14 March 2008

The Emperor Has No Taste

All Hat, No Cattle: Bush serenades the Gridiron Club

I may never say this again, but in my more lucid moments, I’m glad I’m not Jon Stewart. How can one be expected to make satirical jokes at the expense of politicians, when the principal object of one’s mockery already does the job so thoroughly? What’s left to say? Moreover, Stewart’s jokes are constrained by good taste and decency, while George Bush’s material, apparently, is not.

Hard on the heels of President Bush’s dance recital came his vocal recital, at the Gridiron Club last weekend. He parodied the old Porter Wagoner song, “Green Green Grass of Home,” joking about how good it would be to retire to his (horseless, cowless) ranch back in Crawford, TX.

Something struck me as wrong here. I remembered the song being about a soldier coming home from the war in Vietnam. Which, given Mr. Bush’s service record during that particular conflict, would be in pretty poor taste.

But I was wrong. It’s not about a soldier. It’s about a prisoner awaiting execution, and dreaming of the home and loved ones he’ll never see again. And that’s what the President — an enthusiastic supporter of the death penalty, who as Governor of Texas oversaw more than 150 executions, breaking the records of recent history — chose to make fun of.

Yep, it turns out that his taste is even worse than I thought.

“Oh, give him a break,” you may say; “maybe he didn’t know the song’s origins.”

If you believe that the President’s staff includes no one capable of doing what I did — namely, looking up the title on Wikipedia — well, good luck to you.

His handlers should have been vetting his material with particular scrutiny on the subject of the death penalty, ever since, as Governor, he made headlines by mocking one of the condemned, Karla Faye Tucker. (“Please don’t kill me!”)

On Thursday, the President seized another opportunity to say something inappropriate about soldiers and war. Addressing Americans in Afghanistan via videoconference, Mr. Bush said:
I must say, I'm a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks.
Of course, when Mr. Bush really was younger and not employed at the White House, he passed up the “fantastic experience” of fighting in Vietnam. Maybe it wasn’t romantic enough for him, or he didn’t consider it sufficiently historic. I’m sure he had a good reason. So he asked his dad to pull a few strings to get him into the National Guard, and then couldn’t even be bothered to show up for duty.

Now he’s getting wistful over missing out on all the fun in Afghanistan.

I suppose I should take some comfort in this rare bit of evidence that he hasn’t forgotten Afghanistan altogether. But Mr. Bush isn’t the only one who can’t wait for him to get back to the brown, brown grass of home.