Tuesday, April 25, 2006


"Old rocking chair's got me, my cane by my side.
Fetch me that gin son, 'fore I tan your hide.
Can't get from this cabin, goin' nowhere.
Just set me here grabbin' at the flies round this rocking chair."

--song by Hoagy Carmichael

It's not really the way we picture George W. Bush in his retirement years. But as if a proof of the President's fondness for selling the implausible wrapped up in a sweet confection; he buttered up his resigning Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, in a saccharine ceremony on the White House lawn.

Bush was mentioning the prospect of Golden Years, which would include future reminiscences with Scotty in rocking chairs.

On BBC TV there was a deadpan report of what followed: George planned for the theatrical flourish of flying Scott Boy away in the Presidential Helicopter, while the cameras drank it all in. But the flying machine had a major malfunction, and could not take off. The President with that characteristic chuckle that makes his shoulders bob up and down, emerged minutes later, into the cruel light of day.

It was tempting to think of this spectacle, as having the impact of a metaphor, and somehow, being a kind of wink from the gods. Only a few moments earlier, they had been talking about rocking chairs.

It's hard being the mouthpiece for a lying and criminal government, unless like Goebbels, the megaphone of the Third Reich, the creature really has its heart in it. McClellan never had that kind of enthusiasm, and his coping skills included vegging out in front of the White House press corps. When the Press Secretary was in "The Zone" he could achieve what one flabbergasted critic called "negative information", the Zen-like ability to somehow subtract from a reporter's knowledge, rather than to give any information at all. But on most days Scott McClellan's interaction with the press corps was humdrum and tedious, falling back ad nauseum on stock phrases and evasion.

But the Press Secretary's job satisfaction began to sour fast after the 2004 election. All the vipers, which were in the mud of the Bush administration, began to hatch out. The lies, the venal crimes, the treason, the incompetence; it was a war of attrition that Scott was losing. And in the regular press briefings, McClellan's personal honor, trustworthiness, and truthfulness were under fire by increasingly frustrated and combative reporters.

The confrontational tone of these bouts began to tell on Scott McClellan. The fate of those in New Orleans during the Katrina disaster, and the complete breakdown of federal responsibility to respond to those in the path of the storm, was the beginning of a steep political decline; and it contributed the most to the end of the public's confidence in Bush and his spokesperson, "Scotty".

George Bush and Scott McClellan as octogenarians, with their snow-white hair and translucent skin, sitting side by side in rocking chairs, slapping their knees over the good times they've had in the 2000-oughts, is more than enough to make a person bust out laughing.
"But Mr. President,...I was wondering... do they have rocking chairs in federal prison?"


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