Eat your heart out, Ronald Reagan! George W. Bush has made you look like a rank amateur. His Thanksgiving Day publicity stunt in Baghdad was the stuff of true genius.
Take a back seat, Mr. Great Communicator. "Win one for the Gipper" just doesn't cut it any more. This is the new millennium. Bush rules!
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, readers of all ages, it may surprise you to learn that I'm sincere. Do I still detest Bush? Most assuredly. What person who loves his country would not detest a man dedicated to ruining it?
But one must give credit where credit is due, and the advantage our current president took of a slow news day was absolutely brilliant. He must be commended for his audacity, which rivals his mendacity.
And, as much as I dislike Bush, even I had to fight back a tear as he emerged from behind the mess hall curtain and the room erupted in cheers on the television replay. Had I been there, I would have cheered, too.
It was great showmanship.
Now, I don't want to appear churlish about this (even if I am), but I do feel obligated to point out that the trip to the Baghdad airport, for all its grandeur, was slightly less dangerous than the three hours I spent on Highway 101 Thanksgiving Day.
(Please, please, no applause. One risks Highway 101 only because one must. I'm no hero. Aw, shucks, I'm just a regular guy, more or less like Dubya. And although our president is now legally entitled to a campaign ribbon for his two and a half hours in Iraq, I honestly don't feel I should be given a comparable ribbon for Highway 101 combat.)
Pulling outrageous stunts and getting away with them seems to be in the Bush family genes. My heart still bursts with admiration for Papa Bush, who, when the Iran-Contra mess started closing in on him, used his presidential pardon powers to pardon all five of the guys who might have fingered him.
That took chutzpah. But it worked. The compliant liberal press said, "Oh, my," and Papa Bush went on to start a new career as a war profiteer ... which, one might argue, takes chutzpah to the max, considering the son started the war that now profits the father and his loyal moneymaking sidekicks.
One of my favorite Bushes is our brave president's younger brother, Neil. He is best known as a director of Silverado Savings & Loan in Denver, which went belly up in the 1980s and left the taxpayers with a $1 billion bailout tab.
Neil Bush profitted mightily from Silverado's shenanigans, but he was let off the hook with a $50,000 fine, just a fraction of his ill-gotten gains. It was kind of like robbing a bank of $1,000 and being punished with a $50 fine.
Neil made news recently when some of his heretofore unreported activities came out in divorce proceedings. A Nov. 25 Reuters article by Jeff Franks pretty well sums up the main points.
The most fascinating part, perhaps, is Neil's associations with certain women during business trips to Thailand and Hong Kong. As luck would have it, these women knocked on Neil's hotel room doors, and, after he let them in, proceeded to have sex with him, no questions asked.
Neil said he didn't know if these women were prostitutes because they didn't ask for money and he didn't give them any.
In a deposition, Neil was asked: "Mr. Bush, you have to admit it's a pretty remarkable thing for a man just to go to a hotel room door and open it and have a woman standing there and have sex with her."
"It was very unusual," Neil replied.
Some guys are just unusually lucky.
If you're one of the people who lost a job during the Bush Recession That Doesn't Exist, you might consider the kind of jobs Neil Bush gets. One of interest was with Grace Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp.
Grace, backed by the son of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, agreed to pay Neil $2 million in stock over five years for acting as a "consultant," plus another $10,000 for every board meeting he attended.
(Neil gets around. In another of his business deals, his investors include the well-known bin Laden family of Saudi Arabia.)
Does Neil know anything about semiconductors? No, he admitted. So, if you know nothing about semiconductors, perhaps you, too, can get a semiconductor firm consultant's job paying around $400,000 per year. Neil Bush did; why can't you?
In another instance, in documents first made public by the Houston Chronicle, Neil somehow became co-chairman of an outfit called Crest Investment Corporation. He said he worked an average of three to four hours a week for Crest, but was paid $15,000 every three months for providing what he called "miscellaneous consulting services."
"Such as?" he was asked.
"Such as answering phone calls when Jamail Daniel, the other co-chairman, called and asked for advice," he replied.
All those good jobs out there, and millions still unemployed. I don't get it.
There also is some chatter in Houston that Neil Bush may be the true father of another man's 2-year-old child, but it seems safe to say that Bush "did not have sex with that woman." Lawsuits are involved, so we'll probably be hearing more about this.
The Bush family is indeed fascinating. George W. is their front man for the moment, but you can bet the whole tribe is out there wheeling and dealing in one way or another.
And barring some kind of public relations disaster within the next year, President Bush's dramatic appearance in Baghdad last Thursday will probably provide the push he needs to legally win next year's election.
You have to give the Bushes credit. They might not be the nicest people in the world, but they sure know how to look out for themselves.
©2003 SF Gate