Ugly, Tasteless, Terrifying and Wild... Count Me In!
He's been America's most unorthodox political commentator for more than 30 years. But for Dr Hunter S Thompson the Bush presidency is evil beyond belief - and judgment is nigh
The genetically vicious nature of presidential campaigns in America is too obvious to argue with, but some people call it fun, and I am one of them. Election day - especially when it's a presidential election - is always a wild and terrifying time for politics junkies, and I am one of those, too. We look forward to major election days like sex addicts look forward to orgies. We are slaves to them.
Which is not a bad thing, all in all, for the winners. They are not the ones who bitch and whine about slavery when the votes are finally counted and the losers are forced to get down on their knees. No. The slaves who emerge victorious from these drastic public decisions go crazy with joy and plunge each other into deep tubs of chilled Cristal champagne with naked strangers who want to be close to a winner.
That is how it works in the victory business. You see it every time. The weak suck up to the strong, for fear of losing their jobs and money and all the fickle power they wielded only 24 hours ago. It is like suddenly losing your wife and your home in a vagrant poker game, then having to go on the road with whoremongers and beg for your dinner in public. Nobody wants to hire a loser. Right? They stink of doom and defeat.
"What is that horrible smell in the office, Tex? It's making me sick."
"That is the smell of a loser, senator. He came in to apply for a job, but we tossed him out immediately. Sgt Sloat took him down to the parking lot and taught him a lesson he will never forget."
"Good work, Tex. And how are you coming with my new enemies list? I want them all locked up. They are scum."
"We will punish them brutally. They are terrorist sympathizers, and most of them voted against you. I hate those bastards."
"Thank you, Sloat. You are a faithful servant. Come over here and kneel down. I want to reward you."
That is the nature of high-risk politics. Veni, vidi, vici, especially among Republicans. It's like the ancient Bedouin saying: "As the camel falls to its knees, more knives are drawn."
Presidential politics is a vicious business, even for rich white men, and anybody who gets into it should be prepared to grapple with the meanest of the mean. The White House has never been seized by timid warriors. There are no rules, and the roadside is littered with wreckage. That is why they call it the passing lane. Just ask any candidate who ever ran against George Bush - Al Gore, Ann Richards, John McCain - all of them ambushed and vanquished by lies and dirty tricks. And all of them still whining about it.
That is why George W Bush is President of the United States, and Al Gore is not. Bush simply wanted it more, and he was willing to demolish anything that got in his way, including the US Supreme Court. It is not by accident that the Bush White House (read: Dick Cheney & Halliburton Inc) controls all three branches of our federal government today. They are powerful thugs who would far rather die than lose the election in November.
The Republican establishment is haunted by painful memories of what happened to Old Man Bush in 1992. He peaked too early, and he had no response to "It's the economy, stupid." Which has always been the case. Every GOP administration since 1952 has let the Military-Industrial Complex loot the Treasury and plunge the nation into debt on the excuse of a wartime economic emergency. Richard Nixon comes quickly to mind, along with Ronald Reagan and his ridiculous "trickle-down" theory of US economic policy. If the rich get richer, the theory goes, before long their pots will overflow and somehow "trickle down" to the poor, who would rather eat scraps off the Bush family plates than eat nothing at all. Republicans have never approved of democracy, and they never will. It goes back to pre-industrial America, when only white male property owners could vote.
Things haven't changed much where George W Bush comes from. Houston is a cruel, crazy town on a filthy river in East Texas with no zoning laws and a culture of sex, money and violence. It's a shabby, sprawling metropolis ruled by brazen women, crooked cops and super-rich pansexual cowboys who live by the code of the West - which can mean just about anything you need it to mean, in a pinch.
Houston is also the unnatural home of two out of the last three presidents of the United States of America, for good or ill. The other one was a handsome, sex-crazed boy from next-door Arkansas, which has no laws against any deviant practice not specifically forbidden in the New Testament, including anal incest and public cunnilingus with farm animals.
