The public's love affair with the Bush administration is souring. Polls show that voters are deeply worried about its handling of the economy, although they still claim to like George W. Bush as a person. It makes sense, of course, since who doesn't enjoy the company of a charming confidence man?
In the movie, a rakish George Clooney can play him, winking and smirking and flirting as he hatches corporate scams, squanders his friends' money and rides a friendly Supreme Court into the White House.
Americans are up against the reality that while the son of old vet Poppy might make for an interesting dinner guest, telling family war stories and all, like his father he lacks the seriousness of purpose required to manage daily life in the real world.
And should we really expect more from men who never had to take out the garbage, let alone worry about paying the mortgage? Men for whom the making of money was a game without real risk or purpose? Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing? Heck, what's the big deal? When a big corporation goes under, those with connections get tipped off long before Joe Shmoe and his pet portfolio. If a Bush loses liquidity, friends will come running, checkbooks open, as they did for George W. to pay for his string of failed Texas investments. Besides, the family trust fund is where the "real" money is kept.
The Bushes are, as a matter of breeding, terminally irresponsible. And while being a loose cannon can sometimes be useful in making war, it is stability and pragmatism that breed prosperity.
The Bushes' contempt for government regulation of capitalism has allowed corporate piracy to drive the nation toward financial ruin. The American public now stares in disbelief as our infamous boom-Bush cycle wreaks havoc on its retirement plans and endangers its jobs. Meanwhile, yet another President George seeks to distract us with patriotic-sounding gibberish.
"I believe people have taken a step back and asked, 'What's important in life?'" said the president two weeks ago in Minneapolis. "You know, the bottom line and this corporate America stuff -- is that important? Or is serving your neighbor, loving your neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself?"
Consider the deep cynicism of that statement from a president who spent most of his adult life milking that "corporate America stuff" for all it was worth, just as his super-rich ancestors had always done.
Diffident in the face of the traumas of ordinary Americans, George W., like his father before him, will make the times extraordinary. War against Iraq is the president's much-planned-for answer, if the oft-rumored "economic recovery" doesn't sustain his popularity.
That's what all this talk of al-Qaida sleeper cells, homeland security and knocking off Saddam Hussein is about: a backdrop for the theater of war, a necessary distraction to a set of domestic policies that has failed miserably. The massive tax cut brought us nothing but soaring national debt, Alan Greenspan has been revealed as an impotent Wizard of Oz and the Republican magic bullet of monetarism has proved a bust.
But while the end of Hussein's tyranny would certainly be a cause for cheers, the harsh truth is that the most exhaustive investigation in human history hasn't found a single credible thread connecting him with our current troubles.
In fact, if we are honest, the closest we can come to an identifiable foreign enemy is Saudi Arabia, where the Bushes love to do business and from whence the men and money came to destroy the World Trade Center.
The president should heed the call of Richard Grasso, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, who said on Sunday, "We've got to wage a war against terrorism in the boardroom, against misleading investors." But to wage that fight, Bush would have to get rid of the corporate hustlers who dominate economic policy in his administration.
So get out the yellow ribbons and cheer those fireworks over Baghdad.
After all, a victory party might take some of the sting off the fact that your hard-earned retirement chest is nothing but a wistful memory.