June 11, 2003

Bush: Macho Cheese

Does George W. Bush read my column? Judging by his obsession with strutting like a fighter pilot, he must have taken up my April 30 invitation to watch the movie "Independence Day." Like Bill Pullman, Bush stretches his acting ability to the limit playing a president who had flown in the military.

Indeed, Bush seems to be earning his props as commander-in-chief, rather than president, and appears content to follow in his father's combat-boot steps as the Warrior in the White House. And why shouldn't he? In terms of domestic issues—the existence of which he will occasionally acknowledge—Bush is washed out.

The economy has not only hit rock bottom, but has managed to drill itself into the second layer of that rock. His fiscal policies, consisting entirely of the words "tax" and "cut," promise to steep us in deep deficits for decades to come. Because of this recession, stores are cutting back their hours or disappearing altogether. Missouri officials are removing every third light bulb from government institutions. Some districts are even shutting down schools early. Socially, his worship of the religious right has most of the country screaming "oh my God!" at the childproofing of America.

Is it any wonder, then, that Bush has reverted to his Top Gun cowboy persona? Looking tough and swaggering, while having to say virtually nothing, is a perfect fit for the man. Unfortunately, it also seems like the perfect fit for today's pacified public. With such wonderful editorial headlines as "Bush earned right to strut" (Daily Advertiser, 5/12/03) and the relentless plastering of the Bush fighter-pilot pictures all over the media, this charade is likely to continue.

Any poseur walking on this campus right now can tell you that clothes don't make the fighter pilot; yet Bush's handlers and the American press (talk about redundant) want us to believe exactly that. If this were the case, then the people who wear the most expensive clothes would get all the attention. We would have relationships going to the highest bidders. Dating by dollars. Prostitution by Prada. Also, every person wearing a pro football jersey or a "porn star" tank top would get the startled glances of fellow students who would wonder why famous athletes and porn stars were gracing campus. If you're willing to believe that, then rest assured that you attend school with a bona fide Ghostbuster as well.

When I was nine I had a full-body Ghostbuster outfit. I still have it, but it fits kind of tight now. That suit sure was a mother! Back in the day I would put it on, sling on a backpack I had morphed into a proton pack, and I was ready to go. Of course, I knew better than to think I really could catch ghosts—but at least it was great fun pretending.

As far as I know, no one ever took a snapshot of me dressed in this getup—a strange fact, considering I had nine million pictures taken in every conceivably embarrassing situation as a kid. However, I never asked anyone to break out the camera when I played Ghostbuster; I dressed up just for fun. For Bush, however, the suit is all about the photo opportunity. And, no doubt, fulfilling the requirements he abandoned in 1972 when he went AWOL from flying obsolete planes over Texas and Alabama during Vietnam.

Believing that Bush is, or ever was, the definition of a macho fighter pilot requires the same stretch of imagination I had when I played Ghostbuster. Unfortunately for Commander Maverick, imagination is not the nation he is leading.

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