Monday, October 31, 2005


We came upon it entirely by accident, Bush. After visiting the church in a tiny village near to San Miguel (see below,) we took a turn on an impulse: I thought to have remembered from our visit in this area, a couple of years ago, an extraordinary private folk art museum somewhere along this side road, so we took it, and arrived, remarkably, at this ranch where a Mexican rodeo was in progress. What a thrill! Horses everywhere, with riders in traditional gaucho garb: the high, pointed boots and spurs, the weathered chaps, thick belts decorated with turquoise and silver, collar-less leather shirts with big, loopy bow ties and, of course, the heavy sombreros, wide at the side and turned up at the back. The women—and a posse of teenage girls—were rigged out in wide, flouncy, dresses, and rode side-saddle in a colorful parade down between the long straight adobe corridor that led to a walled, circular arena. And the sun beat down everywhere. The horses skittered and circled, dust flew, the bulls and calves charged into the ring, ropes flashed, and hoofs thundered hither and yon. A great spectacle, Bush. The main contest of the day seemed to be a calf-catching event, where riders chased down their charging targets, grabbed them by the tail, and flipped them over onto their backs in mid-career. Some fell, some stumbled, some got away. We cheered the ones that got away--American wusses that we are, Bush! If you’ll excuse the expression.

Anyway, it was a memorable afternoon. And about that church, this poem…

Verdad Incomprehensible

Leaving the crowded entry to the church—
where we had stood a while amongst the worshippers,
admiring the spectacular wall and ceiling decorations,
the extravagantly clothed and painted statues,
the bloody, flagellated Christ, even as the priest,
up front, before the altar, was intoning mass--
we came out into the brilliant sunlight
of the plaza. Our friend said, "I hate Catholicism;
not for the ritual, not for the iconography," she said.
"That’s beautiful. But for the dogma. It’s the dogma
that I hate." I knew what she meant. As they say,
I could relate. There’s something inarguably
arrogant and annoying about the assertion
of one belief as being "true" above all others.
As our friend went on, "It’s just a bunch of stories."

Well, yes. But let’s remember that not long before
we had been praising the values of these same
poor people, peasants, really, the dispossessed
who flock to worship in this church; who embrace
this same Catholicism. We envied their profound
connection with each other, with the earth,
the generosity of their spirit. All of which,
of course, may be inherited from the genes
of the ancients hereabouts—the "Indian"
pre-Columbians, a long, rich heritage evident
everywhere in the beautiful faces of the children.
(Though let’s remember, too, that these ancients
practiced human sacrifice to their Gods!) Anyway,
what I wanted to say to our friend, and never
quite got around to was this: that the gift
they receive from the Church (and, yes, even
its dogma: the body and blood of Christ)
is a perhaps not unimportant contributor
to that "soul-ful" quality that we, the more
economically fortunate, the more "rational,"
better educated, appear to have sacrificed
to our material progress. What religion offers them
is the vision of something grander, more magnificent
than their own hardscrabble lives, while honoring,
too, the pain of their blood, and sweat, and tears.
This same religion makes them who they are.

This, then: the glimpse, through a vaulted arch,
of two words separated from a longer, painted
inscription: VERDAD INCOMPREHSIBLE. Which,
in our English translation from the original Latin,
reads, I believe, "verdad", the truth,
and "incomprehensible," "beyond understanding."

Sunday, October 30, 2005

In San Miguel

Today, in soft
sunlight, across
the courtyard
from where I sit,
a breath of wind
lifts the vine.
There, behind
the curtain, caught
in dappled light,
the flash of bare
shoulders, white
shift, the glimpse
of a young woman
gazing out, across
the courtyard
to where I sit.

Such a surfeit of life here, Bush. From the teeming Jardin with its sun-withered old people and dogs, and courting couples, to the crowded cafes and treacherous, irregularly cobbled streets, to the markets where stalls sell trinkets and delicacies for the Day of the Dead. Talk and laughter, music, singing, jostling bodies… life, everywhere. Real poverty—what we, in our country, Bush, would judge to be deprivation: in dwellings, in possessions, in the wherewithal to purchase and consume.

But real joy, too. Or maybe that’s not quite the right choice of words: real engagement in the business of living, be it joy or sadness, celebration, grief—and often, perhaps, all of them together at one time. Life imbued, then, with what I judge to be the spirit of life. I wonder if religion has to do with it—the fleshy, dirty-hands religion of Catholicism, as opposed to our prim, puritanical variety.

And speaking of religion, it’s no respecter of persons in these parts. Not of tourist persons, anyway. We were awakened at six-thirty—well, no, make that five-thirty, given that time shifts back an hour this weekend, with the end of daylight savings time—by the sound of fireworks, surely from the nearby church. And not just one little burst of fireworks, Bush. A solid half hour of continuous explosions, reminding us of our mortality, and the need to show up in the pews to redeem our sins of the week—too numerous to mention.

Anyway, here we are, Sunday, in our beautiful, sunny bread & breakfast, happy to be far from whatever’s happening back there in the U. S. of A. Though I did hear, from one of the participants in our workshop yesterday, that your Cheney’s Libby had been indicted on several counts, including perjury, and that your Rove continues to be under investigation. My informant also told me that he had watched the Special Prosecutor’s press conference on TV, and that he had been much impressed by the man’s fairness, his thoroughness, and the seriousness with which he regarded the charges—placing them, importantly, in the context of the lies that led us into war.

Enough for today, though, Bush. There’s much, here, to be seen and done, and many good people to meet. Next thing you know, we’ll be down here for a month or two, testing the waters for… who knows what future development in our lives.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

South of the Border...

San Miguel de Allende

It feels good to be back on foreign soil, Bush. Not that America is not (still!) a wonderful country, but things definitely feel different down here in the middle of Mexico. As our host said to us—with more than a hint of sadness and cynicism--last night at dinner, "Down here, there are three things people care about: festivals, family, and food. In America, it’s money, money, and money." And, sadly, there’s more than a hint of truth in what she said. Down here, Bush, you really feel the grit and grind of life. You’re close to the bone all the time. And close to the heart and soul. It’s time to be gearing up for the Day of the Dead. Memento mori everywhere: grinning skulls made of sugar, skeletons dangling their bony extensions, ghosts and goblins. A bit like Halloween. Except that Halloween has lost its heart and soul. Nobody thinks any more that it’s REALLY about the dead, and about what death and dying mean in our experience of life. Halloween is about giving the kids a good time. It’s about treats.

