On August 9th, The Decider spoke at the Olympics on national sovereignty:
“Georgia is a sovereign nation, and its territorial integrity must be respected….We have urged an immediate halt to the violence and a stand-down by all troops. We call for the end of the Russian bombings.” “Georgia and Russia Nearing All-Out-War,” New York Times, August 9th.
Really George, territorial integrity? Mighty strong words from a man who began a war against a country that had not attacked us and was not a threat to us.
Just what are Bush’s remarks worth on the world stage given how the U.S. has behaved? Tears and laughter. But unfortunately this is not solely Bush’s issue. The American people elected him and then reelected him in 2004. In addition, it appears that Bush 3.0, the John McCain version, actually has a substantial number of Americans willing to vote for him. (How many years in Iraq, John? Did you say, 1,000? And what about Iran?) And guess what, McCain claims, “In the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations.” It’s just so twentieth-century.
In August of 2002, when Bush was still riding high in the popularity polls, I wrote a piece wondering about why the American people didn’t see that Bush was a lemon. Oh, I knew the answers. Of course there was the cynical use of 9/11 (but it was a year later). I knew how the Republican machine had worked since Nixon to divide the country and make so-called liberals appear to be unpatriotic and elitist. (Just as McCain is now trying to do by attacking Obama as a celebrity/elitist.) I knew about their use of racial divides to win the South, etc. But I still wondered. Why did I wonder? Because Americans typically have a pretty good nose for a lousy product. They are good consumers. And Bush was obviously a lemon.
On this theme, I offer an echo from the past, namely, a piece that I did not publish and which I did not even bother to edit for publication. I gave up in frustration. What could political humor do when things were so bleak? But now with the ease of publishing blogs, and the prospects for a real change in November, I offer it as I left it on August 20th, 2002 (except for the graphics and a fixed typo). My, how times have changed. When I wrote it I thought that I was insulting Bush. I now realize that I was in fact insulting the Edsel.
Oh, there is one other reason for offering this now. I hear that part of McCain’s new energy program will put an Edsel in every Republican’s garage. Fabulous gas millage (if you are Exxon/Mobil).
I’ve been thinking about the return of the Edsel. For those too young to remember, the Edsel was a line of cars produced by Ford in the late 1950’s. Actually I am barely old enough to remember. Although I do remember images of the Edsel: long, often two-toned, front grilled with what appeared to be a cross between a giant mouth and a nose , and generally very shiny all around. A glitzy wildebeest of a car. The Edsel was named after Henry Ford’s son, Edsel Ford, who served as the nominal president of Ford Motor company, seemed to be a nice enough guy, died at only 49 in 1943, graciously suffering for years under the heavy hand of Henry.
But I am not here to talk about the man Edsel Ford. It’s the idea of the car that’s gotten under my skin. The Edsel became synonymous in my youth with the word “lemon,” as in, that’s a real lemon or that’s an Edsel. It was widely ridiculed. People thought it a silly thing. No one in his right mind would buy one. Yet I don’t recall that its problems were mainly mechanical. People seemed to object to the very idea of the critter, for it was all glitter, and seemingly would not have come into existence had not a very rich and powerful man, Henry, wanted to honor the memory of his son. Its merits were few. It had not earned its place on the open road. It was an upstart. Today we might disparage it as a consumer item calculated to appeal to the tastes of omnivorous Yuppies, except that we do not frown on Yuppie longings as people might have in 1958, nor would today’s Yuppies be caught dead in something so ostentatious. It seems that one of the main problems with the Edsel was that it could not decide on what it wanted to be. It was pitched as a luxury item, yet it just might have a blue collar soul, or at least the pretense of one. People were suspicious. Its outside did not match its inner core. It was an inauthentic auto. And it didn’t take long for Americans back in the late 1950’s to realize that Ford was trying to pull off a marketing coup at their expense. The Edsel line lasted three years, but people laughed as the first models rolled off the assembly line
. For years now I have been envious of my elders because they were fortunate enough to experience and appreciate the Edsel phenomenon, namely, people collectively rising up and saying as they chuckled, “hell no, we are not so stupid as to actually buy a trophy car because corporate America and Madison Avenue tell us that we should.” I have always wanted a chance to experience the American people rallying in this fashion, laughing at the big guys, putting them in their place, bringing the house down. And just recently I came to believe that my chance was at hand. Isn’t it obvious, I thought, that George Bush is an Edsel. Can he not be likened to a car whose career was born of the right connections? Is this man not an upstart? Had this man done anything before becoming president to earn his position? Can anyone imagine that he would have gotten to where he is now if his dad had not been president? Is there not, even for a politician, an unusually transparent mismatch between the core George Bush–ill informed, self-serving, glib yet insecure, business failure, a man with little reason for holding his job except that it serves his friends well–and the image that his handlers present of an involved, well-informed, caring, active, hands-on, captain-of-industry kind of guy? Is he not like the Edsel, all presentation and an unreliable heart.
Sad to say, things have not gone according to plan. In 1958 it didn’t take long for the American people to figure out that the Edsel had to go. It was a mistake. It should never have been made. Yet in 2002 I look around and I don’t understand why people can’t see that there is an Edsel parked right there in the middle of the Oval Office. I fear that something has gone very wrong with us Americans. Have our critical faculties have abandoned us? Are we no longer as savvy as our ancestors? Has the sophistication of Madison Avenue and political consultants broken our will to resist? Do we care less about the presidency than a car? Are we just tired? Is there some sort of kryptonite lying around messing with our superpower powers? Questions come more easily than answers.
I don’t know about you, but I worry a lot about these matters. I lie awake nights and then on the days that follow I can’t take my mind off them. I try to occupy my days by doing the right thing. I try to be a good American and support the economy. I go shopping, moving from one national chain to another. But I can’t seem to buy anything that makes me understand what has happened. Unenlightened, I return home. I try to watch some TV, but there on the tube all I can see are the ever-present faces of the winsome threesome, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Ashcroft, reminding me of their boss. I become discouraged. I try to sleep. I go to bed and say my prayers. Please, Lord, tomorrow when it is morning in America, let the people wake to the realization that they have been sold an Edsel. And then let them listen to what their dad and their dad’s dad taught them. Don’t hold on to a lemon. It won’t get any better. Sell it and make it someone else’s headache.