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Inside Bush's Diary: The Sucking Sound of Quicksand
July 18, 2002
By Bernard Weiner

Dear Diary:

The last time I wrote at length in my journal, in January, the first of the business debacles was just starting to unfold. [See "Inside Bush's Diary: Bobbin' & Weavin' Over Enron."] Course, I had to tell a major whopper -- that I didn't know Kenny Boy all that well -- but there wasn't a lot of damage and the story basically fell by the wayside. Especially once we ratcheted up the War-on-Terror and patriotic themes.

But, my lordy, things are a bit different today. The stuff has hit the fan, and our administration is covered in huge chunks of it. It's like we're being sucked into quicksand and can't seem to escape, no matter how much we bob and weave. And the damn media -- the media that's kept silent and supportive up til now -- is starting to resemble the circling sharks of old. They smell blood in the water, my blood, our blood. Even calling in our markers to the publishers isn't working as well as it once did.

If it was just me and the Harken thing, I probably could ride out all the accusations. After all, the SEC cleared me after a thorough investigation. Well, that ain't true: they never even asked to interview me, and they merely said they wouldn't prosecute -- thanks, Poppy! -- and would keep the matter open for possible future looks.

Even with that, though, I think I could still get through this one, with not too much damage. No, what's creating the quicksand danger is that Cheney is getting suctioned under as well -- he's in REAL trouble, and all his stonewalling isn't going to save him this time -- and Tom White, the Army secretary, is covered in Enron slime and needs to go. Cheney, it looks like, is going to be my Agnew: not only because he's hiding the Enron papers but because he's getting caught with his fingers in the cookie jar of corporate funny accounting, with Halliburton. Might work in another time, but not now, with the American people angry at greedy corporate financial bosses.

(If Dick has to go -- we'll make sure he resigns because of "health reasons," his weak heart and all -- I'm thinking of appointing Condy. That should silence all the critics: a black WOMAN! It makes me salivate, just thinking about the damn liberals trying to attack me on that one. Of course, I could really fry their brains if I appointed Colin, hee hee hee. But as much as I like a good prank, I wouldn't do it. I can't stand the guy, with all his moralizing and questioning. I don't trust him, not now and certainly not in 2004.)

And the guys we've picked to head off the scandal investigations, Harvey Pitt and Larry Thompson, are neck-deep in the conflict-of-interest quicksand as well. This is not fair. How were we to know that the common practices of the day in '90s corporate America would suddenly look so dirty in 2002, and come back to haunt us all?

I don't know what I'm supposed to do -- what, appoint Ralph Nader to investigate us? There just aren't that many non-corporate types in my Administration. If one's dirty, they all are going to look dirty. And I certainly can't agree to an objective outside investigator. And CERTAINLY NOT A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR!!!!! Ashcroft could try to get a friendly one appointed, but, given our luck lately, we might just wind up with a liberal or an ambitio us Ken Starr-like bulldog, anxious to make his mark, and we'd all be in deep doodoo.

No, we're just going to turn the spin cycle to high. We'll try the "don't attack the President and his Administration in the middle of a war" routine, but not a hell of a lot of folks are buying that one these days -- especially since the Congress hasn't declared war. The stench on the street is so overwhelming, the public wants someone to pay. All those poor seniors out there, angry because their pensions are flaking away as the markets tank.

I did my part. I read a speech denouncing corporate fraud and greed, but of course I made sure there were no harsh prescriptions, no major reforms, or we'd lose totally the backing of our business friends. Unfortunately, the Democrats are saying I'm just mouthing words, with no criminal penalties to back up the rhetoric. I may have to throw someone overboard. I'll try to protect Kenny Boy as long as I can -- he knows where too many of the bodies are buried, and besides, he's been good to me over the years -- but, if the worst happens, he may have to go. I can always pardon him later.

In the meantime, we move on other fronts. We're getting our TIPS program ready, where we're involving the American people in denouncing their friends and neighbors if they suspect terroristconnections or sympathies. One out of 24 citizens to start with, coming to a neighborhood near you. Sure, there will be folks settling old scores, and the FBI will have to waste a good deal of time, but the key point is that the public will be out there working for the Administration, even if they don't realize it. (Whatever else you can say about them, the Cuban and Soviet governments knew how to have a spy on every block, working for the central government. It worked for them, it can work for us. A win-win: We may just get tipped off about a terrorist, plus it'll be like having election-committeemen in every congressional district in America.)

And, where it counts, it's like we're waiting for Godot: for the other bin Laden shoe to drop. In the short run, with all the damage and disruption, the coming al-Qaeda attacks will help us, of course, as every media outlet in the country will turn its attention to the terrorists. But, judging from what happened last time, the already weak economy probably will go into a tailspin, and I might get blamed for the deep recession that follows.

I've already taken heat for not alerting the country prior to September 11 when we knew the outlines of what was coming and what the targets might be. I'll just have to anticipate more criticism, even though we don't really have a firm idea this time where the terrorists will strike.

But I sure wish Osama would launch already. I'm not sure how much more scrutiny our business troubles can take. My ratings are sliding badly, too many GOP races in the upcoming election don't look good for us, the editorialists and pundits -- and some of them are even conservatives! -- are starting to pick on us big-time. Not even siccing Big John on them is scaring them off anymore; they're just not as frightened of Ashcroft as they used to be, especially as the courts keep overturning most of his anti-terrorist regulations and orders. There was even a conservative, Reagan-appointed judge the other day who admonished us to stay within the Constitution! Who does he think he is? But just his opinion is not a good sign for our side.

Meanwhile, we're getting ready for Iraq. We've got a new HQ in the area (so we can disengage from Saudi Arabia over time), and the final warplan is nearly ready, even though the Kurds and Iraqi Opposition keep objecting. It's just a question of when to go. Dick and the rest of the inner council can't decide whether it would help us or hurt us to attack before the November election. If D-day is the September 11th anniversary, we'll have to have toppled Saddam before the November election; otherwise, it'll be better to wait and finish it all off before the 2004 campaign begins.

All this stuff is all so damned complicated; I feel 20 years older already. I sure could use a cold one. I won't, of course, but I'm beginning to understand now why Bubba was so vulnerable to interns wearing thongs.


Bernard Weiner, a poet and playwright, was the San Francisco Chronicle's theater critic for nearly 20 years; a Ph.D. in government and international relations, he has taught at various universitities, and has published in The Nation, Village Voice, The Progressive and widely on the internet.

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