Well anyway, Bush, one half of our mission down here is accomplished (to borrow a phrase that might bring you some small discomfort!) We came down to give a reading, first, which I did last night; and to lead a workshop, which we do together this morning, in a little while. The reading was a wonderful experience. It has been a while since I did a public reading, and it felt really good to have an audience out there, listening to what I spend my life writing—especially an audience as warm and receptive as this one. It was the first time I had read extracts from our Diaries, Bush, too, and you would have been interested in the response. You might expect an ex-pat crowd—and there’s a whole colony of them down here—to be open to a somewhat liberal attitude to what’s happening back home. To judge from the reception for those snippets from The Bush Diaries, Bush, there’s a lot of concern about the way you’re doing business up there in the States.

It would be great to think I’d found a few new readers for our venture at the reading, Bush. The applause at the end was certainly warm and, I think, heartfelt. What a thrill for me, and a privilege, to have such an opportunity to communicate with a few dozen fellow human beings! When it was done, I felt really good about the work I do, on both fronts: the poetry and the blog. And a lot of gratitude for those who took the time to come and hear me…

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Incredible Progress

Two thousand dead. And that's counting only the Americans. If anyone's counting the Iraqis who have died, they're keep very quiet about the numbers. But let's say tens of thousands. You say that they are making "incredible political progress" over there, even as you make a mournful public face about the dead. I don't believe you. I confess, with shame, that I was misled into believing you about those weapons of mass destruction. Many, wiser than I, were more skeptical.

But fool me once, as they say, and shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I'm not about to be fooled a second time by your shameless rhetoric. Unable to admit to a mistake, you persist in painting--perhaps even believing in--these rosy pictures of success, despite all evidence to the contrary. Now you try to sell me your ratified constitution, and I'm not buying, Bush. It's a fictitious, cobbled-together piece of paper that does nothing to heal the centuries-deep wounds between equally intolerant and fanatical religious factions. I count the tens of thousands dead, and I lay responsibility for them at your door. Correction: at our door, Bush, since we, God help us, in our collective unwisdom as a country, elected you to sit in the chair of the "most powerful person in the world." We can't walk away from our own responsibility in this.

Aside from that sad and angry marking of another milestone in this endless, messy tragedy, today's entry is intended just to give you notice that I'm leaving tomorrow early for the airport and flying down to San Miguel de Allende for a week. I'm doing a reading (much of it from these diaries,) and Ellie and I are offering a workshop there, for artists and writers. As of this writing, I'm not even sure I'll take my laptop yet. I may leave it at home, and take a holiday from this work we do together. If I do take it with me, if I do find a easily usable connection, you might be hearing from me. If not, not. Meantime, good luck with indictments, Bush. Good luck with your Miers. I think you're going to need it in both instances. Your heart must be in your (commander-in-chief's: remember?) boots.

Don't abandon me now, Bush, if you don't hear anything for a while. I will be back.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

No Bad Sex...

... except that which causes harm to myself or others. This is the code I have chosen to live by, Bush. Take adultery, for example. In my own experience--from many years ago, of course--I know that infidelity can cause great harm: the hurt that resulted from my youthful indiscretions continues to resonate in my own life and, I know, in the lives of those I love the most. I believe in the doctrine that teaches that all our actions have consequences, intended or not, and that we cannot escape the repercussions of those consequences in our lives.

These thoughts are provoked this morning, Bush, by the program I watched last night on television about the life and work of Dr. Alfred Kinsey; and by the sense that, as a society, we are still disastrously ambivalent about human sexuality. On the one hand--in part as the legacy of Kinsey's work--we have lived, in the past half century, through a "sexual revolution" that has proved liberating in many respects: in our ability to talk frankly about sex and explore its many and various manifestations in human experience; in the still-growing understanding that men and women, equally, have the right--and the need--to explore this aspect of their humanity, and to learn which of our inhibitions serve us well (precisely by protecting ourselves and others from harm) and which serve only to curtail the full expression of our humanity; and in recognizing that human sexuality takes a multitude of (harm-less) forms, including same-sex relations.

Fears, though, still abound. As do projections of those fears in the form of judgments about sexuality. I readily concede that not all of our fears have negative consequences. My fear of large, furry, ferocious beasts, for example, assures that I will not be eaten by lions, and my reluctance to stick my hand in the flames prevents it from being nastily burned. I suspect, however, that the intolerance of homosexuality emanates in good part from fears about ourselves: I happen to believe that most men have some experience of unrealized sexual interest in other men, and that it is their fear and shame around those hidden desires that cause their condemnation of those who act upon them.

(Getting back to Kinsey, a side note: the program mentioned with some surprise, I thought, his ability to get people talking to him about their intimate experiences. It doesn't surprise me a bit. I've had the opportunity, Bush, to listen to many men, particularly, pour out the secrets of their sexual lives with relish. The almost universal attitude is: I never thought I'd hear myself talking about this, but, boy, does it feel good! My sense is that we can't wait to talk about ourselves, and that it's a huge relief to find out that we are not freaks--that others share our same experiences and desires.)

I mention all this because I am disturbed by your feeding the flames of our society's political enactment of what I judge to be our fears around sexuality. At this point in our collective history as a species, we need not damaging and intolerant rhetoric about such things as sex education, gay marriage, the morning-after pill, and the distribution of condoms, but rather rational discussion of these topics. Because this is no longer private morality, Bush, but public policy, and it should not be the province of a handful of powerful, loud-mouthed, fear-driven bigots. With personal sexual liberation spreading throughout the world, there is a growing social responsibility to address its consequences--if only to prevent the environmental disaster of human overpopulation and the rape of the planet in the interest of human survival, resulting in the hunger, debilitating disease, and starvation of millions of human beings. It's time, all these years after Kinsey, to finally take a rational look at sex and the reality of its consequences in the world.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Ennobled and Saved...

You apologist David Brooks was praising you yesterday, Bush, in the op-ed pages of the New York Times, for having "ennobled and saved American conservatism."


I look around and I see half of your closest cronies under indictment or investigation for their nefarious activities to promote the conservative agenda--or themselves: your Frist, for securities fraud and your Delay, for political funding irregularities; your Rove, perhaps even your Cheney and his minion, Libby. I see the spreading morass of corruption centered around the sleazy Abramoff, erstwhile bosom chum of so many of your people. I see the disaster of the Iraq war, promoted by your neocons with their plethora of lies. I see the results of the failed policies of your brand of compassionate conservatism in the historic deficit, the continuing contempt for, and neglect of the poor, and the shameless coddling of the very wealthy. I see the insatiable greed and callous disregard for human rights and welfare. I see a world whose suffering has been multiplied immeasurably by the insistent, arrogant, ruthless implementation of the American conservative vision. I see women condemned to death in childbirth by the self-righteous moralism of rightist Christian bigotry. I see children malnourished and starving to death because their governments fail to meet with your approval and toe your democratic line.

