Baruth: How do I live without Bush?
01/14/09 7:55AM By Philip Baruth  Download MP3
Okay, President George W. Bush is now in the last weeks of his Presidency, and if everything goes according to schedule, he will board a helicopter on January the 20th and that chopper will disappear into the sky, and this man who has been the cause of so much early twenty-first-century ruckus will fade from the national scene, never to be President ever again. I say "if" because there’s still a remote chance that Dick Cheney’s legal counsel will argue that the President is not, in fact, a part of the Executive Branch, and therefore not subject to the need to stop being President.
But as I say, that’s an outside possibility. There’s at least a 75% chance that Barack Obama will be able to wrest the Oval Office from George Bush, when push comes to shove. And if he does, Bush will be History.
And for those of you out there who are, like, cheering and high-fiving your radios, let me say this about that: be careful what you wish for, because it just might come true, and then political satirists like me will lose the best thing we’ve ever had - the Mother of all Meal Tickets, the best thing since sliced bread, if sliced bread were really, really easy to make fun of. People talk about Bush’s talent for being the butt of the joke as on a par with Dan Quayle, but Quayle was never really in Bush’s league. Bush’s ability to be the butt of the joke - his "buttability" to use the technical satirical term - is really unmatched in modern political history.
Why? Well, like Quayle, there has always been something unavoidably second-banana about George W. Sure, he was the President, but he never seemed to escape the sense that he was at the mercy of those who had actually read the briefing books. But the genius of Bush - in terms of maintaining buttability - is that he joined that second-banana quality with a broad, sweeping, systematic attempt to deny and revise reality.
Early on in Bush’s first term, an anonymous senior advisor told the New York Times that Bush and his people didn’t need to inhabit the - quote - "reality-based community" - end quote - because they were out to create their own - more pliable - reality from scratch. And those two qualities - Bush as second-banana and Bush as All-Powerful Decider of Reality - combined to produce comedy gold. Shock and Awe, during the Bush years, always turned out to be well shy of awesome. Except for joke writers, like me.
So I’m not going to lie about it: I’m going to miss you, George W. Bush. Your funny little ways, the way you fall off a Segway scooter, the way you crouch down to duck a shoe. The things that happen to you, only to you, like the time with the pretzel or when your Vice President shot that guy. They were good times . . . I told myself I wasn’t going to choke up. Yeah, right. Now go on, get out of here you big lug, it’s over. We’re going to find someone new to talk about on Letterman. We don’t need you anymore. You’re not the only comedy gold in the river, you hear me, George?
Music from "How Do I Breathe Without You?" by LeAnn Rimes