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American tragedy as cool photo op
A few other background sequences our court-appointed president could put to good fundraising use

WE’VE ALL HEARD about the Republican National Committee’s direct-mail piece offering donors three photographs of court-appointed president Bush, including one of him on Air Force One on September 11 as he hightailed it out of harm’s way while his nation was under attack.

Kind of makes you pine for the good old days when all that might have turned up in your mailbox was anthrax or a bomb, doesn’t it?

The Air Force One shot is a rare photo — in the background, actual Bush spin doctors are concocting the very lies they told us September 12 to explain away why Bush went Barney Fife on September 11. The appeal, although distasteful, is well-targeted. A photo of Bush covering his own ass does present a certain primal allure to Republicans.

According to the GOP letter, the three pictures depict:

• "... the gritty determination of our new president at his inauguration" (as he bravely appears in public without a drool cup on the day he literally takes office).

• "... a telephone call from Air Force One to Vice President Cheney on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001." (But I’m scared to come home, Unka Dick.)

• "... and President Bush’s historic State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress that united a nation and a world" (in disgust over his inane "axis of evil" allegations).

In light of the shocking news that George W. Bush actually knew something (or anything), the Republican National Committee should withdraw the offer of photos of Bush on the Day He Should Have Seen Coming and add some other shots as premiums:

• Tax Haven, Connecticut, 1946: little George is born with a silver spoon in ... his nose.

• Anywhere but Texas, 1972: over hill, over dale, Dubster hits the dusty trail as he goes AWOL from the National Guard.

• Port Pickle, Maine, 1976: W stands for "weave," as far as the officer administering this field sobriety test is concerned.

• Midscam, Texas, 1978: the only strikes made by Jr. Oilman Bush are at the bank accounts of investors in one failed scheme after another.

• Texican Border, 1983: W has yet to find God but does meet up with CIA operative and close family friend Crankisco de Muerto, who provides Jr. with all the "inspiration" he needs to stay ever vigilant in case the Sandinistas make a move.

• Arlington Depths, Texas, 1992: George brandishes a genuine Louisville Slugger as he drives residents from their homes to make way for the taxpayer-funded Ballpark in Arlington, which helped turn his $600,000 investment in the Texas Rangers baseball team into over 15 million publicly subsidized dollars, when he sold his interest in the franchise a few years later.

• Lynchland County, Texas, 1998: on his trip from the death house to the White House, Texas governor Bush stops to apologize to close pal "Kenny Boy" Lay for not switching the Lone Star State’s method of execution from lethal injection to the electric chair, thereby depriving Enron of a chance to profit from the statewide brownouts that surely would have followed.

• Republican Nationalist Convention 2000: the bowels of hell actually open to reveal a chortling Satan as Bush claims he will return ethics to Washington. In the past, this had only happened when W claimed to be either an environmentalist or a compassionate conservative.

• Presidential suite Casa de Polloguano, Polloguano, Texas, November 7, 2000: Jr. asks his brother, "Paper or plastic?" Jeb patiently explains that "Florida is in the bag" is just a figure of speech.

• NASA weather satellite: this photo from outer space is the first to capture the entire girth of the stress boil that formed on Bush’s face in the tense days between Al Gore’s victory in the 2000 election and the Supremacist Court’s overruling of the electorate.

But then, maybe those photos would be better suited for Democratic fundraising.

Not that the photos already chosen couldn’t serve Dem purposes as well. Could the R’s have selected a worse moment to commemorate than the September 11 photo of Bush boogying to Nebraska? In it, he’s pictured dutifully phoning chief handler Dick Cheney while the nation, for which he was supposedly responsible, was under attack. The picture captures Bush’s cowardice and subservience, which is to say, his essence. Democrats generally have to speak at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee event to appear even a fraction as compromised.

It’s not as if the Republicans were forced into hawking the Bush photos out of economic necessity. On May 14 the party raised a cool $30 million at a corporate fundraiser. Wasn’t that act of political prostitution enough? Did they really have to stoop so low as to turn September 11 into a special collector’s item? Of course they did; they’re Republicans, and to them sleaze equals virtue.

So on the very day that news of the Bush photo offer hit the wires, the R’s held a black-tie gala to celebrate their sliminess. In light of the upcoming ban on soft money in federal elections, the event was the equivalent of throwing a keg party at the entrance to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

The most emotional part of the evening came when Bush asked for a moment of silence in honor of all the Enron and Arthur Andersen officials who couldn’t be there to gorge themselves as they had at so many earlier events. A spotlight shone on two empty black valises during the hushed salute.

Even without the Kenny Boy contingent, there were still plenty of black-tied bagmen to exert undue influence on an administration that always gets list price for its services. The $100,000-to-$250,000 donors at the May 14 Glutton Cotillion, no doubt already in possession of framed and autographed copies of the September 11 photo of Bush hotfooting it to the game room in Nebraska, included: American International Group, Chevron, the El Paso Corporation, Microsoft, Philip Morris, American Auto Parts, NVR Inc., Union Pacific, the American Hospital Association, AT&T, Cigna, Dominion, FirstEnergy, Lockheed Martin, and Schering-Plough.

So the next time you get mistreated, fleeced, sickened, or downsized by an insurance company, software giant, oil gargantuan, transportation concern, Big Tobacco, health-care depriver, communications monolith, real-estate Goliath, heartless bank, energy speculator, weapons contractor, or pharmaceutical peddler, close your eyes and visualize our court-appointed president using Air Force One to flee like a cockroach skittering away from a suddenly illuminated room. It’s all you’ll have. When this crew gets done ripping you off, you certainly won’t be able to afford an official RNC print.

Visit political satirist Barry Crimmins’s Web site at

Issue Date: May 30 - June 6, 2002
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