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George W. Bush: The Sammy Sosa of Presidents
June 11, 2003
By Pab Sungenis

Considering George W. Bush's love of baseball, it seems oddly appropriate to use recent developments in what was once non-ironically known as America's National Pastime as a metaphor for recent developments down in Foggy Bottom. If you, dear readers, will grant me this indulgence, I will paint a picture (perhaps not quite worthy of Norman Rockwell, but in a similar vein) of Mighty Casey striking out.

For those who have been living under a rock for the past several years (and who could blame you), Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs is one of baseball's most famous home run hitters. Some have credited him and fellow slugger Mark McGwire (who broke Roger Maris' long-standing record for homers) with reviving interest in the game. Baseball fans like myself have lionized Sosa for his achievements.

And now, we have learned, it may all have been a lie.

This past week, Sosa was caught using a corked bat in a game For those of you who have better things to do than keep up with sporting terminology, a "corked bat" is a baseball bat that has been doctored, usually having its solid core removed (or never there to begin with) and stuffed with a lighter material such as cork (although one player in the 1970's used superballs to cork his bat). The result is a bat which is much lighter and easier to swing. Since the power of a hit ball comes mainly from the speed at which the bat is travelling when it is struck, balls hit by corked bats can travel much further, sometimes up to thirty additional feet, which in the case of a true slugger is often enough to put what would have been an easy fly-out in the outfield into the bleachers.

Sammy's bat split (as bats are wont to do after much use and abuse) in the first inning last Tuesday, revealing a cork center. The sound that came from the bat's disintegration closely mimicked the sound of fans' illusions shattering. The king of home runs was found to have been a cheater. While Sosa claimed to have only kept the corked bat around to put on a show for fans who attend batting practice - never intending to use it in a real game - all of his achievements were immediately called into question. Those records that Sosa had broken would forever be covered by a veil of suspicion. If he used that bat in one game, how many other times did he "accidentally" whip out the crowd pleaser and get away with it? How many of those record-shattering home runs were the result of what is, to be blunt, cheating? We may never know, and some will automatically assume that they all were.

Baseball is a game of rules (one reason many people, including myself, still love it so), and Sammy has been suspended for eight games. He is appealing the suspension, saying that it is excessive (and, some have hinted, racially inspired). But eight games is the average for a player caught using a corked bat to be suspended; recent suspensions have ranged from 7 to 10. True fans know and understand, remembering the lessons of Shoeless Joe. When a player cheats, you have to toss him out of the game.

Now, let us turn away from the world of baseball and into the world of spin and warmaking. Like baseball, it is a grand and glorious game, but with much graver consequences than being sent down to the minors. When mistakes are made in this game, people die. Innocent people on both sides. And this time it's George Bush who has been caught with the corked bat.

Revelations are coming fast and furious, in every media outlet except the American corporate-controlled one, about how the Bush Administration "puffed up" intelligence reports on alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Photos of trucks, with a variety of possible uses, were labelled "mobile biological weapons lab." Thousands of numbers were floated, claiming to be tonnage of sarin and VX nerve gases. Aluminum tubes suddenly became key ingredients in atomic bombs. We were informed that within 45 minutes, Saddam could have our troops and Iraq's neighbors inundated with bioweapons. We had to act immediately, or it was going to be too late. Saddam had these weapons, and was going to use them. Never mind the experts who said they found nothing. Our soliders would go in and uncover them.

Now, after months of searching, we find that there were no mobile weapons labs, just trucks. We have combed the nation from top to bottom and found no sarin or VX. Just as Freud said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, sometimes an aluminum tube is just an aluminum tube. We've even found out that Colin Powell, whose speech to the U.N. convinced many Americans (although not many of our allies) of the need for preemptive war against Saddam Hussein, characterized much of the evidence he was told to present (a good deal of which came from a plagiarized college paper) as "bullshit." Bush and Cheney hit the American public upside the head with a baseball bat of imminent doom, and we've now discovered that that bat was hollow; its core (Iraqi WMD) just wasn't there.

No one can blame Bush for having this material handy. After all, just like Sammy Sosa, he needed a crowd pleaser. He needed something to let him show off in front of the people who came out to support him. But, like Sammy, he made the mistake of pulling the crowd pleaser out during a game, when he should have been playing by the rules. In Sammy's case, the only people who got hurt were a few outfielders who may have had the satisfaction of catching a ball hit by the home run king. In Bush's, however, the damage is much more severe. American soldiers died for what they believed was a just cause, but was just lies and distortions. Our foreign relations have been hurt, perhaps fatally, over our all-but unilateral decision to make war based on this corked evidence. Islamic fundamentalists are poised to take over the "liberated" Iraq and launch a reign of terror that would make the Taliban look like a gay pride parade. And let's not even begin to discuss Iraqi civilian casualties.

Just as baseball is a game of rules, we are a nation of laws. Bush lied to Congress and to the U.N., not to mention the American people That was called perjury when Bill Clinton did it over much more trivial matters, matters where no one died. It still is, and it's time that the American people remember the lesson of Shoeless Joe in this grand, glorious, and lethal game of spin and war. When a player cheats, you have to toss him out of the game.


Pab Sungenis owns a movie theater, hosts a nationally-syndicated radio show, and was just re-elected as a Democratic Committeman, more than tripling the number of votes he got last time.

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