Back in 1948, during his first race for the US Senate, Lyndon Johnson was running about 10 points behind, with only nine days to go. He was desperate. And it was just before noon on a Monday, they say, when he called his equally depressed campaign manager and told him to call a press conference for just before lunch on a slow news day and accuse his high-riding opponent, a pig farmer, of having routine carnal knowledge of his sows, despite the pleas of his wife and children.
His campaign manager was shocked. "We can't say that, Lyndon," he supposedly said. "You know that it isn't true."
"Of course it's not!" Johnson barked. "But let's make the bastard deny it!"
Johnson - a Democrat, like Bill Clinton - won that election by fewer than 100 votes, and after that he was home free. He went on to rule Texas and the US Senate for 20 years and to be the most powerful vice president in the history of the United States. Until now.
Armageddon came early for George Bush this year, and he was not ready for it. His long-awaited showdowns with John Kerry turned into a series of embarrassments that broke his nerve and demoralized his closest campaign advisers. They knew he would never recover, no matter how many votes they could steal for him in Florida, where the presidential debates were closely watched and widely celebrated by millions of Kerry supporters who suddenly had reason to feel like winners.
Kerry came into October as a five-point underdog with almost no chance of winning three out of three rigged confrontations with a treacherous little freak like George Bush. But the debates are over now, and the victor was John Kerry every time. He steamrollered Bush and left him for roadkill.
Did you see Bush on TV, trying to debate? Jesus, he talked like a donkey with no brains at all. The tide turned early, in Coral Gables, when Bush went belly up less than halfway through his first bout with Kerry, who hammered poor George into jelly. It was pitiful... I almost felt sorry for him, until I heard someone call him "Mister President", and then I felt ashamed.
Karl Rove, the President's political wizard, felt even worse. There is angst in the heart of Texas today, and panic in the bowels of the White House. Rove has a nasty little problem, and its name is George Bush. The president failed miserably from the instant he got onstage with John Kerry. He looked weak and dumb. Kerry beat him like a gong in Coral Gables, then again in St Louis and Tempe. That is Rove's problem. His candidate is a weak-minded frat boy who cracks under pressure in front of 60 million voters.
Bush signed his own death warrant in the opening round, when he finally had to speak without his teleprompter. It was a Cinderella story brought up to date in Florida that night - except this time, the false prince turned back into a frog.
Immediately after the first debate ended, I called Muhammad Ali at his home in Michigan, but whoever answered said the champ was laughing so hard that he couldn't come to the phone. "The debate really cracked him up," he chuckled. "The champ loves a good ass-whuppin'. He says Bush looked so scared to fight, he finally just quit and laid down."
This year's first presidential debate was such a disaster for George Bush that his handlers had to be crazy to let him get in the ring with John Kerry again. Yet Karl Rove let it happen, and we can only wonder why. But there is no doubt that the president has lost his nerve, and his career in the White House is finished. No mas.
Indeed. The numbers are weird today, and so is this dangerous election. The time has come to rumble, to inject a bit of fun into politics. That's exactly what the debates did. John Kerry looked like a winner, and it energized his troops. Voting for Kerry is starting to look like serious fun for everyone except poor George, who now looks like a loser. That is fatal in a presidential election.
I look at elections with the cool and dispassionate gaze of a professional gambler, especially when I'm betting real money on the outcome. Contrary to most conventional wisdom, I see Kerry with five points as a recommended risk. Kerry will win this election, if it happens, by a bigger margin than Bush finally gouged out of Florida in 2000. That was about 46 per cent, plus five points for owning the US Supreme Court - which seemed to equal 51 per cent. Nobody really believed that, but George W Bush moved into the White House anyway.
It was the most brutal seizure of power since Hitler burned the Reichstag in 1933 and declared himself the new boss of Germany. Karl Rove is no stranger to Nazi strategy, if only because it worked for a while, and it was sure fun for Hitler. But not for long. He ran out of oil, the whole world hated him, and he liked to gobble pure crystal biphetamine and stay awake for eight days in a row with his maps and bombers and his dope-addled general staff.
