The satire industry prepares for the slump after Bush
When George Bush, with his malapropisms and Homer Simpson gaffes, finally leaves the White House, the satire industry will briefly join the rest of the economy in recession
IT WAS Lenny Bruce who said that after Kennedy was shot, they dug two graves at Lexington Cemetery – one for Kennedy, the other for Vaughn Meader. Who was Vaughn Meader? Well, that’s the point. He was the leading Kennedy impersonator of the day. Who remembers him now? When George Bush finally leaves the White House, the satire industry will briefly join the rest of the economy in recession. It will certainly be the end of an era. The Americans pronounce that “error”. You could say that Bush’s departure will mark the end of one of the greatest eras in US presidential history.
We forget that he wasn’t meant to happen. Fate chose the wrong brother, and the US Supreme Court did the rest. It was Karl Marx who said history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. Bush managed to do both simultaneously. On the way, he provided rich pickings for mimics and comedians the world over. It was like shooting fish in a barrel: hunch the shoulders, push out the elbows, pout like a chimp, look confused and talk. In small sentences. Using words like “folks”. It was enough to get audiences laughing, prime them for anything satirical that followed. “They said there was no link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. There is now.” “I have a message for those suicide bombers. We’re gonna find you.” He was his own worst enemy, his own best satirist, so much so that it was hard to keep up with him.
Bush had many of the tools of the clown’s armoury: funny walk, air of innocence and comedy props. He was capable of anything. Or was that “incapable”? Just when you thought he couldn’t get any better, he didn’t. But it was Bush who had the last laugh: a full eight years in charge of the world’s biggest military machine (unless you count the Chinese and, as Bush will tell you, they’re only made out of terracotta. Just think! Another four years and we could have seen a war on terracotta!).
His term was bookended by two of the most momentous crises to hit the country: 9/11 and the financial crisis that began in 2007. He’s certainly left his mark in Iraq, in the ozone layer, on Wall Street. He inherited a budget surplus of $128 billion in 2001. The forecast for 2009 is a $482 billion deficit. That takes some doing.
Similarly, to turn the empathy felt for the US in 2001 into suspicion and hostility in many parts of the Arab world was also quite an achievement. It’s too easy to dwell on the gaffes, the malapropisms, the Homer Simpson bits. But that’s to misunderestimate him. He was in many ways a Trojan horse. Apart from the obvious similarities – woodenness, apparent innocuousness, hollow head – he was the perfect vehicle for the cohort of neocons who took over.
Overshadowed intellectually by Clinton, Blair must have thought he had it in the bag when Bush came to power. How wrong he was.
So, will Obamamania give way to Baracknophobia? Time will tell. My first thought on his acceptance speech was: one small step for man, one more hour in make-up.
(– Guardian service)