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The Truth, Mainly - 07/13/1992

Old Brooklyn Dodger fan sees diabolic plot in Bush decline

After barfing on the prime minister in Japan, after being tear-gassed in Panama where he was supposed to be greeted as a liberator, and after being perceived as a world-class environmental disaster in Rio, the president has recently gotten himself in serious trouble:

His ratings have gone all to hell.

Seventy-eight percent of us disapprove of his handling of the economy. Only 34 percent approve of the overall job he's doing. And, most ignominious of all for an incumbent, an ABC-Washington Post poll shows him running in third place behind both Perot and Clinton.

George Bush gets no respect any more. "Glamour" magazine named him "the Man We'd Most Like to See Barefoot, Pregnant and on Welfare." And Republican guru Kevin Phillips said "If I didn't think that he deserved it, I could even feel sorry for Bush."

So most of us in the Anybody-but-Bush crowd are walking around with sharp stones in our shoes to keep from hoo-hawing out loud.

What it all means, I think, is that George Bush, the Consummate Politician, has us just about where he wants us.

As an old Brooklyn Dodger fan back when baseball was still serious stuff (that is, when I could still remember who played for what team and what league it was in), I see George Bush the same way I used to see the New York Yankees. Rich, resourceful, and devious. Death angels in pinstripes who always had another trick up their sleeves to humiliate the Dodgers. Take the fourth game of the 1941 World Series.

It's in Ebbets Field and the Dodgers are ahead 4-3 with two out in the Yankees' ninth. Hugh Casey is pitching for the Dodgers, Mickey Owen catching, and Tommy Henrich at bat for the Yankees. Casey strikes him out swinging at what Yankee fans will call a spitball—Pee Wee Reese says it's "a little wet slider"—and the game is apparently over, the Series apparently tied at two games each.

But wait! The pitch that fools Henrich also fools Owen and the ball squirts out of his glove like a pinched cherry pit. By the time he finds it and throws to first, Henrich is safe. Then the Yankees score four runs, win the game 7-4, go ahead in the Series three games to one. The next day, the Dodgers, their spirit broken, go down without a whimper and the Series is over.

Cynics see it as a Cosmic Joke on the Dodgers, but the delicate sensibilities of Dodger fans keep us from believing the Cosmos is that malevolent, so we convince ourselves that Henrich missed the pitch on purpose as part of a diabolic Yankee plot.

Now our psyches are permanently scarred and we're never so uneasy as when things are looking good. We're deeply aware of what Aristotle called tragic peripeteia, a sudden reversal of events just when they look as though they might turn out all right.

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And it's that sense of tragic potential that makes me think George Bush is on the verge of re-election, no matter how inept he looks. I'm certain he has some diabolic plot that innocents like me cannot fathom.

Otherwise, we'd have to say the PR fiascos in Japan, Panama, and Rio show us a man who's swung and missed. When he insists that Danny Quayle is a plausible vice president, he's clearly a man who's lost his concentration.

And certainly he appeared to have struck out on the Fourth of July when he said that Faith, N.C. embodies "the values that hold our country together"—even though the KKK marched its streets a year earlier.

It may look like just another PR foulup, but old Brooklyn Dodger fans recognize diabolic plots when we see them. We know that Consummate Politicians don't make mistakes like that unless they have a plan that would override them.

So I look for something big between now and November—something as big as Mickey Owen's dropped third strike. It may be that Ross Perot will turn out to be a shill for George Bush and a week before the election urge his supporters to re-elect the president. It may be that George Bush will have the CIA kidnap Margaret Thatcher and bring her to Washington to stand trial as a drug queenpin. It may be even be that he'll somehow snooker Bill Clinton into putting on an oversized helmet and having his picture taken sticking out of a tank turret.

I don't pretend to understand the diabolic plot. I just know that George Bush can't really be as bumbling a politician as he seems and that before election day, everybody is in for a big surprise. Except old Brooklyn Dodger fans who know that even when our juiciest winning pitch is swung at and missed, the plot thickens and catastrophe impends.


Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.


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