In the press bleachers, an island floating among the spirited amateur Republicans and political looky-loos of the upper sections, one gets the sense that no one likes George W. Bush much–though the journalistic duty toward objectivity flattens out the spikes of distaste and amazement. Everyone tries to focus after four days of exhaustive message massaging; everyone has work to do.
On the floor, the men are glossier and the women are hotter; everyone’s had work done. Down here, one gets the sense that nobody likes George W. Bush much either. He is a means to an end; the most yahoo-looking Texas dudes all have four-year plans, or twenty-year vision statements, and W. is the quickest way to check off the little boxes.
The nominee knows this. This is not a sign of insight so much as animal cunning. And so he comes out to meet them. Instead of locomoting immediately onto the Nation of Courage track, the one for the home viewers, he feeds the beast in the hall. He feeds it with money, or the promise of money, or the promise that no one will ever try to take their money.
He uses every keyword he knows toward this end, up to and including the condemnation of frivolous lawsuits. Twice. The sense of relief in the crowd, knowing they would be safe from the many lawyers who hate us for our freedom, is palpable.
But that’s business; eventually the minorest major man in the West must turn to more classical forms of crowd-pleasing. Once he hits the mainline, he doesn’t let up. “Three quarters of Al Qaeda’s key members,” he offers, “have been detained or killed.” The word “killed” causes people in the bleachers to salivate, so that when they burst immediately into cheers, the atmosphere fills with spittle.
Soon the Podium-in-Chief will offer a confusing parable damning the New York Times, involving some quotation from 1946 and a strange version of European history, perhaps one they teach in Special Topics, right before Creationism Studies.
After this, it is almost all God all the time, for it turns out that “freedom is not America’s gift to the world, it is the Almighty God’s gift to every man and woman in this world.” Apparently, there are some minor distribution problems that will be cleared up shortly. In the meantime, the nominee quotes from “Ecclesiastes,” the most beautiful book of the Bible that doesn’t involve the world’s beginning or end.
Bush quotes only a phrase, less than the Byrds in their hit song, and alas nothing about vanity, nor the verse that surely must be on his mind, the verse that allows him to stand there with the confidence that the most implausible and indigestible claims are bound to go unchallenged: “Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?”
Who wants to know? It’s none of your business.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 3, 2004