I do not see this, Bush, as evidence that you have "ennobled and saved American conservatism." On the contrary, I believe that you have succeeded only in revealing the full extent of its moral bankruptcy and willful incompetence. The world of sleaze into which you now find yourself slowly and inexorably sinking is the direct result, Brooks notwithstanding, of a mindless, stubborn adherence to strict conservative views.

So where's the compassion, Bush, tell me? Where's the humanity? You boast about your great leadership capabilities: for God's sake, lead us out of the mess you have created.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

On Being Honored

Well, it was quite an evening last night, Bush. Ellie and I were honored, at a gala dinner and auction, for our work over the past thirty-five years in the Los Angeles community of contemporary art and artists. It was the 17th annual event of this kind for L.A. Artcore, the sponsoring organization. But for us, of course, it was a first. We had accepted several months ago with, frankly, some trepidation: we did not feel particularly "honorable", and have, besides, some anxieties about making this kind of public appearance. On the other hand, we felt that the invitation was a generous and sincere one, and to accept would be a gesture of support and respect not only for the organization but for the community of artists at large. So we stepped a little past our fears and accepted with gratitude.

So the time came around, and we managed to dig out some decent clothes from amongst all those boxes I've been telling you about. The reception and dinner were at one of those big downtown hotels, the setting a cavernous ballroom, with what I'd guess to be four hundred people in attendance. You're used to such things of course, Bush, and must by now take it all in stride. For myself, with an absurd lifelong fear of opening my mouth in public, I was immensely grateful for what I seem to have learned from my meditation practice: a measure of equanimity that quite surprised me. Ellie, too, whose fears in this kind of circumstance have been greater even than my own. She was up first, and did an impeccable job in her totally unrehearsed acceptance speech. She managed to say everything so perfectly, expressing her passion for art and her gratitude to those who have supprted her over the years, that she said everything I could have wished to say myself, only better.

Still, buoyed by a wonderfully generous introduction from the artist Roland Reiss--who has, not incidentally, a much-loved piece in our own collection--I managed to find the right words for the occasion, and felt good about having been able to express my own sense of gratitude for what has been a wonderful way of life for me, both personally and professionally, for all the years I've been living in Los Angeles. I have been fortunate, indeed, to find this special outlet for my calling as a writer.

What made the evening such a special moment in our lives, though, was the presence of so many people who we love: our daughter, first, who made herself spectacular in her own inimitable and idiosyncratic way; and other family--Ellie's sister, along with her niece and one of her two nephews; and many, many artists whom we have come to know and love; and special friends among the art dealers and collectors. This was the real honor, Bush: to feel so much love. This community has given us a spiritual and intellectual home, a place where feel known, and heard, and recognized. What a gift that is!

I trust you'll forgive this brief departure from our usual conversation, Bush. Tomorrow looks to be another busy day at the construction site, but I'll certainly try to find the time to get back to our usual business. Hope you're enjoying a restful weekend. Next week looks like a busy one for you, too.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Mug Shot

I found your Delay's mug shot on page A19 of yesterday's New York Times, Bush. Not your regular mug shot, I regret to say. Otherwise they'd surely have had it on page 1, above the fold. I suspect he brought along his own cameraman--and his own camera. Mug shot cameras don't do professional portraits like this one. A clean, crisp image. Big smile. Unlike the usual blurred and surly snarl, with guilty eyes caught in either sheer terror or a benumbed and vacant stare. Not so your Delay, all cheery, truculent, and ever so pleased with himself. A PR picture, really. No number. I never did see a mug shot without the number before. Is it legal? But I guess power hath its privileges, eh, Bush? Even when being marched off to jail. (Although I do have this image of Marie Antoinette in her tumbril, on her way to the guillotine. Not much dignity left there!) And I guess your guy must have chuckled a bit, coming up with the ten grand in bail money. Chump change to one who can raise millions at the wave of a hand--or the promise of special access.

Anyway, it was all nicely stage-managed, Bush. You couldn't have done it better yourself. Starting with the canny choice of an out-of-the-way sheriff's station to report to: apparently the media weren't smart enough to figure this one out. Surprise! Not a single reporter or television camera on hand to record the historic occasion of a House Majority leader being booked, for the first time ever, as I understand it. In at 12:15 PM, out at 12:45. Not bad, time-wise. I suspect that other suspects get a longer wait than that. Your Tom's lawyers, so it seems, are already trying to get the judge off the case. A Democrat. Also, to get the venue changed from a heavily Democratic district--one of the few left in Texas, I suppose, after your Delay's good work in redistricting to the benefit of Republicans!--to a more sympathetic jury pool.

Well, I know a man's still supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, despite your Justice Department's recent and continuing efforts to reverse this principle. But I have to admit I hope to see this one get the book thrown at him, Bush. I'd hate to see his self-congratulatory mug shot followed up by an even more triumphal post-trial celebration. Even if he manages to get legally acquitted, I'd love to see him forced into some serious personal and moral reappraisal of his arrogant high-handedness.

Some hope! My guess is, even if found guilty, this man will be unable to rise above the righteousness of his denial. Like your good self, I'm sure he's utterly convinced that he can do no wrong.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Not So Funny Any More

I found myself, late last night, exhausted from another construction site and freeway day, collapsed in front of the TV set and watching one of those dreadful escapist action movies. Ellie had sensibly long since given up in disgust and gone to bed, but there's something about even a supid story that just grabs me, and I have to see the end. So there I was, watching Lee Marvin, Chuck Norris and their gang of American military heroes rescuing hostages from a terrorist Muslim group. Not much pretense at character development or motivation. Basically these were just the stockroom bad guys with Middle Eastern names and bearded faces--but they did hate those Americans. Well, not those particular Americans they had captured, they were at pains to say: they hated the imperialistic American government and the American way of life, as well as what America was doing to them.

Stock stuff, then. And all pretty stupid, as I say. But I did check in on the date of the movie: it was 1986. Somewhere right in the middle there, between the Iranian hostage crisis and, well, today. Things haven't changed much, Bush, in lo these forty-fifty years. And sadly, the image of America and Americans hasn't changed much in that time. Here, in this movie, was the image we choose to project of ourselves: tough guys with guns, intent on protecting our interests and our people against all threats, perceived or real, from the rest of the world. Ready to use brute force to resolve our problems. Ready to kill ruthlessly--and with apparent glee--whether by stealth or by "shock-and-awe" explosions, no matter who gets in the way. Ready to impose our will on others. Ready to rectify perceived injustices, our own particular vision of the "hero" in a world of villains. The penultimate scene in the movie, Bush, was utterly predictable: a hand-to-hand combat between our blond, if slightly grizzled hero and the most villainous of dark-haired villains, with the American administering justice with, first, his brave, bare knuckles, then--when threatened unfairly with a knife and, finally, a gun, outmanoeuvering his opponenent and, in the last resort, blowing him to kingdom come. Oh, and the ultimate, ultimate scene: the freed hostages, aboard an American aircraft at last, joining together for a rousing chorus of "God Bless America"!

