It is the habit of the political punditry (its methanous membership being addicted to making predictions) to indulge in periodic self-congratulatory auto-review. Ignoring the scads of completely wrong guesses in their archives, the nabobs of natter dredge up a handful of accurate prognostications and mull them over in such a way that vague, caveat-couched guesses come off as feats of perfect augury. This is usually done around New Year’s Day, so these bouts of shameless narcissism can be disguised as thoughtful self-reflection. I forgot to do it at New Year’s, owing to a champagne accident. So pardon my vanity, dragging out a column from Valentine’s Day of 2003, nigh sixteen months ago, with which I hope to epoxy in the public eye my genius for predictive analysis.
“Bush, G.W. 43d American President (locum tenens)
In private life an unsuccessful oil executive, George W. Bush was installed as president of the United States by the Supreme Court in the year 2000. At first an ineffectual president both at home and abroad, he was invested following the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001 (see sidebar) with enormous political authority. Seizing opportunity in the name of fighting terrorism, Bush advanced an aggressive agenda to secure the world’s natural resources for private interests, especially the petroleum industry. After initiating a disastrous program of economic, military and diplomatic actions coupled with severe domestic security measures, Bush’s administration collapsed under a wave of scandals. The impact of his presidency on America’s international standing is still felt today. According to an obscure satirist of the period, “George W. Bush was the a**hole that ate the world.”
I wrote this epitaph Two Februarys ago, playing Cassandra. There was a ripple of shock among my correspondents, particularly as I used asterisks in the middle of a rude word when it is my usual habit to employ the word unbowdlerized, including a detailed etymology complete with synonyms and historical sources. But I was facsimileing a page from a history book of the future, and in history books you don’t see many expletives, particularly as my own history book project has stalled rather badly. Reading the above excerpt (I say ‘above’ because I’m assuming you read with the text upright, not on its side or upside-down), two things strike me immediately (three if you include the leather-clad dwarf whose job it is to lash me awake with a switch): 1. I was trying to be funny. For this I can only apologize and hope for a Christ-like patience on the part of my readers. B) I was right.
Being right about where the Bush infestation was headed is no great feat of intellect. An unripe casaba melon could have figured out that Bush and his gang of second-string, Cold War desk-polishers were headed for disaster. In their minds, we beat the Soviet Union, it didn’t collapse under the weight of its own military-industrial economy. In their minds, the Bushmen believe we could have won the Vietnam War. In their minds, black people, women, and the natural world are all cheating, trying to get something for nothing, and the only answer is to promote the interests of corporate rapine before all those no-goodniks lock up the larder forever. Anybody could see where this government was headed. And they did. And, with the exception of my braw fellow scribes on the Left-Wing lunatic limbus, they kept quiet.
Recently it’s all the rage to give somebody in the Bush camp the hot foot: “Tenet Terminates Tenure!” “Wolfowitz, Schmolfowitz!” “Rumsfeld Feckless Or Worse!” “Three Recipes For Condoleezza Rice!” Journalists are falling over themselves to find a scandal they can expose first, thus securing the turf for future book rights. Sy Hersh scores big in Abu Ghreib! Washington Post breaks plastic turkey scandal! There’s something dreadfully jejeune about the whole thing. What’s so bold about gathering in a mob to pelt Bush with clinker bricks after he’s hoist himself, petard-wise. If you want to attack a president, attack him when he’s at his most powerful, you pusillanimous, dyslogiac rhyparographers! Pussies! The media are to be congratulated for finally condescending to call this Criminally Incompetent Administration by its right name; they are to be derided for waiting until well after its component swine dragged us all to the Devil’s doorstep. I mean ‘pussies’ in the sense of kitty cats.
My column contained assorted other prognostications that have since come true. It is a hollow gloat to boast that I saw what was coming long before it was fashionable to do so. Any political observer above the age of three could have predicted where we’d be today. All it took was a modicum of honest thought. So here’s another prediction, O craven fellow-pundits: the worst is yet to come. Come New Year’s day, you can kiss my a**.
BEN TRIPP is a screenwriter and cartoonist, who lives in a large human settlement 100 miles south of Bakersfield, which we cannot name for security reasons. Ben also has a lot of outrageously priced crap for sale here. A collection of Tripp’s essays, Square in the Nuts, will be published this summer. If his writing starts to grate on your nerves, buy some and maybe he’ll flee to Mexico. If all else fails, he can be reached at: email@example.com