The Emperor's New Limo

The 2000 Election

The new presidential limousine is just hideous. The car, however, is completely adequate, in tone and spirit, for our new president. I could have wished no more appropriate a banner for our new, ideologically bankrupt president. Dubya placed his hand on the bible, and I, literally, almost cried. Instead, I shook my head sadly and turned off my TV. It's a disgrace. It's hideous. And that was just the car.

George W. Bush was sworn in

yesterday as the 43rd president of the United States, and I have experienced a profound epiphany: the new presidential limousine is just hideous. I have absolutely no idea what they were thinking. I keep hearing these horrible reports of disgruntled workers going on shooting sprees through corporate offices. While I certainly could never wish this event on anyone, I wish an emotional rampage on the designers of General Motors for ruining the most classic, highest-recognition nameplate in the world by turning it into a Cheshire cat and bug-eyed automotive equivalent of Heathcliff, worthy of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. The limousine of the president of these so-called United States is, undeniably, the highest profile vehicle in the world, a symbol of power and prestige. GM's abortion of a design scheme fairly screams about our country's ideological and creative bankruptcy. Dr. Seuss' New Car. The Country That Has Run Out of Ideas. The car, however, is completely adequate, in tone and spirit, for our new president. I could have wished no more appropriate a banner for our new, ideologically bankrupt president, a coward of epic and stunning proportions who clearly does not himself believe he was actually legitimately elected. Emotionally, this “transfer” of power feels to me like a game of jacks played by ten year-olds, where one of them snatches the prize from the other and then goes on to stonewall, in the thinnest and least defensible kid-argument, as to why he “won” the game.

The swearing in completely depressed me because it symbolized the deep divisions of race, class, social status, sexual orientation and religious preference in this country, and how easily one interest group will pulp the other in brass-knuckle contests to get what they want. Dubya, the 10 year-old, stonewalled his way into an Oval Office he did not legitimately win, So Help Him God. Sniffing piously that he is the president, when his face betrays the fact he himself doesn't believe it. Ronald Reagan never had to sniff and act pious. Nixon certainly knew he was the president. Eisenhower had no cloud over his head. But, I imagine, Dubya will spend a great deal of time in his single term presidency acting presidential, looking presidential, and c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y pronouncing them big words as he rides around in his Dr. Seuss limousine trying to govern a country that didn't want him.

But, let's be fair: we didn't want Al, either. We wanted Bill, but Bill wasn't running. The closest we could get to Bill was McCain, who was too politically cowardly to spend that capital in an independent run that many pollsters said he would have won. Instead, now John has to grin and swallow it and pretend to support Dubya, a man he loathes and who clearly loathes him. I'm deeply offended by this hypocrisy, and Mr. Straight Talk Express McCain has lost my vote for all time. What would the difference have been between this cowardly capitulation and an Indy run? John, for you, either way, it's over.

Most people think Al Gore won the vote in Florida. Dubya, apparently, thinks so, too. Otherwise, why would he fight so hard to prevent votes from being counted? Why would he or his henchmen mount podium after podium declaring themselves, in empty and hollow dirges, to be the “winner” in Florida? We kept hearing all this stupidity about the good of the nation and the rule of law and so forth, but the brazenly embalmed Katherine Harris was just so very bad at hiding her chiseled-fanged desperation to give the state to her honey that it tainted the very prize she was awarding. Harris could have at least pretended to be fair, or at least been less ruthless in her relentless beat-the-clock certification process. Instead, she handed Dubya the ice cream cone that had clearly been dropped on the sidewalk. And that's about what Dubya deserves. And Dubya is about what we deserve.

Dubya doesn't actually believe he won Florida. He claims to have faith in the American people and faith in God. He has neither. If he'd had any faith in God or man, he would have stopped the Hatfield-McCoy feud, gone to Washington, and stood on the steps of the Supreme Court with Al and bipartisan congressional leaders, where they would have looked the American people in the eye and said, “We're gonna solve this problem.” Certification dates would go out the window and uniform standards would be adopted state-wide, with a bevy of observers from both parties. Had Dubya and Al and the congress stood united, no court— not even the Renquist one— would have gotten in the way of a fair and honest count in Florida. A count Dubya might actually have won, had he had any faith in the process. And then I'd be less depressed about the oath and the Batmobile and so forth.

