I don't like to brag, but you know what? I have some of the
same qualities the President of the United States has. I know I don't
look like it, but like the President, I have lived a relatively
The undignified part started when I was in first grade and
wet my overalls just before our very pretty teacher, Miss Bray, with
whom I was in love, called on me to go to the front of the room to
write on the blackboard how much three and one add up to. When my
fellow students stopped laughing, Miss Bray sent me homeI lived just
across the street from schoolto change my soiled overalls.
I haven't been the same since. I'm still trying to figure
out what that did to my character.
And I'm not going to tell you about the time when I was off
in Germany in the U.S. Army back in the mid-fifties and I got a little
tipsy on New Year's Eve in Munich and decided I'd better get back on a
train that would carry me the fifty-some miles back to Ulm where I was
But I got on the wrong train. It headed for Czechoslovakia
at a time when Czechoslovakia was on the wrong side of the Iron
Curtain. So at the last stop on the German side of the Czech border,
I got off. And a half hour later I got on a train headed back to
Munich, the only problem being I didn't have a ticket to Munich
because I had spent all my money in the Hofbrauhaus earlier that
So I locked myself in a toilet stall on the train and stayed
there until we got back to Munich and I didn't even get
court-martialed. But it's difficult to maintain your dignity when
you've locked yourself in a toilet stall, even if it's on purpose.
And I'm certainly not going to tell you about the time when
I was in high school and played basketball (not very well, it was a
little high school). It was back in the days when the first and
second halves started with a jump ball in the middle of the court. So
when the second half started our center tipped the ball right at me
and I grabbed it and dribbled it all alone to the basket where I'd
made a free throw in the first half.
It was the easiest lay-up I ever made, because I was all by
myself, my teammates and our coach yelling something at me, and the
guys on the other team laughing
It was the wrong basket.
Our coach took me out of the game, started to give me some
advice, then just shook his head and told me to sit down on the
bench. Even the cheerleaders were laughing at me.
You can see why I'm not going to tell you about it.
And when I have a hard time falling asleep remembering
making a basket for the wrong team, I take comfort in comparing my
failures to the President's.
The Truth, Mainly
Like last week when the AP ran a story from Dallas about "a
group of Methodist ministers from across the nation" who "launched an
online petition drive Thursday urging Southern Methodist University to
stop trying to land George W. Bush's presidential library."
Why? Because "as United Methodists, we believe that the
linking of his presidency with a university bearing the Methodist name
is utterly inappropriate."
And Nebraska's own Republican Senator, Chuck Hagel, just a
day earlier, was quoted by the AP as saying "I will do everything I
can to stop the president's policy as he outlined it."
He was talking about the policy that would result in 22,000
more U.S. troops being sent off to Iraq.
And George McGovern posed several embarrassing questions to
the President on The Nation website dated Jan.
17: "Mr. President, I ask have you kept your oath of office to uphold
the Constitution when you use what you call the war on terrorism to
undermine the Bill of Rights? On what constitutional theory do you
seize and imprison suspects without charge, sometimes torturing them
in foreign jails? On what constitutional or legal basis have you
tapped the phones of Americans without approval of the courts as
required by law? Are you above the Constitution, above the law, and
above the Geneva accords? If we are fighting for freedom in Iraq as
you say, why are you so indifferent to protecting liberty here in
If I were the President and I got a question like that, I'd
go lock myself in my presidential toilet aboard Air Force One and I
wouldn't come out until the end of my administration in 2009.
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail