Bush's hard fall

His career was based on creating low expectations and then meeting them, but Katrina brought a cold blast of reality.

Published September 21, 2005 8:21PM (EDT)

These are hard times, but then life is hard, as it says in Ecclesiastes: "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong nor riches to men of understanding; but time and chance happeneth to them all." And now scientists have found that football fans experience a 20 percent drop in testosterone after their teams lose a game. Your team goes down to bitter defeat and you sit on the couch, crushed, almost in tears, and your wife snuggles up next to you and blows in your ear and you think, "Oh no, not that again."

Which is one more reason to give up watching football. So instead you write poems and spend a year doing that and gradually realize that they are hopeless, unreadable, a verbal goulash of no interest to anybody. And your wife calls you to come to bed and you think, "Why is she wearing that sheer lingerie? What if someone sees?" Ambition gets in the way of the simple joy of passion, which is in your head. You and she may have been married for a dog's age and despite all the aches and bruises of matrimony you look at each other and get excited. Nobody else understands this and nobody else needs to. But vanity can break the spell.

"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity," said Solomon. Or, to put it a slightly different way, a guy takes his son deer hunting and as they're creeping through the woods, the man says, "Son, this is your first deer hunt, an ancient and sacred tradition marking your passage into manhood, do you have any questions?" and the boy says, "Yes. If you die of a heart attack, how do I get home?"

It's a hard fall for George W. Bush. His career was based on creating low expectations and then meeting them, but Katrina was a blast of reality. The famous headline said, "Bush: One of the Worst Disasters to Hit the U.S." and many people took that literally. Poor black people huddled together in the Superdome were seen on national TV, people stretched out asleep between the goal lines, and a 911 operator broke into sobs telling what it was like to talk to little kids in flooded houses and two weeks later the president had become a New Deal liberal and was calling for a major anti-poverty program in the Gulf and hang the expense. The annual deficit is running around $300 billion, but the president says we can afford a few hundred billion in hurricane repair without a tax increase, even if we call it a "hurricane impact fee."

Meanwhile we are pushing a large deception down the road -- the idea that the war in Iraq is to defend us against terrorism -- at enormous expense to our armed services and also to the Treasury, and for Americans who remember the last time a Texas president told us we must "stay the course," there is a certain sinking feeling.

But that's life. It happened to the Romans and the Mayans and the Sumerians and it's happening to us. In our society, as in those, the Grand Poobah gives the orders and the lackeys, minions, henchmen and stooges carry them out, and when the experimental plane with the lead-covered wings crashes, the minions return to His Eminence and lick his boots and he dispatches a yes man to chastise the fall guy, and then the fall guy whips the whipping boy, and then both of them pound on the goat. And construction begins on a new lead-covered airplane, except this time the lead is twice as thick. It's a supply-side theory: The greater the weight, the greater the buoyancy.

Solomon said, "The thing that has been is the thing that shall be; and the thing that is done is that which shall be done: There is nothing new under the sun." Or, to put it a slightly different way, a man walked into the house with a handful of dog waste and said, "Look what I almost stepped in."

Which reminds me: There is a power plant being built here in Minnesota that will burn turkey manure to make electricity. We have in custody 14 million turkeys, a non-flying bird bred for gigantic breasts, like porn stars, and now, thanks to some bold entrepreneur (perhaps a teenage turkey) who put match to poop and discovered its volatility, Minnesota is sitting on a gold mine. As Solomon said, "The rivers run into the sea and yet the sea is not full." In other words, what's the problem?

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(Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.)

© 2005 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

By Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor is the author of the Lake Wobegon novel "Liberty" (Viking) and the creator and host of the nationally syndicated radio show "A Prairie Home Companion," broadcast on more than 500 public radio stations nationwide. For more columns by Keillor, visit his column archive.

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