I remember reading about the Civil War and the struggle to free the slaves (the Civil War was not about freeing the slaves, freeing the slaves was a political maneuver to help win the war, but that's a rant for another day). I'd read about it and wonder how we, as an American people, could ever have been so ignorant as to think a person was somehow less human based on the color of their skin. How could we ever have thought it was a good and Christian thing to herd a proud nation of people through the Middle Passage, sell them like property, and rape, as a matter of course and consequence, their children (regularly and as an accepted matter of consequence, slave masters helped themselves to female salves. And, colorful notions of dancing darkies notwithstanding, these rapes were usually of children- pre-teen and teenage girls). How could this ever have been an accepted practice? Have we really matured that much in a single century?

And, what will we think of the rigor mortified Harris a century from now? Did anyone really believe slavery was ok? Did anyone really believe in Oswald at the book depository? And will anyone ever truly believe it was a coincidence that the 2000 presidential race came down to the vote in Florida— a state governed by the candidate's brother and a vote administered by Dubya's ghoulish campaign chair? Are we really that stupid? And, Renquist swearing this guy in— credibility lost all over the place. An inaugural parade route nearly empty of spectators except for the protestors., whose number certainly would have swelled had the futility of protest not discouraged most of us from even bothering. And Dubya in his new Korageous Kat and Minute Mouse limousine, a harbinger of things to come.

Personally, I blame Al for this. Al's a nice guy, but he's not Bill. He's said that himself, over and over. And, as much the 10 year-old as Bush, he ran his campaign like a 10 year-old, making Bill beg to help and participate. But Al, trying so hard to win new friends and not offend old ones, kept the most exciting, vibrant and powerful campaigner of the 20th century on the bench because the guy acted inappropriately with a chubby gal. It was stupid. We want Bill. That's what every poll said. If I were running, there'd not be a clip of me on TV that didn't have Bill shackled to my side.

Then Al let his moron advisors talk him into acting like a Republican, playing politics with the Florida recounts. Instead of pressing for a uniform standard and recounting the entire state, they decided on “anything goes” non-standards (so long as it generated a vote for Al), and they wanted only targeted districts counted. Which left the door way open for Dubya, a man who would, apparently, stop at absolutely nothing to prevent those votes from being counted. It was a terrible political blunder, second only to the exclusion of Bill from the campaign, and, frankly Al, you got what you deserved.

In order to get anything done in Washington, you have to have better street smarts than that. You have to be able to battle these partisans on their own turf. Did Al win Florida? Who knows. But the White House janitors will be trying for the next three years, 364 days of Dubya's single term to get the stink of it out of the West Wing.

Dubya is president. Bill is gone. The presidential limousine was designed by Gumby. I'm terribly depressed about it all. All the moreso because the very nature of these facts is revelatory of the character of the American political culture. Nothing has changed. We've just found tidier ways to go about being black people and white people, rich people and poor people, all fighting for 200 million special interests. What glimmer of hope I once had that we as a nation had matured much beyond the plantation days died when the Supreme Court of the land became accomplices after the fact, halting the count and running out the clock on behalf of their beloved Dubya. As though the date of the Inaugural were more important to our fate than the fairness of the electoral process.

Renquist, anointer of Weak Kings, is apparently oblivious to the snickers echoing through the halls of so-called justice over his theatrical Here Come De Judge six-striped Impeachment Robe. He is, perhaps, even more oblivious to his plummeting credibility, first for participating in the stunningly merit-less Bubba ousting, and now for being too gutless to imbibe the “wisdom” of his legal opinion with the emotional sustenance the nation as a whole universally thirsted for: a sense of fairness and justice. Had Renquist or Dubya or Al managed that hat trick— including fairness and justice to the opinion of legal merit— the nation would not now be spiraling out of the happy Bubba regime, camps polarized and entrenched. There'd be more people cheering and praying for the new president.

But, in his selfish, partisan, good ol' boy, small-minded, ungodly, paranoid, STUPID, pouty 10 year-old's grab for the White House, Dubya demonstrated his innate lack of spirituality, wisdom, integrity or core values. He is the soulless president, a man completely unworthy of our trust. Had he the courage to risk his chance for the White House in an effort to bring fairness and justice to the so-called “rule” of law— had he gambled everything in the name of fairness and justice— had he refused to become president by default— had he gone even two or three steps in the direction of bravery, honesty and integrity— and won— even I would be singing his praises now. But Dubya is, in the final analysis, gutless. He is a very stupid man for squandering his long-term legacy for a short-term, hopefully single-term, grab at the Oval Office. He is very short-sighted and, in the end, a very small person. That car fits him perfectly.

Dubya placed his hand on the bible, and I, literally, almost cried. Instead, I shook my head sadly and turned off my TV. It's a disgrace. It's hideous. 

And that was just the car.

Christopher J. Priest
21 January 2001