resemble Mexican wrestling, these are the go-to papers for jazzy political coverage. (I’ve been getting a huge kick out of over-the-top Sox metaphors — will get to that in a moment.)

You won’t find this kind of opera in the sober, serious, unreliable New York Times; time to turn to the Daily News:


“Facing the darkest days of his presidency, President Bush is frustrated, sometimes angry and even bitter, his associates say….”Bush usually reserves his celebrated temper for senior aides because he knows they can take it. Lately, however, some junior staffers have also faced the boss’ wrath.”‘This is not some manager at McDonald’s chewing out the help,’ said a source with close ties to the White House when told about these outbursts. ‘This is the President of the United States, and it’s not a pleasant sight.'”


(No, it’s not the manager of your local McDonald’s. If it were, the franchise would be in the red, the Freedom Fries soggy, and the burgers tainted with salmonella.)


“Presidential advisers and friends say Bush is a mass of contradictions: cheerful and serene, peevish and melancholy, occasionally lapsing into what he once derided as the ‘blame game.'”


Speaking of tabloids, the National Enquirer reported recently that George has begun drinking again. Now, the National Enquirer is only marginally more reliable than the newspaper of record, but that Jekyll/Hyde description sure fits the profile. (Actually — contrary to popular belief — the Enquirer gave up on “Space Aliens Ate My Baby” stories a long time ago, and has an admirable record when it comes to fact checking. If they reported it, then it’s likely true. href=”http://slate.msn.com/id/2102303/”>Slate has a good piece on the surprisingly high standards at the tab.)


“Bush is so dismayed that ‘the only person escaping blame is the President himself,’ said a sympathetic official, who delicately termed such self-exoneration ‘illogical.'”


Illogical, perhaps, but utterly consistent. (For a rigorous psychological assessment, read “The Children’s Hour.”) The president has simply never been able to take a hard look in the mirror. And do you blame him? What he would see there, especially now, is what many of us have always seen: he’s a little man. A blustering peevish martinet.

In the absence of an honest mirror, I sometimes wonder which image of George Walker Bush he retains in his head: the magnanimous, folksy Texan that he puts on in front of the cameras, or the vicious bully that’s emerging at the office. I suspect the former, augmented with all sorts of hilarious martial and religious virtues, too wacky even to insert in scripted speeches.

Let’s face it: “not pleasant” is an understatement. Imagine some poor earnest Republican intern, straight out of a small-town Midwestern college, having to hold back tears as the most powerful man in the world dresses him down in front of his friends. (I’d be no good in that situation. I’d be inclined to say, “Get out of my face, clown.” Hello, Gitmo…)

How did this happen? American historians will be pondering this for decades. How did a man with these qualities — which were never a secret — rise to the most important office in the land? Nixon was a dark figure, to be sure, but he was a giant relative to George. Reagan, even if you thought him asleep at the wheel, was a monument of competence beside this fumbling zero. Even Bush Sr. looks almost presidential in retrospect.

What’s interesting to me is that you’re hearing just this sort of talk these days from the far right. As the Harriet Miers wrecking ball smashes holes in the false front, suddenly hard-core Republicans are describing the president in terms that I could have written. God bless them.




So, anyway, how about them Sox. Humble people finding unexpected success is a bit more uplifting than faux cowboys predictably biting the dust. And those hyperbolic sports metaphors — damn. My favorite trope isn’t actually from the tabs, but from John Donovan at Sports Illustrated, in his description of Joe Crede’s glorious glove-work:


“Not since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has a man with leather made so much noise.”

Leave a Comment