Recently, Bush has been telling us something in his
walk. It is virtually a strut, the parade-walk of a man who has puffed
himself up to show determination, leadershipsomething like that. Whatever
it is, it is not welcoming.
Richard Cohen, Washington Post, 2/11/03
Historians of the early 21st century are now pretty much in
agreement: the critical point of post-modern American history came in the
early spring of 2003 when President George W. Bush changed the style of
As the president told the nation in his farewell address in 2009,
"Modesty forbids me to talk about this in detail, but the turning point of
my administration was that day in March, 2003, when I threw out my
tighty-whities and changed over to boxer shorts."
He'd decided on boxers, he said, after he'd read Satchel Paige's
advice to "keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move."
"My juices weren't flowing until I got rid of those tighty-whities,"
the president said. "For one thing, they were at least a size too small.
I was uptight all the time. You know? And they made me walk funny."
Sure enough, pre-boxer TV clips show the president walking funny.
"And," he said, "walking funny made me talk funny and act funny.
Even made me think funny. Arrogant thoughts. Arrogant words. Changing
to boxers changed who I was. Who I still am."
Prior to that revelation, scholars of the Bush II presidency had
long wondered what had altered the president's course in the spring of '03.
In particular, they wondered about the sudden cancellation of plans to
Instead, as we all know now, Bush had astonished the world by
turning the whole Iraqi question over to the International Criminal
Courtwhich promptly sent an undercover posse to arrest Saddam Hussein
and bring him to trial in the ICC where he was found guilty of terminal
nastiness. He was sentenced to a life of cleaning out the public latrines
of Baghdadmuch to the amusement of the Iraqis (who were already
tickled about not getting bombed).
"It's true," the president had explained to the press, "that less
than a year ago, I unsigned the International Criminal Court treaty that
President Clinton had signed. Today, I simply unsigned the unsigning."
By mid-summer of '03, the president had unsigned U.S. withdrawals
from the Kyoto Protocol and from the ABM treaty. And he'd told John
Ashcroft to get lawyers for all the Homeland Security inmates or to unsign
And that was only the beginning of the blooming of the new Bush.
By the end of '03, he had signed an executive order banning
passenger vehicles getting less than 45 mpg.
The Truth, Mainly
"We no longer need Saddam's oil," the president told the nation.
"Nor do we need to tear up Alaska wildlife preserves looking for new oil.
Whatever were we thinking?"
And in early 2004, he promised he'd never again question
university affirmative action policies until universities stopped
admitting students on the basis of who their parents are.
He was re-elected in a landslide.
"When I stopped walking funny," he said in his farewell address at
the end of his second term, "I began seeing things more clearly. I think
those tighty-whities had been cutting off the circulation of blood to my
brain. With boxers came clarity. I suddenly understood the difference
between 'prosecution' and 'persecution.' All at once I knew the word is
'nuclear,' not 'nucular.' And now grammar fascinates me. I'll never
again ask 'Is our children learning?' I'm thinking of becoming an English
teacher after I leave the White House."
And when he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize in the fall of 2009, he
ended his speech with this insight: "Remember, it's not what we show the
public about ourselves that's important; it's what we show ourselves about
ourselves. It's not the suit and tie that make me the man I am; it's my
undergarments. What finally counts is the boxer shorts of the soul."
He got a 10-minute standing (if slightly puzzled) ovation.
And Saddam Hussein, taking a break from privy-cleaning to listen
to the speech, was so startled by its conclusion that he inhaled his big
black Cuban cigar. The whole thing. Then he promptly choked to death,
thereby receiving a 20-minute standing ovation from the Iraqi population.
"Things work out," Citizen Bush told Laura that night. "This is
indeed the best of all possible worlds."
"Oh, honey," she said, "first you stop walking funny, then you
stop talking funny, and now you've made a literary allusion! You're
so grown up!"
"The underwear," he said. "It's the underwear."
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail