Chauncey Gardiner Still Lives….in the White House!

Okay, we’ve heard all the theories”dry-drunk”, still drunk, President-on-coke, Daddy and Uncle Dick’s puppet, and just plain dumb (President D’uh-bya, etc).Aren’t you tired of all the speculation about the pronouncements and actions (or inactions) of Commander-in-Thief, as we are marching-off-to-war while America burns? Well, the joke’s on you.

In one of the smoothest scams on the public in history, daddy George, first realizing that W. was a loser, and that Jeb-the preferred son— couldn’t even quietly fix an election, and that neither could carry out, discretely, the requisite oil-land grabs and coups—put in place an alternative plan to guarantee there would be an anointed successor to the family realm. So, he replaced W.-the so-called president— with Chauncey Gardiner.

Enter Chauncey

You remember Chauncey, the simple-minded gardener? In what would become his swan song, Peter Sellers brilliantly portrayed Chauncey in the classic, Being There (1979). Bumped by a limo carrying the wife of a millionaire, Eve Rand, played by Shirley MacClaine, the gardener is helped up by Eve’s drivers. He responds to questions by explaining his name is Chance, he is a gardener. He is homeless after his master had died. They mistake his full name as Chauncey Gardiner. Feeling sorry for him, and afraid of liability questions, Eve convinces her dying millionaire husband, Benjamin Rand (Melvyn Douglas) to set Chance up in a guest suite, where he is happy to find a television (his most famous line is, “I like to watch.”).

He then captures the hearts of Eve, her husband and their powerful friends. Eve says, “You know, he’s very, umm, intense.” Ben thinks he is a former businessman who has been wronged by SEC lawyers, taxes, unions, etc., and has, in the process, lost his business. Ben proclaims, “Isn’t that what a businessman is? A gardener? A person that makes flinty soil productive with the labor of his own hands, who waters it with sweat from his own brow, and who creates a place of value for his family and community? Yes, indeed, Chauncey, a productive businessman is a laborer in his own vineyard.” Chauncey then charms his hosts with pleasant metaphors of gardening…”there is growth in the Spring” metaphors. Rand and his politically-connected friends mistake these sayings for simple but powerfully-true economic theories. Ben introduces Chauncey to the president, played by Jack Warden, who says, “I admire your good solid sense. It’s precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill”. Amidst media buzz and baffled inquirers, he becomes an unofficial advisor. He appears on a national talk show, and “enlightens” the host “So you’re saying, Mr. Gardiner, if the Stock Market collapses, and unemployment keeps increasing that this is just another season, so to speak, in the garden?” The President tries to use Chauncey to lift his own administration out of its woes. When background checks by security turn up nothing, he says, “What do you mean he has no background? That’s impossible. I quoted the man on national television.” Later, as Rand dies, and the denizens of the Beltway continue to wallow in its aimlessness and spiritual crisis (Jimmy Carter’s malaise days), Rand’s powerful industrial cabal decides to catapult Chauncey to the Presidency.

The Switch

Well, we thought that movie was fiction. Well, surprise! It was a true story, and Chauncey Gardiner truly still lives. He didn’t just walk out of history at the end, appearing to walk on water. The Chauncey character was a real person, who watched on as Sellers portrayed him. Bush the Senior met the real Chauncey as he watched from the sidelines during the shooting, having been invited by the producers, who were friends of his. You see, George Sr. dropped by in-between trips to the ex-CIA Spook’s Club (former directors), where they reminisced over glasses of stolen Cuban rum about dirty little wars and exploding cigars, and his early campaign swings for his first ill-fated run for the top spot in 1980. He convinces his mogel buddies who owned the movie studio to call Roy Disney, to investigate the science used to freeze-dry Walt (he’s still on dry-ice, so to speak). George, Sr. realized that, someday, he may need an ace-in-the-hole like Chauncey.

Well, one thing leads to another, and, years later, after retiring from the White House, Senior secretly woke up Chauncey and, after a surprisingly small amount of plastic surgery, converted him into a likeness of W. The real W. has been living for years in a nice beach-front hacienda in Cancun, where he can keep up on his Spanish, and party till he pukes, 24-7, year round.

