With the rafters of Madison Square Garden roaring affirmation to the insanely affirmed George W. Bush, this interviewer thought it would be interesting to get a point of view as antithetical to the convention hall’s as anyone’s this side of the narrator in Nicholson Baker’s Checkpoint .
In addition to skewering Mr. Bush in his signature diatribe quizzes, this author recently published The George W. Bush Quiz Book , a compendium of damning facts, unflattering observations and incoherent Bushian locutions. He has also just started a Web site (www.StampOutBush.com) that sells self-inking rubber stamps with what he calls “delightfully scathing anti-Bush messages.”
Mystery guest, enter! The author’s name is Paul Slansky.
He is me.
But he, while driven by the cold anger of the righteous, is nevertheless sufficiently detached to take my hard-hitting questions and-unlike some other interviewees who respond to questions on big airplanes, on Texas ranches and from behind Presidential seals-respond in English.
Q: What motivates your crusade against George W. Bush?
A: Thank you for asking! So many do. But I know I can confide in you. The answer, as if you didn’t know, is outrage, despair and incredulity. Outrage that someone who wasn’t actually elected-and who wouldn’t be in office if Al Gore’s representatives had thought to demand a recount of the Florida over-votes instead of the under-votes-has managed in just four years to lay waste to so much of what it took his predecessors 225 years to build. Despair that my 6-year-old daughter is going to have to bear the burden for Bush’s unprecedented incompetence. And incredulity that fully half of the electorate seems disinclined to hold him or that gang of James Bond villains around him accountable for anything.
Q: Congratulations on your icy rationality. Still, none of this is happening in a vacuum. Given his record, why is Bush doing as well as he is?
(The tape could not capture the withering stare this question elicited.)
A: One hates to see one’s fellow citizens as lazy, over-entertained gluttons for punishment, but a Bush victory in November will preclude reaching any other conclusion. As Bush just said the other day in New Hampshire, great question! Because the Democrats, with embarrassingly few exceptions, have sat by wordlessly while, in any area you examine-the economy, the environment, foreign affairs, you name it-he has made us more polarized and less secure. Imagine what would happen to a Democratic President with an identical record to Bush’s! What would Republicans do to a President who received that Aug. 6, 2001, briefing warning of impending attacks against America and didn’t even bother to cut his vacation short? They’d eviscerate him.
Q: Don’t you think you’re being a little rough?
A: I’m being a sweetheart! Not only have these pathetic wusses failed to register any kind of effective protest, but now the Kerry campaign is minimizing the difference between him and Bush. Knowing what he knows now, Kerry would still have voted for Bush’s war in Iraq? Who believes that? Huh? And if you do believe it, why would you support him?
And there’s this Swift boat grotesquerie. If Kerry can’t defend his Vietnam heroics against a guy who used his rich-kid connections to beat the draft and then couldn’t be bothered to show up for National Guard duty, mightn’t a swing voter legitimately wonder how he’d defend us against real trouble?
Q: You’re getting a little loud. What should Kerry be doing?
A: He should fire Bob Shrum NOW. Then bring in James Carville, the only Democratic operative in 20 years with the smarts and bloodlust to win. Bush is pulling ahead.
Q: You know, you’re a little tough to take. Most commentators say their antipathy is political, not personal, but you don’t seem to be saying that.
A: You are a genius.
Q: What is it about George W. Bush that so repels you?
A: Try these on for size: ignorance, arrogance and intransigence. The thing I find most preposterous about the public’s perception of George W. Bush is this idea that he’s a “nice guy.” When he was a kid, Bush blew up frogs with firecrackers. In college, he branded fraternity pledges with hot wire hangers. At 40, he cursed out The Wall Street Journal ‘s Al Hunt in front of the man’s wife and 4-year-old son.
Q: But his politics ….
A: Oh, his politics! Certainly his policies-his largesse to the wealthy at the expense of everyone else, his hostility to the environment, his scorn for the Bill of Rights, his indifference about health care, his obstructionism towards medical advances, his recklessness with the lives of American soldiers-don’t seem very “nice.”
Q: Please sit down ….
A: His cocky strut embodies his sense of superiority and entitlement. His voice drips with condescension and contempt. His facial expressions range all the way from a smirk to a sneer. What am I missing here? Where’s all the “niceness?”
Q: I see here that you started a “Stamp Out Bush” Web site.
A: You read my mind. Would you like the address, perchance? It’s www.StampOutBush.com.
Q: How clever of you!
A: Anyone can be very clever next to this guy. I love the idea of people stamping anti-Bush messages on checks they write, envelopes they mail, business cards they hand out, magazine covers in doctors’ offices, ads in buses and subways-in short, on anything ink can dry on that others will see. I’ve heard that some people are even using them on money, though of course defacing currency is illegal. I guess it depends on what the definition of “defacing” is.
Q: May I ask which one is your favorite stamp?
A: Hmmm … hmmm …. I’m especially fond of “BUSH AND CHENEY: THE EVIL OF TWO LESSERS,” “GEORGE W. BUSH: UNITING THE WORLD AGAINST US,” and “FUNNY STORY-ACTUALLY, GOD HATES GEORGE W. BUSH,” suggested by friends of mine. And my daughter’s humble submission has an elegant simplicity that appeals to me, and evidently to others as well. “GEORGE W. BUSH IS A MEAN MAN” is currently my fourth biggest seller.
Q: Mr. Slansky, I think our time is up.
A: If things go badly in November, it sure is.