At the behest of their charismatic leader, the cult members gathered in Waco, a hot, dusty town on the flat, featureless central Texas plain. They had been summoned to hear an endless series of droning sermons from the leader himself and his fellow fanatics.
Thunderously denouncing all doubters, all those who didn't believe as the cult members did, the speakers put forward a bizarre religious vision, one that no sane person could accept. As the hours passed, the group became more and more isolated from the real world until it was incapable of dealing with it.
The only thing missing was Janet Reno and her flamethrower.
George W. Bush's economic forum ended with the steady whoosh of departing corporate jets instead of a fiery apocalypse. This time the conflagration wasn't in Waco but on Wall Street where one airline declared bankruptcy, another threatened to if it didn't get what it wanted, and a third announced a massive restructuring with 7,000 lost jobs. In Washington, meanwhile, Alan Greenspan declined to embarrass his boss by lowering interest rates -- although the Fed did assess the current economic outlook in unusually gloomy terms.
But none of these inconvenient facts intruded on the president's revival meeting in the Lone Star State where discouraging words from non-believers were kept to the barest minimum. And while the president may have acknowledged that our economy is "challenged," an understatement akin to saying that David Koresh was "a tad kooky", the hallelujah chorus that was determined to drown out facts with blind faith clearly won the day.
Like the Branch Davidians, the Brunch Bushians found comfort by withdrawing from a world that was confusing, complicated, and just a little too unfriendly of late. Appropriately convened at the Old Time Christian Religion venue of Baylor University, the administration orchestrated a full-blown extravaganza complete with stirring words, a parade of icons, and even marching music by John Philip Sousa, designed to dazzle the gullible and win new converts. Reason was banished.
No one mentioned, for example, the expanding budget deficit or the exploding trade deficit and no one dared bring up the heresy of reconsidering the Brunch Bushians' disastrous tax cut. Au contraire.
"We heard a lot of really challenging ideas today," Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill intoned after the forum. And his idea of a challenging idea? "We had several people in my session tell us that not only should we make the tax cuts permanent, but we ought to accelerate the ones that are delayed." And there was no need to pass the hat at this gathering of the faithful. The CEO congregants crowding the front pews had already given, and given, and given.
The economic forum gained added significance from the fact that the president took precious time away from his month-long vacation - though it's not like he had to travel very far. No, this time the mountain of true believers came to Mohammed.
The president registered his concern (Seven cabinet members! Hearing from ordinary people! Taking a whole half-day off from his vacation! Recovery must be just around the bend!) but the message that came through was more one of faith, increasingly desperate faith, that powerful and mysterious forces, the gods of the free market, will eventually pull the Dow out of its nosedive.
But while the Burning Bush preached to the choir at Baylor, an ominous rumbling was coming from outside. This time, it was not ATF sharpshooters and tanks, it's those ordinary citizens the Brunch Bushians pretended to include in Waco. They keep losing jobs and losing their savings while their president keeps telling them that, despite the increasingly grim realities of their daily lives, they still gotta believe in the Bushians' Holy Trinity: more tax cuts, less regulation, and more domestic energy exploration.
Pass the Kool-Aid, pardner.