Chauncey’s Wisdom

Still don’t believe me? I was first suspicious when I read some of the “President’s” pronouncements, and statements made by those close to him. After a little digging, though, I discovered the truth.

Pay attention to and you’ll begin to see what I mean. The highlighted statements below are actually those of Chauncey, cloned as George W. For comparison, I have also added some quotes from the movie.

Be prepared for a glimpse of enlightenment.

The Garden

“As long as the roots are not severed, all is well, and all will be wellin the Garden.”

“You know, where I’m from, when winter comes, we quit mowing the grass”.

“That is correct. There will be growth in the spring.”

“Although these are very young weeds, they’re going to grow very rapidly if they’re not carefully examined.”*

“In a garden, growth has its season. There is spring and summer, but there is also fall and winter. And then spring and summer again…”

“It’s good to see so many friends here in the** Garden. This is our first event in this beautiful spot….in such a beautiful, beautiful part of our national–really, our national park system, my guess is you would want to call it.”

“..And if you give your garden a lot of love, and if you work very hard and have a lot of patience, in the proper season you will see it grow to be very beautiful…”

“I guess all land is precious, but the part that the people uniformly would not want to spoil, will not be despoiled…”

“Its trees are healthy and so are its shrubs and flowers, as long as they are trimmed and watered in the right seasons. The garden needs a lot of careeverything will grow strong, and there is plenty of room in it for new trees and new flowers of all kinds.”

“I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.”

“…It is the responsibility of the gardener to adjust to the bad seasons as well as enjoy the good ones.”

On House and Home

“Home is important. It’s important to have a home.”

“I’ve never been allowed out of the house”.

“This is Preservation Month. I appreciate preservationYou gotta preserve.”

On Reading and Learning

“I do not read any papers. I watch TV.”

“People make suggestions on what to say all the timeI don’t read what’s handed to me”—“I’ve read–I understand reality.”

“I like to watch.”

Of Life and Living

“It’s important for us to explain to our nation that life is important. “I have seen it before. It happens to old people.”

“This is what I’m good at. I like meeting peopleI like interfacing with them.”

“Life is a state of mind.”***

Lessons from the Garden?

Well? Still unconvinced? Just try to pick who said what. (just keep remembering, the last names are BushGardinerBush.)

For some clarification, let’s revisit Roger Ebert’s review from the ’80s of Being There. “Being There, directed by Hal Ashby, is a rare and subtle bird that finds its tone and stays with it. It has the appeal of an ingenious intellectual game, in which the hero survives a series of challenges he doesn’t understand, using words that are both universal and meaningless

“If Chance’s little slogans reveal how superficial public utterance can be, his reception reveals still more. Because he is WASP, middle-aged, well-groomed, dressed in tailored suits, and speaks like an educated man, he is automatically presumed to be a person of substance. He is, in fact, socially naive (“a little boy,” he’s told by his master’s maid). But this leads to a directness than can be mistaken for confidence, as when he addresses the president by his first name, or enfolds his hand in both of his own. The movie argues that if you look right, sound right, speak in platitudes and have powerful friends, you can go far in our society. By the end of the film, Chance is being seriously proposed as a presidential candidate. Well, why not?”

Indeed. Ebert thought the character applied to another Republican President, an actor. However, the old gipper’s been upstaged by the former VP he supposedly looked down on. For now, let’s just leave it at this…it is good to harvest the fruit. Or, maybe, a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. Or, maybe.

(P.S. The current “President’s” words are the even-lined quotes. The movie Chauncey’s lines are the odd ones. Thanks to Slate.Com for many of the “Bushisms”.)

* These words were actually spoken by Mitchell Daniels Jr., Director of OMB, on February 25, 2001. These were really Chauncey’s words, spoken by his budget director, meant to deflect attention from the real author.

** Rose Garden, that is.

***These were the last words in the movie, in the spirit of but not spoken by Chauncey.

THOMAS CROFT is the Director of the Heartland Labor Capital Network. He can be reached at: t.w.croft@att.net

© TW Croft, 2002. From the Unauthorized Autobiography of T.W.Croft

© 2001, T.W. Croft


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