Caution: Readers allergic to whining may want to stop reading
Before I had my painful epiphany Tuesday night, George W. Bush had
reminded me of a guy I went to high school with back in the early fifties.
Billy Bob wasn't very smart. But he was a pretty good athlete and
in my school that more than made up for not being very smart. And here's
what Billy Bob said when he found out that he'd made honorable mention on
the all-conference football team:
"I knew I was good, but I didn't know I was that good."
Maybe you had to be there, but the innocent dumbness of the remark
has always appealed to me. I often repeat it to my wifewithout
I expect any time now that George W. Bush will study the election
returns, then say, "I knew I was good, but I didn't know I was that good."
But, I'm afraid, it won't be dumb when he says it. Here's why:
We were falling all over ourselves before the election, looking
for arcane causes even before we had effects. For example, an Associated
Press story on Nov. 2 informed us that the reason Stormy Dean wouldn't win
the governorship was because he "sports a mouth-framing goatee" and
Johanns is obsessively clean-shaven.
As one who also sports a mouth-framing goatee, I immediately saw a
column there. I would come up with a list of wildly successful geniuses
of the past who have sported mouth-framing goatees, thereby showing how
confused the Associated Press was. And at the same time, I'd be subtly
suggesting that anyone looking at the photo that accompanies this column
could figure out what league I'm in.
But my wife scolded me for even thinking such self-congratulatory
thoughts and said that if I persisted, she was going to Arkansas for a
prolonged visit with her mother and I could just see how well I liked
cleaning the toilet and balancing the checkbook myself.
So I abandoned that idea, and Tuesday night I had my painful
epiphany: Stormy's loss had nothing to do with his goatee. It had
everything to do with his running as a Democrat instead of a Republican.
And had Bob Devaney experienced a second coming and run for head
coach as a Democrat rather than a Republican, he'd have been as severely
whomped Tuesday night as the Cornhuskers had been whomped by Penn State.
And that's because of George W. Bush.
Democrats knew he was good but they didn't know he was that good.
By the end of his presidencywhich may not come until 2022 if he
takes a notion to make a pre-emptive strike on the constitution's two-term
limithistorians will have finally figured out George W.'s strategy.
The Truth, Mainly
Which is to save the Republican Party by saying dumb thingson
Because George W. isn't dumb. Perhaps poorly educated (even with
his Yale and Harvard degrees), but not dumb. It's a disguise he's used to
discombobulate Democrats, and it's worked.
Future historians will note that by the turn of the century the
country had grown tired of presidents who were smarter and/or kinder than
the electorateyou know, presidents who had been Rhodes Scholars or who
would become Nobel Peace Prize winners.
And George W. sensed early on that the electorate felt they didn't
need no stinkin' Rhodes Scholars or Nobel Peace Prize winners in the White
So he became the perfect antidote to Rhodes Scholars and Nobel
Peace Prize winners. He alternated between dumb talk and hawk talk, and
sometimes he could do both simultaneously.
He could say dumb things without even thinking. He could tell us
with a straight face that the best way small businesses can grow into
large businesses is "to let people keep more of your money." He could ask
penetrating questions like "Is our children learning?"
And he could tell other countries they were part of an "axis of
evil" for being so combative, and he could prepare to demolish one of
them, even though it wasn't the one with the nuclear weapons.
And, as we found out Tuesday night, it worked. The nation loved
him for it, and the Democrats never even caught on to the game he was
That's why George W. may be saying "I knew I was good, but I
didn't know I was that good."
That's why so many of the Democrat candidates, goateed or
clean-shaven, are still trying to understand why they're out of work this
And that's why I'm whining so piteously. I warned you. I'm going
to suck my thumb and curl up with my blanky for a little nap now.
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail