For someone not known as an ideas man, our princely emperor of a president has managed to spark the debate of debates. Its proposition was best captured by the Roman senator from West Virginius, Robertus Byrdogus, who took his campaign from the floor of the Senate to an op-ed forum in the Houston Chronicle, a leading tribunal in the princely emperor’s home province. The gravamen of the ancient senator’s complaint: President Bush displayed unseemly “flamboyant showmanship … aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln” — so unlike “the reported simple dignity of President Lincoln at Gettysburg.”
Aging fast, Byrd observed: “I do question the motives of a desk-bound president who assumes the garb of a warrior for the purposes of a speech.” Let’s go the videotape, a fact-checking device not available at the time of the reported Gettysburg address. It depicts the American emperor in full regalia addressing the crew of the
Senatorus Byrd owes our emperor an apology, or face exile to Thracia, beyond the reach of most federal jobs programs.
Mr. Paul Krugman, the famed man, though younger than Byrdogus, is no less optically challenged, probably because a sworded GOP centurion gouged out his eyes at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. He too is disturbed by the image of Bush on the Lincoln, though in his more sophisticated case because it reminded him of another fellow named George. Krugman’s model for Bush: the late nineteenth-century French general, Georges Boulanger, who “looked splendid in uniform, and magnificent on horseback. So his handlers made sure that he appeared in uniform, astride a horse, as often as possible.” Before you knew it, French democracy was under siege. “Has ’man on horseback’ politics come to America?” Krugman pretends to want to know.
Let’s return to the Lincoln deck. Any sailor see anyone on a horse lately? True, Bush has been seen on a horse before, but mainly on the zone of privacy known as his Midland ranch. His uniform on those occasions? Blue jeans and cowboy hat. Can democracy survive a leader in Levis?
Suggestion to Krugman: next time compare the president to a real man on horseback, Napoleon. Think “big time,” like your retiring colleague Adam Clymer. And tackle the big questions. Was the Abraham Lincoln even in U.S. waters when the White House first considered the presidential visit? How could it then proceed with its plans without obtaining U.N. permission first? Plus we still need to know whether the Lincoln’s extra time at sea to accommodate its VIP visitor contributed to global ocean warming.
One fellow to consult on the matter could be writer Jacques Leslie. He has achieved overnight fame by confirming that he is one of several members of Yale’s Class 1968 who will not attend the 35th reunion picnic at the White House that classmate George W. Bush is organizing. “I wouldn’t be able to shake his hand without showing hostility,” he told the Washington Post about Bush.
Unlike the president, Jacques Leslie has his own Home Page on the web. It’s a smoking gun. In a recent cover story for Harper’s, he writes that the world is running out of fresh water. He’s especially proud of this piece, nonetheless, because it “made me feel I’d finally found the marriage of voice, style, and subject I’d been seeking.” Nice to hear a progressive put in a good word for marriage. More importantly: “The [fresh water] topic was a slice of what I take to be the great looming story of the twenty-first century, the unraveling of the global environment.” You’d think he’d attend the picnic just to deliver a greeting from Al Gore.
There is other evidence that Mr. Leslie and Mr. Bush weren’t frat brothers. As he boasts about his days as a L.A. Times reporter in Vietnam, in 1973 ” I became the first American journalist to enter and return from Viet Cong territory.” Above the posted reprint, we’re told: “This story was a considerable coup. It was written on two hours’ sleep in the previous 48 hours.” Breathtakingly respectful of authority, it includes such gems as this interview with an on the record Viet Cong source:
During our dinner I asked [Communist village chief Le Hoang] Oanh how he felt about eating with an American after having fought against the United States for so many years.
“We consider that there are two kinds of Americans,” he said. “One we call imperialists, who come with bombs and weapons to kill our people and destroy our land. They are our enemies.”
“However, the cease-fire is an agreement of reconciliation and we don’t see anyone as our enemy anymore.
“The second kind of American we call peaceful and progressive. They do not come here to destroy or kill– they are people like Martin Luther King and the movie actress Jane Fonda. We do not see them as our enemies, but as helping us. We really appreciate Americans such as those in the women’s movement who prevent their sons from fighting in South Vietnam.
“You can recognize friendship easily. If we were not friends we would not sit down and eat at the same table. If we were not friends, we would not talk about the things we are talking about now,” Oanh said.
Luckily for our EOW Jacques Leslie, he showed no hostility at all when he shook hands with Comrade Oanh.