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The Truth, Mainly - 03/01/2004

The nightmares of political paranoia

I'm a nervous wreck. Paranoia has set in.

It's these political nightmares I keep having. I look at myself in the mirror each morning and I see a picture of Dorian Gray—on a bad day.

I long for the apolitical nightmares I used to have about falling into the Grand Canyon, about wetting my pants in front of a physics class I'm trying to teach, about driving from LA to Boston with Jerry Lewis. As unsettling as they were, they're a walk in the park compared to my political nightmares.

My most recent was a reaction to Andy Rooney's grump about Pat Robertson on "60 Minutes" last week. Andy was whining about Pat saying that God had told him that George Bush was certain to be re-elected. I couldn't believe that God would say such a thing, so I got on the internet and there it was.

Two months ago, on Jan. 2, according to the A.P., Pat reported that God told him the president's re-election was a sure thing.

"I think George Bush is going to win in a walk," the A.P. quoted Pat as saying. "I really believe I'm hearing from the Lord it's going to be a blowout election in 2004. The Lord has just blessed him. It doesn't make any difference what he does, good or bad, God picks him up because he's a man of prayer and God's blessing him."

Pat found out about all that, he said, because the Lord revealed it to him while Pat "spent several days in prayer at the end of 2003." So I had yet another political nightmare that very night. It went like this:

I'm part of the Washington Press Corps and we've been called to attend an emergency press conference at 6 a.m. There's no coffee. It gets worse.

"President Bush has decided to cancel the 2004 presidential election," Scott McClellan tells us. "I'll take a few questions now."

"But…," I say. "But…but…."

It's 30 seconds before Helen Thomas comes up with the first coherent question: "What in the holy hell do you mean he's decided to cancel the election?"

"The president," McClellan says, "has decided the election is a waste of time, energy, and money. Because the winner is already decided."

"You mean," Helen says, "that he's abdicating because the polls show him running behind Kerry and Edwards by more than ten points?"

"No, no," McClellan says. "Those numbers don't count the hanging chads."

"Then what in the pluperfect hell do you mean," Helen asks, "when you say the winner has already been decided?"

"Isn't it obvious?" McClellan says. "Don't you read the papers?" And he pushes a button to project onto a screen the Jan. 2 A.P. story about Pat Robertson's political discussion with God.

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"The president believes," McClellan says, "that God is in fact speaking through Mr. Robertson."

"But," I say, waving my hand wildly, "but…but…."

"The president believes," McClellan says, "that God has appointed Mr. Robertson to help lead His people out of the Wilderness of Budget Surpluses into the Promised Land of Budget Deficits."

We all look at each other in wild surmise.

"And so," McClellan says, "if God tells Mr. Robertson that President Bush is going to be re-elected and if Mr. Robertson is God's appointed messenger—as we believe he is—the president has decided there's no point to an election."

"But why tell us now?" Helen says. "Why weren't we told two months ago when Pat got the news? It doesn't have anything to do with the fact that the president is now trailing in the polls, does it?"

"Look," McClellan says. "The president isn't naive. For the last two months, he's had the CIA looking into the authenticity of Pat's claims. They are, the CIA reports, at least as authentic as our intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. And they reported yesterday that there's absolutely no credible evidence that contradicts Pat's report of what God wants us to do."

Helen opens her mouth to speak. McClellan blows a whistle. John Ashcroft steps from behind a curtain, puts the cuffs on Helen, takes her away. Don Rumsfeld sticks his head through a door and yells "We know exactly where they are! They're between Mosul and Tikrit!"

"But…," I say, waving both hands wildly, "but…but…."

"No more questions," McClellan says. "The president wishes you all well and invites you to his second inaugural ball. It's on May Day this year."

And that's when I wake up in a cold sweat. I look in the mirror. I see a picture of a paranoid Dorian Gray. I can't stand it. I'm a nervous wreck.


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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