We will reform Social Security and Medicare, sparing our children from struggles we have the power to prevent. And we will reduce taxes, to recover the momentum of our economy and reward the effort and enterprise of working Americans.
We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge.
We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors.
I DON'T propose to tick off a chronology of Bush administration foibles, failures, and felonies; the internets, while vast, are not infinite. But the arc of the ascension of The Man They Call Dubya, And Who Calls Them "Chief", "Stretch", or "Gonzo", seems so neatly to presage all that came after that it seems the inevitable place to begin. Besides, while so much in life is covered by the ol' Hidsight is 20/20 routine, George W. Bush, clearly, is not among those. It couldn't have been more clear that the man was unfit, ill-equipped, and all but disinterested in The Presidency, which he seemed to regard as some sort of honorific, like "Governor of Texas" or "Air National Guard Pilot". This leaves us with a single conclusion: that nearly half of the electorate, and nearly all of the Press, are blind babbling lunatics, or at least the small percentage of them who qualify as honest are. Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani thanked God that George W. Bush was President on September 11. John Hinderrocket marveled that a man so intellectually superior to his fellow human beings as to almost constitute a separate species could endure their opprobrium without stooping to having them squashed. And they are both, as of this morning, still walking around free.
The American public, by the time January 20 of 2001 rolled around, had endured six weeks of hysterical Press babble about falling skies and Constitutional crises should Al Gore press the desire to count actual votes in Florida, narrowly aversion of that crisis by a quick-thinking Court. In the meantime, of course, the public hadn't panicked in the slightest, as the public actually realizes, however well it hides the recognition, that politicians, the Press, and celebrities in general are just hyperactive braggert children. Unfortunately this same public has never figured out not to give any of 'em matches and tinder.
The Bush inaugural procession, at least the part of it carrying the soon-to-be Acting President, suddenly stopped dead in the middle of the parade route--remember?--for like ten minutes, for reasons which were never explained on teevee, and which remained inexplicable to the audience, since the massive protests were barely alluded to and never shown. The public, which had recently been so concerned lest vote counting and winner announcing be delayed long enough to get them right, was now to be portrayed as a vast pacific field eager to return to what were then known as "Jobs", televised mayhem, and lap of Morpheus, a point which merely required keeping the cameras off everyone who didn't qualify in order to stress.
Sore Losermans! The Bush camp had already used the M-word the month before, right on schedule, and now Bush would exhibit his new reading skills with a speech that seemed to have been crafted in 1999, one which backhanded Bill Clinton a couple times (discreetly, with a capital-D) before inviting his political opponents to be bi-partisan or else. Jes' Lak Texas! Then off to two days of partying with a Texas twang more blatantly constructed that Bush's own. Oh, Goody! We're about to be governed by a pair of boots!
Like the country, I had survived Reagan--of the two of us I had perhaps done slightly better--so I can't say there was a serious foreboding about Bush's politics. It was, rather, that sense that nothing was right--before it had been stolen from voters (that minor irritant the Bush camp never once made any appeal to, or suggested it believed was the source of political power) the election had been stolen by pundits, turned into a referendum over whether Al Gore was too boring to be President yet, somehow, too bizarre at the same time, a man supposedly given to making wild, megalomaniacal claims about himself.
This was bullshit on the face of it; not that politicians have not been known to get away with that sort of thing on occasion, or that occasionally a politician bases his entire appeal on it, but it clearly wasn't the case with Al Gore.
And, ultimately, the people who told us horror stories about Al Gore were backing George W. Bush as a man. As a candidate, a leader, as a paradigm of Not Clinton. And that did not ring true either. In fact the downright curious thing in all of it is how--absent serious bias--one could possibly have been so completely and utterly wrong about two people. Gore may have been wooden, and dull, but he was clearly a serious man, too serious to have been flattered by Love Story or Inventing the Internet. George W. Bush, misunderestimated to the power of 16, would not yet be Presidential timber.
No, there is simply no explanation for the performance of the Press throughout campaign 2000, or the lapdog treatment of George W. Bush thereafter. Mere cupidity, simple bias, and a string of corporatist paychecks (over and under the table) stretching to the Moon cannot explain how anyone looked at George W. Bush in January 2001 without realizing we were whistling past the graveyard.