The Truth, Mainly - 03/31/2003

Self-sacrifice, George II, and me
by Leon Satterfield

I come to praise the president, not to criticize him.

That's because he reminds me of me.

Both of us have been self-sacrificial in doing our filial duties to our fathers. Take me, for instance.

My father was a very fast runner. He ran the quarter-mile in college back in the 1920s. For several decades he held the school record for that distance, having once run it in a little less than 50 seconds. In his twenties and early thirties, he would often run footraces with younger men down the main street of our town.

And no matter who he ran against, my father would always win.

Then in his late thirties, he got fat and his running days were over. Newcomers to our town could not believe that my pot-bellied father had ever been able to run fast. When he told them he had once run the quarter-mile in a little less than 50 seconds, they rolled their eyes and my father grew despondent.

And that's when, like the current president, I decided I had some self-sacrificial duties to attend to.

I was in high school, and our track coach, who had heard rumors of my father's speed, decided it might be hereditary. He told me I should run the quarter-mile too, so I did.

But I never ran it in a little less than 50 seconds. I never ran it in a little less than 60 seconds.

I could have, of course, but I chose not to out of filial duty. I knew that if I ran slow, the old-timers would come around to console my father. "Too bad about that boy of yours," they'd say. "Tell us again how fast you ran the quarter-mile."

So my father, torn between pride in his performance and shame in mine, would have to say "I ran it in a little less than 50 seconds." And the old-timers would whistle and say nobody in town, maybe nobody in the county, would ever ran the quarter-mile that fast again.

And every time I'd run slow, they'd talk about how fast my father had run.

He would be gratified, and I would be pleased by my self-sacrifice.

Which brings me back to our president and why I come to praise him.

Like me, he has selflessly thrown his own reputation to the wind in order to remind us of his father's past glory.

For example, George II sat out the Vietnam War in the "Champagne Unit" of the Texas Air National Guard—even though he knew he thereby was blowing a chance to fight in Vietnam. He did it to remind us that his father was a genuine WW2 hero, shot down in the Pacific and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

George II got elected president even though he got half a million fewer votes than Gore. He arranged it that way so we would all remember that when his father was elected president, he got more, not fewer, votes than the other guy.

George II pretended to buy—hook, line, and sinker—his staff's argument for pre-emptive military strikes against whoever gets in our way. And that, of course, was to remind us that his father had the good sense to reject that very policy when it was first proposed in 1992.

George II used the pre-emption policy to go to war in Iraq twelve days ago—without UN approval or NATO support. There will be lots of urban fighting, and as the president said last week, "this war is far from over."

His point, see, was to make us recall that his father's ground war against Iraq in 1991 was supported by both the UN and NATO, was confined to desert fighting, and lasted less than a week. Our bill was only $7 billion because George I got our allies to pay the other $54 billion the war cost.

George II last week asked Congress for $74.7 billion to pay for the first month of the current war. That request came shortly after the president had asked Congress for a $726 billion tax cut. He did that so we'd recall his father's superior understanding of arithmetic.

You know, of course, why the president walks funny. To remind us that his father didn't walk funny.

And so forth. The list goes on and on, but you get the idea. Our president goes to heroic lengths to look bad so that his father, by contrast, will look good.

Greater love hath no son than this, that he lay down his reputation for the glory of his father.

Say, did I ever tell you about how I ran slow—on purpose—so that people would talk about how fast my father had run?


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

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