Well, listen, Bush, there's still enough little boy in me to enjoy a shoot-'em-up action movie. But I was surprised to find myself in heavy judgment, and pretty much horrified by the values of this particular example. Perhaps it's because they were all too close to the realities that you and your people have been creating in that part of the world in the past couple of years. It felt too much like the "reality TV" that obssesses us as a nation these days. The stereotypes of the truculent Muslim bad guys too much akin to the "insurgents" in Iraq. The image of brutally efficient American military force--and of the enemy finally exposed in all his craven cowardice--too close to the fare to which your administration treats us in its propaganda.

Bottom line: it just wasn't funny any more, Bush. I sat and watched, mesmerized by my own fatigue as well as by the hook of an absurd story line, and realized that what I was watching, with all its senseless violence, was precisely what the majority of the rest of the world believes about us. And, Bush, sadly, not without reason. And it's not only the American military that, in its fearful righteousness, wields dreadful firepower: I see in today's headlines that the Congress passed a bill protecting gun makers and dealers from legal action arising from the use, or abuse, of their products. Incredible! What other industry--pharmaceutical, tobacco, automotive--enjoys that kind of immunity? Perhaps, the cynical mind suspects, those industries are next in line for blanket protection. There seems to be no end to your administration's coddling of business. In the meantime, though, we Americans now have a still greater license to run amok with our weapons of--yes, Bush--mass destruction.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sleep Issues

Everything seems to be about issues these days, Bush. So I'm calling this piece "Sleep Issues." I think you'll understand. Here we go:

Sleep Issues

I wait for sleep.
It will not come.
The mind's awake. No,
not the mind. Make that
the brain. The mind
capitulates to the brain,
it's the brain that rejects sleep.
It goes to work obsessively
on tomorrow. What needs
to be done. And not content
with each small detail, done
once over, it goes back
rehearsing each one separately
over and over, even knowing
that each plan that it makes
will turn out differently.
Not the mind, the brain works
overtime, counting time. It works
back, calculating hours
of sleep. Four-fifty, three, two,
one. Bed at eleven-thirty,
that makes, what...? Five,
five-and-a-half hours, max.
Not enough, the brain decides,
while militating against more.
Meanwhile, the mind struggles
to regain ascendancy. Struggles
to bring the breathing body back
into the equation. Struggles
to relax. An irony, then.
And minutes, count them, slip by
mindlessly, whilst hours drag out,
interminable. Ah, "to sleep,"
said Hamlet. And "perchance
to dream." I breathe, I breathe.
I count the breaths. And wait.
For sleep.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"The Torture Question"

I watched Frontline on public television last night, Bush, with an all-too-familiar sense of shame and outrage. "The Torture Question" detailed our country's descent, under your watch, into a growing culture of abuse, arbitrary detention, and deprivation of legal rights. That all of us sat back and allowed you and your people to turn 9/11 into a permission to drag us down so far is to our lasting shame. Worse still is that we continue to sit on our hands and allow you to get away with a few show trials for those lowest (and least powerful) on the totem pole, whilst those who created and implemented the permissive policies are rewarded with your accolades and promotions. I think, Bush, particularly of your Rumsfeld, your Gonzales, and others who conspired with them to promote the right of the state over basic human rights. I think of your military brass--including especially your Gen. Jeff Miller--who demanded that those under their command should "take the gloves off" when dealing with detainees, in the interest of extracting what your people call, in their dreadful jargon, "actionable intelligence."

What the program made clear was that the prisoner abuse that has vilified this country's reputation was not the result of the misguided enthusiasm of "a few bad apples," as you and your Rumsfeld would have a gullible American public believe. It was a considered and carefully implemented policy, legally prepared and argued, and implemented from the top down. It catered, perhaps, to the baser instincts of those at the bottom of the ladder. But it is shameful to allow them to take all the blame for actions they clearly considered authorized by higher-ups.

Sadly, it's not only the morality of these tactics that are questionable: it's also their efficacy. For all the bullying and systematic abuse, it seems that the return in terms of reliable intelligence was minimal. Men were abused by American interrogators even when they were in no position to possess the information that was being sought from them. The cellular structure of Al Qaeda is famously such that few are knowledgable about critical information. And torture, as I hear it, leads men all too often to come up with false or misleading information, simply to put an end to the pain and humiliation. Besides, it is naive to assume that these smart enemies are not well trained in responding to coercive interrogation techniques.

What leaves me, finally, so outraged, is that there seems to be no justice and no prospect of justice--and this in a country that constantly claims the moral high ground. The whole thing has been neatly swept under the rug. But if we allow not only the perpetrators but the facilitators of such acts to go unpunished, are we any better than those we claim to be our enemies? It seems so clear that all this emanted from the office of your Rumsfeld, Bush. And yet not only did you refuse to accept his resignation when it was offered, you praised the man publically for doing "a superb job." What are the rest of us to think, except that you yourself approve his ruthless methods, his unwavering patrician assumption of the rightness of his actions, and his deflection of responsibility for them onto the lowliest of his minions?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


... Well, I spoke too soon, Bush. We made the attempt to move in to our new house yesterday, but were frustrated on all fronts. First, a dreadful accident closed down the 5 freeway for almost the entire day, snaring our work force in traffic so bad they had to turn around and head back to the shop. None of the work we'd been promised to allow us to move in by noon was done. Then, the rain. An untypical October storm drenched the area, and also continued throughout the day. Still, we drove up through sheets of rain, thinking to improvise enough to be able at least to spend the night--only to discover that so little progress had been made at the end of last week that a move-in was out of the question. Piles of boxes and furniture in every room, covered only with loose plastic sheets. The bed was not even visible under the clutter. So we turned right around, locked up the house, and came back down to our Laguna retreat. We won't even try today. Perhaps tomorrow...

