Dunce Fever

It's entirely possible that this great country desperately needs a dunderhead just now

 "They misunderestimated me." -- George W. Bush, November 6, 2000

The probable ascendancy of George W. Bush is incontrovertible proof that America loves a dolt. This does not mean that Dubya will be a bad president. It's entirely possible that this great country desperately needs a dunderhead just now -- someone who's just dense enough to think he can Texas two-step into Washington, grin a lot and "unite the nation" by the sheer weight of personality and naive good intentions.

Pardon my mugwumpery, but I am not particularly eager to "unite" with a nation that would put its trust in a character like Dubya.

New Times photo illustration

"If affirmative action means what I just described, what I'm for, then I'm for it." -- Bush, October 18

Arizonans favored Dubya on November 7, and we should be immediately comfortable with a man of his stripe. We do, after all, have a long and proud tradition of electing imbeciles.

Let me count the ways: Eldon Rudd, Hawley Atkinson, Jesus "Chuy" Higuera, Bobby Raymond, Dick Godbehere, Evan Mecham, Jim Cooper, Rose Mofford, J. Fife Symington III, Joe Arpaio, Tony West, Bob Stump, J.D. Hayworth, Skip Rimsza, Jim Irvin, Frances Barwood, Jeff Groscost, Karen Johnson, Jim Stapley, Barbara Blewster, Jane Hull.

In the voters' defense, not all these people started out as dunces. Some of them suffered brain death while in office.

Cooper, a state legislator, once told a committee that "if a student wants to say the world is flat, the teacher doesn't have the right to try to prove otherwise."

As reporters pressed him, Mecham once blurted, "We'll answer questions. We'll choose the questions."

With the alternative-fuels money drain, Hull is presiding over the most spectacular blunder in Arizona history. Yet no heads have rolled, and Hull and her staff are pointing fingers that ought to be directed at themselves. We expect nothing less.

On November 7, voters in Arizona also overwhelmingly favored Arpaio, Stump, Hayworth and our newest congressman, a Luddite named Jeff Flake. Surprisingly, District 30 voters did jettison Groscost. His ouster notwithstanding, Arizonans managed to buttress our status as a dumbbellwether for the nation.

And now, by all appearances, we have a true national standard-bearer in George W. Bush.

"Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream." -- Bush, October 18

Thoughtful Americans need not despair. With each passing generation, the White House -- and the federal government in general -- becomes more irrelevant.

How much damage could somebody like Dubya do? We survived the economic marauding of Ronald Reagan, a nice, senile guy who believed trees cause pollution and who fabricated his war experience.

What difference, really, will it make in your life -- or mine -- if George W. is president and Al Gore is not? Either way, the fix is still in. The immutable forces of commerce donated copiously to both.

"They want the federal government controlling Social Security like it's some kind of federal program." -- Bush, November 2

Political scientists grappling with the inexplicable rise of a George W. Bush have begun to invoke the term "populist." Once, this imprimatur implied great achievement in the face of humble beginnings. Now, unfortunately, it has become a euphemism for "moron."

Dubya possesses none of the erstwhile populist credentials. He was reared in the cradle of privilege. He did not pull himself up by his bootstraps -- there are no bootstraps in Kennebunkport. Aside from affability and some visceral political skills, he has achieved little of note. His oil business was a dry hole, and only his daddy's links to benevolent "investors" (one of whom would be appointed president of the Export-Import Bank by Reagan and George Sr.) prevented a total failure. His big payday as a baseball team owner came on the backs of the taxpayers of Arlington, Texas, who built him a new stadium.

But Harry S Truman was a rank populist with an underwhelming business pedigree. History has treated Truman well. Frequently derided as a bumptious fool while in office, he's now considered a man of courage and principle -- perhaps the last. Yet Truman had vast legislative experience before he became president. Dubya doesn't.

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." -- Bush, September 29

In Texas, being governor is a largely ceremonial task. One analysis that measures appointment power, budget and veto power and party control ranks Texas' gubernatorial prowess 49th in the nation. Dubya's legislative résumé is anemic. His "compassionate conservative" legacy as governor will be the 145 people executed under his tenure.

"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?" -- Bush, January 11

Al Gore is clearly more qualified, clearly smarter than Dubya. Which means diddly. (If intellect were the standard, Pat Buchanan or Ralph Nader would be selecting a cabinet.) Gore can be engaged extemporaneously, something I find comforting in the leader of the Free World. Yet while he can wax arcane on matters of public policy, Gore just doesn't seem capable of shooting the bull. Dubya's jocularity, his vulnerability, strike a chord.

Dubya requires intense handling, which means that the key decision-makers will be people who did not stand for election. Americans want a regular guy, a Presidential Pal, not some preening, humorless policy wonk who can actually answer a salient question without a script. Even Dick Cheney, the subordinate, runs cognitive circles around Dubya. We want a prom king -- or perhaps a monarchy, which is great news for Jeb Bush.

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