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The Truth, Mainly - 11/11/2002

Why GOP won: a post-election whine

Caution: Readers allergic to whining may want to stop reading right now.


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 wife—without attribution.

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 presidency—which may not come until 2022 if he takes a notion to make a pre-emptive strike on the constitution's two-term limit—historians will have finally figured out George W.'s strategy.

The Truth, Mainly


Which is to save the Republican Party by saying dumb things—on purpose.

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 electorate—you 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 House.

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 playing.

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 week.

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 address is: leonsatterfield@earthlink.net.


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