In the meantime, I did get time to watch the news last night. And was appalled by our new "precision-guided" bombing expedition in Iraq. The US military was quick to brag that they had killed 70 "insurgents" at the site of the previous day's car-bombing that had left American service people dead. On the ground reports--from doctors and hospitals, among others--claimed that the majority of those who died were civilians, including childred, attracted to the bombing site out of curiosity. At the time of the news reports, the US military was continuing to insist that it had "no information about civilian casulaties." No information, Bush! I find that hard to believe, when I myself had information, sitting there at a television set in California! Precision guidance from a speeding aircraft at God knows how many feet seems of questionable value when you haven't the first idea what's happening on the ground. You can hit the target, I guess. But you have no control over who happens to be there. You just make the assumption that it's "insurgents." And then you stick to your story, no matter what the peasants say.

I thought about it again this morning, Bush, with your Hughes sitting there on the Today show talking about the murderous insurgents who don't care who they kill. I thought how little it would take to view this from the other side--the side from which we look to be the murderers, not caring who we kill. Just a simple shift in your point of view. Not to excuse the brutality on the other side. Don't think that I'm speaking in their favor. Murder is vile, no matter who commits it. But nor does their brutality excuse our killing of civilians, as I see it, from speeding aircraft, at God knows how many feet.

Your Hughes was also doing some crowing about the numbers that showed up to vote in the referendum, Bush, even as those numbers were being questioned and the specter of election fraud evoked. Was there, as one experienced observer put it, "something fishy" about the numbers? Were the ballot boxes stuffed? From what I hear, it sounds like a plausible possibility. Which leads me to wonder whether how many Sunnis actually did show up to support the draft constitution. I think we need to verify that before we crow too loudly. Don't you?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

More on Miller

(Posted Sunday for Monday, which I'll likely miss)

I know you'll be wanting to make some political hay out of the relatively peaceful election in Iraq, Bush--and with apparently significant Sunni participation. Still, for myself, I'm opting for wait-and-see. I really do hope the referendum opens the door to peace, prosperity, and democracy. But forgive me if I'm not yet able to congratulate you. It still looks like a three-way shotgun marriage to me. But then, of course, sometimes these marriages work out better than the love matches.

I've been reading up today (first time I've had reading time in what seems like weeks!) on the Judith Miller affair, and I have to confess that I remain confused. Perhaps that's the point: confusion. Given my admittedly limited knowledge, here's the reading that seems most logical and persuasive to me: you and your people had decided on the ouster of Saddam Hussein way before 9/11, and the terrorist attack on New York simply played into your hands, reinforcing that intention. (Just got shaken by an earthquake here in Southern California, Bush, as of this writing, Sunday afternoon. I'm getting a bit jittery about such things. Is the End of the World at hand?) Even with the added motivation of saving the country from the world-wide terrorism, though, there was a serious sales job to be done to get approval for your war--not only from the United States Congress, whose support you'd need, but from the American people. Hence the great, proliferating fiction of weapons of mass destruction, sold with considerable success--and at huge eventual expense--to the unwary public.

The media would have to be a part of it, of course. It wasn't only Judith Miller who was taken in by your propagana: you had the network television broadcasters bending over to help, along with the vast majority of the press. But, to judge from her pre-invasion articles, Miller was among those who took the bait, and she had the great, unimpeachable platform of the New York Times from which to propagate your gospel. If even this bastion of thinking liberalism went along, could the rest be far behind? So when the Times began to change its tune and published that now famous piece by Joe Wilson, what could be more logical than to use one of their own, whose gullibility was already proven, as a readily available tool in your administration's counter-attack? As I see it, Bush, she was not the willing tool, as some suggest, but rather the patsy: give her a handy "source" for inside information, and have him feed her the appropriate and self-serving lies; then let her take the heat whilst the real tool, Robert Novak, enacts the venomous, vengeful calumny with impunity.

Reading Miller's story about her Grand Jury testimony in the Times today, you can't really believe she swallowed the stories Libby fed her at face value, can you, Bush? That your Cheney knew nothing of Wilson's mission to Niger? That you yourself "might have made inaccurate statements because the C.I.A. failed to share doubts about the Iraq intelligence"? (Read, State of the Union Address!) Libby even asserted, according to Miller's notes, that "No briefer came in and said, 'You got it wrong, Mr. President.'" Tell that to the Marines whose lives are on the line today, Bush. If it's true, it can only be because of your reputation for reacting negatively to any information that fails to support your views. No one told you? Come on, Bush. As they say in Merrie Olde England, Tell me another.

In view of which large picture, I happen to think that the whole business of first amendment privilege and Miller's time in jail is no more than a distraction from the real issue. I have to agree with what our friend Frank Rich has to say, also in today's issue of the Times: that this whole thing "is about something far bigger: protecting the lies that took the country into what the Reagan administration National Security Agency director, Lt. Gen. William Odom, recently called 'the greatest strategic disaster in United States history.'"

So parse me that one, Bush, if you can. And forgive my irregularity. Ellie and I have been strategically out of town since Wednesday. Tomorrow, Monday, we actually get to move in to our new abode, if we can find a place to put ourselves between the boxes. (Oh, and before I forget to mention it: Costco came through. They did make sure to check our story by taking time to count their inventory, but called later to say they would credit our card with the erroneous cost of the third TV. Not only that, but with an apology for the mistake, no less. Costco, I think that we'll be back…)

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A Cautionary Tale

I know there are more important things to worry about, Bush, with the referendum in Iraq and so on--but I don't have any news of the results there yet, and so, instead... this cautionary tale.

Being a trusting soul by nature, I don't often check the totals at the checkout desk when I go to my local Costco, or Walmart, or Home Depot... But not any more. On our way home from Costco last night, I happened to ask my wife the total for the two new flat screen televisions we had just bought there (one of the dire and pitiable consequences, Bush, of moving: updating our two fifteen-year old sets. What a thing to have to worry about!) Ellie found the receipt--she had been the one to check out with the credit card--and told me the total was $3,500. Didn't sound right, Bush. One set was around $1,600, the other less than $800. How could that be?

Once home, we dragged out the calculator and checked the arithmetic. There were "fees", we noticed, unexplained to us before. And a $45 charge for GLD STR REN. What could that be? But we had been overcharged, we reckoned, by nearly $800. Hmmm. A computer error? We put so much faith in them.

Well, it was too late to do anything last night, so we decided to go back this morning and confront the management with their mistake. Now, though, this morning, examining the receipt more closely, I discover that an ink mark (by the checker?) had concealed a number, and that we had in fact been charged TWICE for the lower-priced set! Now I have to go back and persuade them that we only bought one, and trust that they'll believe me.

I don't make a habit of discussing my personal finances in public, nor my purchases. This time, however, I thought the cautionary tale a valuable one: ALWAYS check the receipt, even when you feel so weary that you could fall over, as we both were last night. NEVER accept anything on pure trust, even from the corporate computer. More on this story when I find out if the store is going to trust me. Or not...

Friday, October 14, 2005


I'm thinking about the referendum on the Iraqi constitution, Bush, and I'm truly hoping that it does go well. I'm hoping the day passes, miraculously, without violence. I'm hoping the Sunni Muslims get to be fully represented in the vote. I'm hoping the Shiites and the Kurds will be generous and compassionate, to each other as well as to the Sunnis. I'm hoping that the vote will result in a common vision for the future of the country, and a sound basis for a new political reality. I'm hoping the power of this vision will be compelling enough to counterbalance the destructive vision of the insurgents. I'm hoping the vast numbers of innocent and good-hearted Iraqi people will soon be able to enjoy the peace and security they deserve, and that their children will be able to grow up in a world freed from the threat of bombs. I'm hoping that the Iraqi police and military will rapidly grow strong, and fair, and trustworthy enough to take over the protection of the people and their cities. I'm hoping that those American men and women from whom so much has been required, and who have given so much, will soon be able to return safely to their homes and families.

I'm hoping all this, Bush. And I'm realizing, at the same time, that this is an awful lot of hope to hang on only the smallest thread of possibility. And I have to say that your staged speeches and events--such as that absurd satellite photo-op pep talk with a dozen hand-picked soldiers--do very little to inspire my faith. They look more like desperate measures to restore your standing in the polls. And with your Rove in trouble, even the machinations of spin-doctoring could very easily come unraveled. This is a dangerous moment for you, Bush. Further lies and deceptions will only get you deeper in the mire you have created. It's time, if you can stand it, for a cold shower in those bleak barracks of reality. It's time to tell some truth.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Still Here...

It's not that I've forgotten you, Bush. Just exhasted by two days of moving. I did catch a few glancing comments on morning television about your ratings. Not so good for you, I'd say. And your Republicans not faring much better. Falling back on faith may not work too well for you for very much longer. I wonder if you're going to be able to push your Miers through the Congress--and down the collective throat of the American people. I hope not...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ready Or Not.. and tomorrow are moving days. I mean, finally. Unavoidably. No more delays. Escrow closes (I was about to say "expires": shows my state of mind, Bush!) on our old house tomorrow, and like it or not we have to be gone by five p.m. Trouble is, there's STILL not a single room in the new house that is actually finished, complete, and emptied of the contractor's people, debris, and dust. So where are we to put the things that we have to move out? A conumdrum. It kept me awake for too much of the night, and I can't afford to be tired during the day.

Anyway, bottom line, don't expect too much of me in the next couple of days, Bush. For today, I'm still appalled by the dreadful devastation in Pakistan, and--as always when these great earthquakes occur--made very much aware of where we're living. It seems odd from today's perspective, but I actually rather enjoyed the first big earthquake I experienced, back in 1971. It seemed like a great ride. Maybe I was just young enough to still be feeling immortal. It was the big Northridge quake in 1993 that really put the fear of God in me. Even though at some distance from the epicenter, we had considerable damage on our hill: something to do with the way the shock waves traveled. Since then, not a night goes by without my thinking at some point, usually early morning, about the possibility of a recurrence. Not really a possibility, though. It's a certainty. The only question is, when?

Not today. Please. And not tomorrow. We need that close of escrow!

Monday, October 10, 2005

President Do-No-Wrong

Here's the burning question Bush? Is your Miers the last straw? Have you finally, fatally exposed the weakness of your character and your personal insecurities, even to those who have so ardently supported you? The Miers brouhaha would certainly seem to suggest this dire possibility. When the Wills and the Krauthammers of this world begin to denounce you, in public, as they have done, I sense that you might be in deeper trouble than I had imagined. There's an impatience and a dismissiveness to their tone that should really worry those who handle you. The only surprise is that it took so long.

Even so, there's every sign that you'll continue on your merry way. Or, in that favorite family phrase of yours,"stay the course"--with Miers as well as in Iraq. Which reminds me of the truly pathetic, cliche-ridden performance this past week, when you defended your Iraq adventure for the hundredth time n front of the world's television cameras as the front line in the war on terror--blithely passing over the fact that this particular front was of your own creation, that Iraq would never have become the ideal recruitment and training ground for terrorists had it not been for your own foolhardy actions. Actions, it need scarcely be mentioned, initiated against the advice of almost every sober head, both here in the United States and throughout the world.

Now, yesterday, in the Los Angeles Times, we read a parallel pair of solid front page articles that further expose the bankruptcy of your policy in that unhappy country. The first, excellently researched, reveals how U. S. companies have been complicit, for their profit, in the importation and exploitation of foreign workers, some bound into nothing short of servitude, some even killed for no greater sin than desperation in their search for jobs. The second article questions whether your goal of democracy is achievable--and, even if so, whether its achievement will bring stability and peace, as your people argue, or further violence. With the October 15 referendum on the shotgun-wedding constitution just around the corner, prospects for a peaceable resolution to all sectarian disputes seem bleak at best.

I have a question for you, Bush: in the racncourse metaphor of which you are so fond, does the jockey "stay the course" when his mount is hobbled, at the risk of life and limb? Or, out of respect for the poor, suffering animal, does he not rather rein in, dismount, and call in the vetinerarian team? On the other hand, should your metaphor be intended to evoke the ethos of the sporting yachtsman, does the smart captain at the helm simply "stay the course" when he spots the reef ahead, or tunes in radio reports of approaching hurricane winds? Does he blindly risk the lives of his crew and the ship they sail for the sake of his own ego? Or does he not rather evaluate his position, change course, and even, if conditions require, return to port?

Just a Monday morning question, Bush, for you to ponder.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Saturday Scribble

How conveeeenient, as the Church Lady would say. For someone who prides himself on not watching the polls, you sure come up with some timely diversionary tactics when you most need them, Bush. First it was the New York terror threat this week. Very nice. And then, yesterday, the great Asian flu discussions at the White House--suddenly it gets to be serious, after years of dithering. A double scare, then, for the American people. But what a tired old strategy, Bush. Can't your people come up with something, well, more imaginative, and more positive, by way of a diversion from the growing disaster of your presidency?

And then, I note, your old nemesis Mohamed ElBaradei gets the Nobel Peace Prize, with his International Atomic Energy Commission--you know, the folks who were right about those mythical weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when you were wrong. A bit galling, I'd guess.

And then... is God mad at us, or what? Not content with Katrina and Rita, He now devastates Central America with His floods and mudslides, and kills thousands more in Pakistan with a 7.6 earthquake. You need to have a word with Him, Bush, since you're on such good terms. And this time, it would help us all if you'd listen to what He really says, not what you want to hear Him say. Okay?

Friday, October 07, 2005

The "Demise of Democracy?"

