The Truth, Mainly - 01/29/2007

Me and President Bush
by Leon Satterfield

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 undignified life.

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 home—I lived just across the street from school—to 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 stationed.

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 evening.

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.

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 America?"

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 address is:

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