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Keep Petting That Goat!
by Peter Kurth
September 8, 2004

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Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called walking.

-- George W. Bush

“How long can we pretend that the spit in our faces is rain?”

-- Gideon Levy in Ha’aretz

So, which was your favorite moment of the late, unlamented Republican convention in New York? Discounting the sheer size and variety of the protests against Bush, I’d vote for White House aide Andrew Card’s brazen admission that Dubya – “this president,” as Card calls him – “sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child.”

That’s right, a 10-year-old child. The President of the United States thinks his country and his subjects are still in 5th grade, bumping up against puberty and at permanent risk of molestation. Hence all the manly rhetoric from that phallus-shaped platform last Thursday night – “43 minutes of sheer wisdom,” as Bush himself described it: “We will extend the frontiers of freedom," “Democracy is coming,” “We have a calling from beyond the stars,” etc.

But maybe you missed the story about Card. Probably, you did, because, with the lone exception of The Boston Globe, no one in the major media saw fit to report it.

“I know as a parent I would sacrifice all for my children,” Card declared, addressing an assembly of Republican delegates from Maine and Massachusetts. “But there is no doubt about the president's commitment to make sure that he protects us no matter what the polls may say, no matter what focus groups might suggest, no matter what the UN [gives] permission to do."

Such a relief! Imagine if we lived in a dictatorship, where “misjudgments” aren’t admitted “no matter what the polls may say.” The Kerry campaign – reaching, as always, for its sharpest knife – called Card’s remarks “condescending,” but Card shot back in perfect Bush-speak: “The Democrats who met in Boston [in July] had a wonderful party, because Boston hosted a wonderful opportunity for them to get together. But they tended to talk about yesterday, and our president knows that leadership is all about tomorrow.”

Frankly, I’m trying to get through today. If you ask me, this whole country’s having a nervous breakdown, one voter at a time. It was Card, after all, on September 11, 2001, who whispered in Bush’s ear that the United States was under terrorist attack, while Bush sat blank-faced in a 2nd-grade classroom of Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, reading a story with the children called “The Pet Goat.”

“The president accepted my words but did not introduce fear to any of those young people,” Card reports proudly, “or through the national media to the American people.” As I remember, the American people, as well as the national media, were on the job before Dubya blinked an eye. If they lived in New York City, they were running for their lives, wondering if their friends and family would survive what seemed like Armageddon. But Card, true to the Bushmen’s lying script, thinks Dubya’s pure inaction that morning reveals his strutting stature as “a leader.”

“After an appropriate period of time,” says Card, “he excused himself from the classroom … and exercised the ultimate responsibility of a president.” In Bush’s case, this means that he flew aimlessly around the United States on Air Force One for about 10 hours – from Florida to Louisiana to Nebraska – before finally landing in Washington in the early evening, having phoned Laura ahead of time to tell her, “I’m coming home. See you at the White House.” They must both have wondered how they ever got there.

Granted, both Bush and Card have cause to believe that the electorate consists of blithering idiots, since their New York dog-and-pony show apparently went down the American throat like so much cotton candy, spun out of nothing but sugar and hot air and lacking even one nutritional component. Bush’s post-convention “bounce” is a matter of wonder even to the press that maintains him in power.

“Election 2004 suddenly is not just about whether John Kerry or George W. Bush will lead the United States the next four years,” writes Robert Perry in Consortium News. “This election has become a test of whether reality still means anything to the American people.” Or, as Kerry spokesman Phil Singer explains in response to Card, “Any parent that ran a household the way George W. Bush runs the country would find [himself] in bankruptcy court on the way to family court."

Worse, any parent that ran a household the way Bush runs the country would find himself raising “the twins,” Barbara and Jenna, two sloppy babes who, according to The New York Post, managed to rack up a $4800 liquor bill on a single night of the convention, while partying with their father’s “Young Republican” guard. These girls even got to smoke in public places, dammit, the ultimate insult to anyone who’s watched New York go all wussy lately. For this they got their booze for free -- I kid you not -- and left their waiter $45, a one-percent tip.

And speaking of family values – the only member of Dick Cheney’s clan who didn’t join her parents onstage in New York was his lesbian daughter, Mary. Mary wasn’t invited to Barbara Bush, Sr.’s “W Stands for Women” party at the Waldorf-Astoria, either, although her sister Liz was there, lauding “this president” for “empowering women overseas.”

Indeed, the Republican platform is so overtly homophobic that even the Log Cabin Republicans, highly indignant, are threatening not to support Ding-Dong this year. They’ll change their minds, of course, and, when they do, I’ve got a slogan for their bumper stickers: “Log Cabin Republicans – Girlie Men for Bush!”

No people ever recognize their dictator in advance. He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship. He always represents himself as the instrument [of] the Incorporated National Will. ... When our dictator turns up you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American. And nobody will ever say "Heil" to him, nor will they call him "Führer" or "Duce". But they will greet him with one great big, universal, democratic, sheeplike bleat of "O.K., Chief! Fix it like you wanna, Chief! Oh Kaaaay!"

-- Dorothy Thompson, 1935

Peter Kurth is the author of international bestselling books including Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, Isadora: A Sensational Life, and a biography of the anti-fascist journalist Dorothy Thompson, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson. His essays have appeared in Salon, Vanity Fair, New York Times Book Review, and many others. Peter lives in Burlington, Vermont. He can be reached at: Visit his website at:


Other Articles by Peter Kurth


* Religion in the News
* Beam Me Up, Mrs. Williams
* Such Emptiness! Such Depth of “Preparedness!”
* Absent on AIDS
* King James and King George

* Beheadings
* F--k this, Dick!
* Reagan Idiosis
* Chickenhawk Chic
* Letter to Mars
* Robbing "Defeat" to Pay "Appall"
* Standing Small
* Bible Time
* One Man's Flip Is Another Man's Flop
* Kee-reist is More Like It
* Star Wars
* The Breast That Ate Pittsburgh
* Monkey See, Monkey Do
* Crank Call
* A Cynic's Guide to the Top Stories of 2003
* Talking Turkey
* Let Them Drink Coke
* The Gang that Couldn’t Talk Straight On Iraq
* Party Rules