The Current Occupant goes for a walk ...

He strolls down Pennsylvania Avenue, past "Stop the Torture" signs. Oh well. His approval ratings stink, but he still has Laura -- and there's always Dick.

Published March 28, 2007 10:00AM (EDT)

The Current Occupant decided to go for a walk one fine spring morning, and he strolled down the White House drive to the main gate and chatted with the cops in the guardhouse and then strolled down Pennsylvania Avenue and through Lafayette Park to Christ Church and turned and looked at the White House through the trees and then it dawned on him that he was alone, no Secret Service in their dark suits and their earpieces with the curly wires. Nobody had tried to stop him from leaving. They just let him wander away.

A couple of kids in Capitals jackets walked past, and then a cop, and an old couple, and nobody stopped: They glanced his way and nodded and moved on. He thought, "It's true what Laura says. I'm different in person than the way the media portrays me." Some folks sat in lawn chairs holding signs, "Get Out of Iraq" and "Stop the Torture" and so forth. He walked in among them to get a closer look and said to the "Get Out of Iraq" man, "What would you say to the president if you could talk to him up close and personal?"

"I'd tell him that I'm afraid for my country. We've accepted lies without protest, we're ignoring what we're doing to the planet, we're bankrupting the nation, we're stuck in a senseless war, and we can't even take decent care of our own people."

"Well, everything has its ups and downs," said Mr. Bush.

He walked away and sat down on a bench. His brother Jeb had phoned from his Florida condo. He was trying to write a book and earn some dough and figure out what to do next and he wasn't hopeful. Decent governor, smart, good man. But the family name was mud, the country was Bushed. The lecture circuit had more or less dried up for Republicans, as Donald Rumsfeld was discovering. Nobody wanted to pay to hear an upbeat story about how we're winning in Iraq, and he wasn't getting good offers for his memoirs. Giuliani and McCain were bucking a strong tide. Lots of negatives for Republicans. It was like when Al Capone Jr. applied for accounting school: There was distrust to overcome.

His approval ratings were down to a faithful remnant who believed that he was God's chosen president as prophesied in Nehemiah, the one whose reign is the beginning of the Tribulation. And he had seen new polling data showing an 85 percent correlation between his 2004 voters and the more than half of all Americans who cannot say how long it takes the Earth to make one orbit around the sun. They had voted for the man they thought didn't know either. And that's how he would go down in history: the slacker, the dummy.

And now Congress had discovered the power of the subpoena. The firing of the U.S. attorneys was a mess. He should have said no way, Jose, to the Leahy committee, but instead the geniuses on the staff had him offer up Karl Rove to testify in private, no oath, no transcript, which was a joke, of course, and it only got the Democrats riled up more. And using the Patriot Act to slip the new appointments through without Senate confirmation -- boy, who was calling the signals on that one? Hello!??? They were like, "Let's run this around end," and he was going like, "No way," and they were like, "What's the problem?" and he was like, "Duh, you really want me to tell you?" But they went ahead and did it and now every Republican with a reelection race in 2008 was looking for cover. Sununu was shaky. Even Coleman, the biggest bootlicker in the Senate, was playing coy.

Not much chance of him riding a motorcade through cheering throngs in foreign cities, the way other presidents had finished up. Too bad about that. But he still had Laura, and he had Dick. Dick was his insurance policy against impeachment. No chance, not with Gunner waiting in the wings.

It was time for his soup and sandwich and his 1:30 nap, so he headed home. There was a new cop at the gate and he didn't recognize Mr. Bush either. He waved him away. "I need to go in there," said Mr. Bush. "I've got a job to do." That was all the guard needed to hear. He had the man taken into custody on suspicion of intent to do harm. The case is being investigated.

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

© 2007 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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George W. Bush Iraq War White House