Yesterday morning, Bush, I sat and looked through over four hundred slides submitted by more than one hundred and fifty artists, as the sole juror for an exhibition that opens next month at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA.) The show is called "The Demise of Democracy?"--a subject, as you know, that is always on my mind. It was, as you yourself so often like to say, "hard work." (As an aside, my daughter's rock band has adopted this favorite phrase of yours as the title of one of their songs!) Hard, because only sixty of the over four hundred works could be included. Hard, because there was so much good work, so much outrage. Hard, because as the juror, I had to be the excluder as well as the includer. Quite a responsibility, to so many artists of good heart and good intention. I have been turned down often enough myself to know how much it can hurt.

I'm not sure that you would have enjoyed the job, Bush. There were any number of not-too-flattering images of your good self. But I didn't want this to be primarily or exclusively about Bush-bashing. Well, not all of it, anyway: the attack on democracy has a much wider and more dangerous base than just one president. (I don't consider myself a Bush-basher, by the way. In case you were wondering.) I also didn't want it to be primarily about your Iraq war--though that couldn't help but figure in the deal. It, too, reflects some aspects of democracy: we need to think more deeply about the quasi-coercive imposition of democracy in a country where it seems doubtful that people are ready for it--our version of it, anyway. About the questionable democracy involved in the recruitment of our servicemen and women, the the unequal price they're called upon to pay. About the notable absence of democratic process in the way the war began. On the positive side, I wanted the show to address the subversion of democratic ideals in the economic world, in the fields of race and social class, in questions of poverty and privilege.

On the aesthetic side, I didn't want the show to worry too much about techical skills, or about the "quality" of work in conventional gallery terms. I was looking primarily for pertinence to the theme and effective use of medium: is this image really about the "demise of democracy"? Is there a sense of history here? Of critical judgment? Of discernment? But also, of course, of passion, conviction, authenticity. I wanted it not to be about subtlety (although that, too, was welcome.) I responded, for this show, to the fast read, the accuracy and precision of the artist's observation and the appropriateness of the medium. I also responded particularly to work that made me laugh out loud, because that, for me, is an immediate truth response.

Bottom line, though, I was sorry to have to say no to a lot of excellent work, some pertinent, some (as Jon Stewart would say, with a shrug and a grin,) "not so much." At one point, I had the urge to include EVERYTHING, pell mell, and have it hung salon-style, higgledy-piggledy, to fill the gallery walls. That, believe me, would have made quite a statement about the sheer number of working artists who are passionately questioning the status of democracy in the United States today.

In the end, I just did what I could, given the enormity of the task. Made some mistakes, for sure. Offended some. Hurt others (sorry!) And put together what--given the quality of this submission pool--will turn out to be a lively show. You're warmly invited to stop by and see it, Bush, if you happen to be out here in California looking for votes. Oh, and tell your friends to come. With apologies for the mix of metaphors, it does get a bit incestuous, preaching to the choir!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

How Do You Sleep At Night?

I don't know about you, Bush, but I'm finding it harder and harder to put in a good night's sleep. I find myself waking earlier and earlier each morning, my head already filled with lists of things undone and lists of things to do. This morning I woke at four-thirty with the startled realization that this is Thursday already, today, the first of the two days I had booked for our Byron--our jack-of-all-trades--to come with half his family to help us move. And while we're ready to go at this end, with stacks of boxes sitting around awaiting transportation, there's no place yet to put them at the new house. It's still a mess of construction dust and debris, with all the various trades still working there: painters, carpenters, tilers, plumbers, plasterers--they're all there, just barely avoiding tripping over each other. Bottom line: nowhere to put the boxes, nowhere to put the clothes hangers, nowhere to put the computer and the printer and the fax machine... So what to do with Byron? Then tomorrow the cable people and the telephone company are scheduled, at the new place, to install their lines...

Anyway, Bush, you can understand it feels like I have a lot on my plate, and I wake earlier each morning, and each morning with a longer list of things to worry about. So I can hardly begin to imagine how it feels for you, with the bombings escalating in Iraq, and the problems with those sudden changes in the referendum rules, and the British announcing that their soldiers are being blown to bits with weapons supplied directly by Iran, and Iran (really, it seems!) building weapons of mass destruction, and Kim Jong Il still building his, and more bombings in Bali, and Russia getting restless, and half the countries in Africa going to hell in a handbasket with half their people starving, or fighting, or suffering from dreaful diseases, and Europe in uproar, and the Israelis and Palestinians still at each others' throats, and the ice cap melting, and hurricanes hitting us left, right and center, and the fire season on us, and most of the world hating our guts... Not to mention the polls!

So how do you sleep at night? That's what I'm wondering. Or do you wake up at four in the morning, like I do, with your head full of lists? I guess maybe you hire people to wake up with their heads full of lists for you, so that you can get a good night's sleep with Laura in the Lincoln Bedroom. That must be it.

As for me, I have two life-savers, Bush. The first is my meditation practice, which I've been doing for years now. A half hour, at least. And I manage it almost every day. I miss maybe once a month, once in two weeks. It's not easy, with the head so busy with all its thoughts and worries, but it's essential. A great discipline. And it keeps me sane. The other life-saver--and you may be surprised to hear this, Bush, is this daily journal. If it weren't for us sitting down together (almost) every morning and scribbling these notes, I don't think I'd get any writing done at all. And that would drive me crazy.

So here's a word of thanks, Bush, for helping to keep me at it. I wish I could get you to meditate instead of all that praying to Jesus that you do, but that's probably expecting too much. Failing that, we always have The Bush Diaries. No?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Things Go

It's a simple lesson, really: things go. Everything goes. Every thing goes. Why then so hard to learn? You stand among the ruins of what once was where you lived, and you watch things go. The man has come with his crew to take them. By arrangement. You sold them to him, willingly. That was the transaction. Now he has come to take them: the Mission bench from the living room, the glass-topped coffee table, the copper lamp with the woodland design lampshade; the bright, decorative British tea set from the 1930s, called "Bizarre;" the oak buffet; glasses and china; silverware and linens; rugs from the homes of grandparents, worn with their comings and goings, long ago, and their pictures, the grandparents themselves, in ornate frames. They carry them out, the crew, and load them on their truck, and you stand and watch. Such a simple lesson: non-attachment. What you have tried to learn, these past few years, from the Buddhist teachers and their wisdom. And yet the pain is there. With each little object, its own tug. Old friends. They were comfortable, familiar. You watch them disappear, and the pain is there. You wonder where they will end up. Some to be kept, some to be sold, some to be thrown out on the trash heap. Things go. And you remember, this is your choice. To let things go. You remember, you remind yourself: there were those, not long ago, in those unwelcome hurricanes, whose things were snatched from them cruelly, overnight, swept away by wind and water, leaving nothing. No thing. And you remember, too, you remind yourself: there are those who live, perpetually, with no thing. Millions of them. Not by choice. And you remember, you remind yourself: every thing must go. Even the forests. Even the mountains, even the oceans. The planet itself must go. That old star, sun, must go. And you watch these little things in your life disappear, and you can't help it: you still feel the pain.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Nanny Factor

