Monday, July 25, 2005

George W. Bush has been, without a doubt, the luckiest American President in history. A character as bumbling as any ever played by the beloved Jimmy Stewart, apparently as earnest but without the charm, W. has stammered and stumbled through the almost complete transformation of the American economic and political landscape, blithely unaware, it seems, that for all but a percent or two of the population, most of whom happen to be his closest friends, the change is for the worse.

His winning streak began on 9/11, a day of loss for the nation. The American people demanded both revenge abroad and assurances of security at home, a patently impossible combination of just the sort politicians love: perfect for their theater of the absurd, rife with opportunities to primp and prance and pose, reciting soliloquies to freedom and democracy, while backstage all manner of skullduggery’s afoot. The audience will forgive them the shoddy production values, we all want so badly to suspend disbelief these days.

So we’ve spoiled them. W’s troupe has come to expect alligator tears or riotous laughter on cue, and standing ovations when they flash their handy “Mission Accomplished” sign, and for the most part we’ve delivered. But some of the scenes in this splatstick comedy aren’t so funny. With every roadside bomb, Abu Ghraib, or Valerie Plame, the protagonists look a little more like the villains and the plot threatens to unravel. In fact, the outing of Valerie Plame is the Überscandal that should bring down the house, not merely because it exposes W. and his administration as petty, vengeful neo-Nixonian super-scoundrels, but because the paper trail leads right up to the President himself, and will prove once and for all that he knowingly misled a traumatized nation into an unnecessary war that promises only to exacerbate the violence they fear.

Will the Plame affair turn into another Watergate, then, forcing the President to step down or face impeachment? The Democrats are licking their lips, but it’s highly unlikely. The fear that has led to this tolerance for bald corruption in exchange for lies about safety and security is more powerful than any outrage that might be generated by this latest and greatest of scandals. No, our charmed President will bumble through the rest of his term, blinking like a deer in the headlights, and scamper off to Crawford in the end to clear his beloved brush for the remainder of his devil-may-care days. And if, before he has a chance to exit stage right to wild applause, the plot should begin to unravel, one of his trusty stagehands will surely shout “fire!” creating a panic and clearing the house, but leaving the players onstage unscathed, to have the last laugh.

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