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Trees and Only Trees Can Prevent Forest Fires
August 27, 2002
By Phil Lebovits

Okay, George, you've gone too far this time.

Pulling out of the Kyoto Protocols? Bad move, but at least you had some faulty science on your side. Drilling at ANWR? Nice try, but thank god we have faulty Tom Daschle on our side. But dissing Smokey the Bear? That, Mr. President, is way over the line.

Mr. Bush's new timber proposals make the argument that if you don't have trees, then you won't have forest fires. That kind of thinking leads to the belief that if you don't have people, you won't have wars and famine.

Forget the platitudes about saving the forests in spite of themselves. Forget the pandering to those hard-working-Lamar Alexander-plaid-wearing corporate Paul Bunyans. And remember Ronald Reagan. God love him, but President Reagan once blamed trees for pollution.

What do these people have against trees? Their philosophy can be summed up poetically:

I think that I shall never see
A tree I can't kill legally

Perhaps if we take a quick look back at Mr. Bush's life, we'll be better able to understand where this hatred of branches and leaves and bark comes from.

First off, the name. Bush. How the kids must've taunted poor George when he was growing up. "Hey George, nice Bush!" "Yo, Shrubby Dubby Bubby Boo." Try as he might, little George could never become a tree. He would always be a Bush, just like his daddy and his daddy's daddy. They all aspired to tree-dom, to regal oak-like grace and stature, yet their attempts proved fruitless.

And the acorn never falls far from the Bush.

Papa Bush went to war with Iraq, a country with very few trees. It was quick and nearly painless. A country with no trees is really easy to attack. Where can you hide? Remember Vietnam? Now that country had way too many trees.

As a teenager at age forty-one, young George must've had nightmares about trees taunting his windshield, trees leaping out at him on the highway, trees inconveniently placed in the way of his Mustang. Drinkers don't like trees. You can't mash them into pulp and get Jack Daniels. All you get is paper. And paper leaves trails.

The nature of Mr. Bush's announcement isn't surprising, but the timing sure is. It's still summer. The trees are looking really good, giving us shade during this hottest of all summers (global warming? bah humbug!). Kids are climbing trees, swinging from trees, running in circles around trees. Kids love trees, Mr. President. If not for us, then think of the kids. Apart from coal, oil, natural gas, timber, and ethanol, children are our most important resource.

But it is not just the tree. It is the metaphor. Our greatest threat today comes from Osama Bin-Laden, a terrorist as tall as a tree. He needs to be chopped down. It is not just the tree. It's pesky election ballots and hanging chads. By-products.

And yet, it truly is about the tree. America stood tall after 9/11, our collective branches intertwined like willows in the bayou. Even the President, for a few shining moments, achieved birch-like stature.

Mr. Bush would like us to remember 9/11. But he forgets that the view from the top of a sequoia is as perfect as perfect can be. And something to fight for.

If a Bush falls in the woods and nobody hears, maybe that's a very good thing. Let Smokey have at it.


Phil Lebovits, in partnership with Jason Alexander, is the co-creator of "Liquid Soap" and "The Whitey Show," two television shows currently in development.

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