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Bush and My Old Man

September 14, 2004
By John Cory

Bush reminds me of my old man. I've never met George Bush, but then, I never met my father. You don't have to shake hands with a hurricane to understand disaster.

My old man was the Count of Con, a regular duke of deception. No other way to put it. The things you find, when you go looking for truth and your origins.

Christopher Joseph was a good-time Charlie with a hobo's eye for a fast ride and an easy mark. Always on the move, he packed light, carrying only his sparkling charm and a bag of sweet-talk adorned in silvery scam. Time and again, he left everything and everyone else holding the breeze of empty promises.

When I first found Christopher's brother, it took several wary meetings and some long evenings to learn the colorful legends of my old man's life.

My new uncle was the antithesis of his brother, having spent thirty years in law enforcement and establishing a reputation of integrity, fairness, and solid citizenship. In that small town, my uncle could place a phone call that would welcome a stranger like me, or provide an armed escort to the state line, with a not-so-friendly warning about the hazards of return. He was cut from the old cloth of life, when a man's word was his bond, and admiration was earned by just deeds.

During one of those long evenings, my new uncle told a story that summed up a life and sadly revealed the talent of a convivial con man enabled by friend and foe, until the very end.

Back in the day, as they say, Paddy DeMarco was (1954 1955) Lightweight Boxing Champion of the World. He was known as a gentleman, a good-hearted soul who worked his way up and never forgot his humble Brooklyn origins. He was, by all accounts, a nice guy to everyone, including folks who often put the bite on him for a few extra bucks.

Christopher and Paddy came to know each other. The details are murky, but the connection was made. They were pals for a time and shared a passable similarity in appearance. And that was the undoing of their friendship. Somewhere along the line, Christopher became Paddy DeMarco, at least when cashing checks across several states.

One night Paddy and a couple of hefty pugs, who looked like they could crush concrete with their bare hands, turned up on my uncle's doorstep. They were polite but firm - Christopher, or someone, had to make good on the checks.

Of course Christopher was in the wind, headed for parts unknown.

My uncle asked Paddy if he was going to put Christopher in jail for forgery.

"ail? Hey, I like the guy. He makes me laugh," Paddy said. "He tells a good story. I like that. I let the small stuff go, but this is serious money. I like the guy, I really do. I don't want no trouble for him or me."

My uncle totaled the bad checks and paid the $1,000. It was the honorable thing to do, and Paddy and my uncle were honorable men. And neither wanted to make Christopher into a criminal.

That was the pattern of Christopher's life. Christopher played and somebody else paid.

His sin was charm, and his charm was sin. But everyone adored him, found him so likeable, they couldn't stand to put him in jail. Even when he sold land owned by the federal government, to a group of businessmen, they chose not to press charges. Maybe they didn't want their gullibility made public, or maybe it was as one man told me, "He made you feel good about yourself just for liking him. Chris could pick your pocket and make you feel it was a fair price for the experience."

The truth of course was harsh and ugly.

Christopher had abandoned women and children across four states. They never shared the likeability or money. They were discarded, nothing more than the tools of a traveling con man on the road to the next big score. While some of Christopher's marks could afford to laugh it all off, there were those who paid a heavy price.

George W. Bush flashes his boyish grin and utters empathetic slogans to choreographed applause. He writes checks on America's future, knowing he will be gone by the time the bill shows up on Uncle Sam's doorstep.

More and more children are not only left behind, but also added to increasing poverty levels across every state. More people are working harder for less pay and even less healthcare benefits. Fixed income seniors find themselves unable to afford prescription drugs just as Medicare premiums jump by record percentages. Corporate profits from oil and war, pharmaceuticals, and other worldly mayhem, are up at record levels.

Bush and friends play while everyone else pays.

Like I said, George Bush reminds me of my old man: a charming con artist that needs to be held accountable for once in his life.

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