They all loved the whiff. It is the perfect drug for war, as long as you are winning, and Hitler thought he was king of the hill forever. He had created a new master race, and every one of them worshipped him. They were fanatics. That was 66 years ago, and things are not much different today. We still love war.
George Bush certainly does. In four short years he has turned our country from a prosperous nation at peace into a desperately indebted nation at war. But so what? He is the President of the United States, and you're not. Love it or leave it.
BULLETIN: KERRY WINS GONZO ENDORSEMENT; DR THOMPSON JOINS DEMOCRAT IN CALLING BUSH "THE SYPHILIS PRESIDENT".
"Four more years of George Bush will be like four more years of syphilis," the famed author said yesterday at a hastily called press conference near his home in Woody Creek, Colorado.
"Only a fool or a sucker would vote for a dangerous loser like Bush. He hates everything we stand for, and he knows we will vote against him in November." Thompson, well known for the eerie accuracy of his political instincts, went on to denounce Ralph Nader as "a worthless Judas goat with no moral compass."
"I endorsed John Kerry a long time ago," he said, "and I will do everything in my power, short of roaming the streets with a meat hammer, to help him be the next president of the United States."
Which is true. I said all those things, and I will say them again. Of course I will vote for John Kerry. I have known him for 30 years as a good man with a brave heart - which is more than even the President's friends will tell you about George W Bush, who is also an old acquaintance from the white-knuckle days of yesteryear. He is hated all over the world, including large parts of Texas, and he is taking us all down with him. Bush is a natural-born loser with a filthy-rich daddy who pimped his son out to rich oil-mongers. He hates music, football and sex, and he is no fun at all.
I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, but I won't make that mistake again. The joke is over for Nader. He was funny once, but now he belongs to the dead. Nader is a fool, as is anybody who votes for him in November - with the obvious exception of professional Republicans who have paid big money to turn him into a world-famous Judas goat. Nader is so desperate that he's paying homeless people to gather signatures to get him on the ballot. In Pennsylvania, the petitions he submitted contained tens of thousands of phony signatures, including Fred Flintstone, Mickey Mouse and John Kerry. A judge dumped Ralph from the ballot there, calling it "the most deceitful and fraudulent exercise ever perpetrated upon this court".
But they will keep his name on the ballot in the long-suffering Hurricane State, which is ruled by the President's younger brother, Jeb, who also wants to be the next president of the United States. In 2000, when they sent Jim Baker to Florida, I knew it was all over. In that election, 97,488 people voted for Nader in Florida, and Gore lost the state by 537 votes. You don't have to be from Texas to understand the moral of that story. It's like being out-coached in the Super Bowl. Only losers play fair, and all winners have blood on their hands.
Back in June, when John Kerry was beginning to feel like a winner, we had a quick rendezvous on a rain-soaked runway in Aspen, Colorado, where he was scheduled to meet a harem of wealthy campaign contributors. I told him that Bush's vicious goons in the White House are perfectly capable of assassinating Nader and blaming it on him. His staff laughed, but the Secret Service men didn't. Kerry suggested I might make a good running mate, and we reminisced about trying to end the Vietnam War in 1972.
That was the year I first met him, at a riot on that elegant little street in front of the White House. He was yelling into a bullhorn and I was trying to throw a dead rat over a black-spike fence and on to the President's lawn. We were angry and righteous in those days, and there were millions of us. We kicked two chief executives out because they were stupid warmongers. We conquered Lyndon Johnson and we stomped on Richard Nixon - which wise people said was impossible, but so what? It was fun. We were warriors then, and our tribe was strong like a river. That river is still running. All we have to do is get out and vote, while it's still legal, and we will wash those crooked warmongers out of the White House.
© 2004 Independent Newspapers, Ltd.