Interesting choice, Bush. Not that I could claim to know the first thing about your Harriet Miers--and it seems I'm not the only one--but I'm concerned about the pattern that seems to be recurring. Listen, for all I know your Miers might turn out to be a truly great constitutional scholar and Supreme Court Justice. It doesn't exactly sound like it, at first sight, but I certainly hope she will. But greatness is not what immediately springs to mind in association with her name. "Efficient functionary" might do it better. Right-hand woman. I guess it's my own liberal idealist agenda, Bush, but I was rather hoping for evidence of a greater, more expansive, more imaginative intelligence for the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Something grander, more in keeping with the gravitas of the court itself.

Instead we get, well, what seems to be another Bush nanny. A woman you can trust to protect you--not unlike your Karen Hughes--and who knows your deepest thoughts. A stalwart. She has worked for you in trusted positions for God knows how many years, content to remain in the shadows, knowing, perhaps, that she has your ear--and you, hers. A person who takes care of you. A confidante.

And it's that closeness that bothers me. That sense that here you're grabbing onto yet another security blanket--much needed, I'm sure, at a moment when everything, even the weather seems to be conspiring against you. It's not quite the same as the cronyism we've all been complaining about. No, it's the nanny factor. I've always thought of you, as you know, as a fearful man, a never-quite-grown-up boy, and one who is, secretly, desperately out of his depth in that high office to which a mix of charm, and privilege, and the expectations of others have promoted him. But here was another opportunity to find your own inner wisdom, to reach for greatness, to express a vision. And you let it slip.

Anyway, for me it's more mundane stuff today. Back to the sorting, back to the packing... So have a good day, Bush. Knock 'em dead. On second thoughts, that's not the best metaphor in our current circumstances. Better keep 'em alive!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

You-u-u-u- Scandalize Me...

I’m wondering what you can be thinking, Bush, about this rapidly expanding whiff of scandal that threatens to pervade your whole administration. A whiff? There’s a British understatement for you. It's a bloody awful stink. The odor of unsanctity seems to be emanating everywhere, these days, from the administration offices (your David Safavian, recently arrested) to the Republican halls of Congress (your Frist, your Delay...) And a serious part of it all, of course, is the scandalous ineptitude of some of your appointees and the scandalous cronyism that seems to be the only reason for their appointment. The levees seem to have broken in Washington as well as New Orleans, and the flood is leaving some exquisite corpses in its wake.

So I’m thinking, Bush, that you must be as angry as the rest of us, no? What’s most exposed as the flood waters recede is the bankruptcy of your political philosophy and the cynicism of its functioning. Given your apparent absence of respect for the role of government in the country’s life, it’s hardly surprising that you gutted the effectiveness of whole departments, not only by starving them of funds, but by staffing them with incompetents. Your cronies do not serve you well, once they are revealed for who and what they are. Still, it must be galling, now, to be exposed as the Incompetent-in-Chief. And especially mortifying after making such loud noises about returning dignity, integrity and respect to the White House.

Unlike some, however, I do not believe you to be the incarnation of evil or stupidity. As I see it, what has brought you to this sorry pitch is a dreadful indulgence in your own self-righteousness, a steadfast and blind belief that you can do no wrong, a kind of mental laziness or lethargy, a lack of critical judgment or discernment, perhaps, that leads you to misplace trust in others on the basis of a faith in your own gut instinct: and despite evidence to the contrary, that same character flaw prevents you from seeing, or at least admitting, when that trust fails. So your Rummy has done a "superb job" when all his planning and predictions in Iraq prove disastrously wrong; your "Brownie" is doing "a heck of a job" while the Gulf Coast goes down the drain.

What I want in a President, Bush, is someone who is constantly critical, constantly demanding—of himself as well as those around him (or her, with respect to Geena Davis—and maybe, one day, Hillary!) I want someone who’s willing and able to fire someone who’s doing a poor job, or who misinforms him, and not someone for whom blind loyalty supercedes the ability to evaluate and appraise. What I have seen in you until most recently—the past couple of weeks, at best—is self-congratulation and denial of responsibility, for yourself as well as for those you have appointed to responsible positions.

It’s not good enough, Bush. Perhaps, as you’re trying to tell us in a variety of ways—mostly photo-ops, I regret to say—you have learned a lesson from Katrina. I hope so, for all our sakes. I’m very much afraid, though, that all you’ve learned is how to spin this one, too, to turn it to your advantage. A good test for me, and I think for many in this country, will be the name you come up with for your next Supreme Court nominee. Will that nomination show the beginnings of a real sense of humility, a preparedness to listen and respond to those other than your ideological base? Or will it come from that same place of self-righteous belief in your own moral rectitude? We’ll see--and, by all accounts, in the very near future.

And finally, a word to those who share our conversations in these diaries, Bush: thanks for staying with me at a moment when I’ve been skimping not only on the writing time devoted to this effort, but to the reading and other preparation time that inform it. Those kind enough to have been following along with me will know that this coming week is moving week for Ellie and me (at last) and will hopefully forgive some even greater irregularity and haste. Tomorrow, for example, I’ll likely have to skip. But I’ll be back!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Not Appropriate

"Not appropriate." These were the strongest words your White House could find in reaction to your William J. Bennett's heartwarming remark about black babies: that "you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down"? And look how he qualified the statement: that "it would be a morally reprehensible thing to do"! Not undesirable, perhaps. But morally reprehensible. Abortion, after all, is morally reprehensible even for lesser folks than our good white selves. And where's the qualification for his charming suggestion that black babies are all potential criminals? This from the voice of the man who presumes to preach to us loudly about the debasement of our moral values!

Okay, so is it simply "not appropriate" that he should use his public pulpit for such utterances? Or is it "morally reprehensible"? Or slimy political pandering? Or gross insensitivity? Or slanderous calumny? Or unadulterated racism? Or wrong-headed rhetoric? I mean, surely you could have gone just a wee bit further toward expressing outrage, Bush? No? Or was such a mealy-mouthed, mild reproof "appropriate" to the racist stench that emanates from your Bennett's thinking process, simply because he later pleads a lack of bad intention? Would anything stronger have threatened to alienate your celebrated "base"?