"Roll up," says the president to the American people,
"roll up for the Mystery Tour. Step right this way."
That's right - the Mystery Tour. After three years of
war, and of weirdness piled on weirdness, it has come
to this: George W. Bush is now the fifth Beatle,
singing strangely familiar tunes, inviting us all to
ride his Magical Mystery Tour.
"We got everything you need," he promises doubters of
the faith, "satisfaction guaranteed."
The president is on tour because his poll numbers are
down, for his presidency and for his dirty war in
Iraq. After years of shock and awe terror, of Abu
Ghraib torture, and of civil war undeclared, Americans
are finally uncertain that 100,000 Iraqis dead are
guaranteed satisfaction for September 11. They feel
strangely empty on their three-year crash diet of
dread, dismemberment, and death. And they are
beginning to wonder about something altogether rare in
America these days: they are wondering about the
But this wondering gives the president the cold
sweats. As Groucho Marx once noted in Duck Soup, we
can't stop the war now because we've put a down
payment on the battlefield. And besides, there are
promises to be kept - promises to the angry Project
for the New American Century Neo-Cons, and promises to
the angry Energy Cabal, and promises to the angry
Apocalyptic Religious Right.
So the president goes out on tour - a Magical Mystery
Tour - to reignite the flames of national lunacy and
to sing his seductive tunes of jabberwocky, madness,
Sure, he knows that some Americans are singing a
different tune these days: "All I want is the truth.
Just gimme some truth." But he also knows, in this
outrageous Age of Unreason, that too much truth is
just a downer, man. A bummer. A bad trip.
And who wants a bad trip?
So the president hands out sugar cubes in the park and
sings his Magical Mystery Tour songs like a
psychedelic pied piper in pinstripes, dancing along
the edge of the apocalypse, inviting all mice to
follow him into the darkness.
Watch him on television, at stops all across the
nation. He takes the stage to thunderous applause,
smirking his familiar smirk, singing his tunes of
unity: "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are
all together." And the party faithful cheer.
He then wags his index finger at those in the desert
who "threaten us" and who "hate our freedoms." Of
them, he sings, "See how they run, like pigs from a
gun, see how they fly." And again, the party faithful
cheer - but not at the madness. No, they know it is
madness. They cheer because they love the rhythm of
the lie, love its dark, seductive beauty. They know,
after all, that madness needs no reason for being. It
just needs rhyme. And this president knows how to
Even back in Washington, when the president brings his
Magical Mystery Tour to a White House press
conference, the rhyme of his of lies carries the day.
He knows, like the vice president said, that dropping
poll numbers are the media's fault, a result of their
negative coverage, a result of their failure to report
progress in Iraq: to report on the multicolored candy
the troops give out each day to Iraqi children.
So he chastises them into cowardice. "Yellow matter
custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye," he snaps in
his New Haven/Midlands drawl, "Boy, you been a naughty
girl you let your knickers down."
And the assembled press members mumble and cower -
save for one.
Old Helen, who never asks much these days, bravely
speaks up and asks her question, the only question
that matters: "Why did you want this war, Mr.
President?" The room goes silent, while the president
just smirks and waves off the question. "Expert
textpert, choking smokers," he sings, "Don't you think
the joker laughs at you?" Old Helen is left
speechless, while the other press members laugh their
nervous laughs, wondering what the hell the president
"I'm crying," thinks Old Helen.
"We're crying," think truth-seeking Americans.
Of course, the president assures Old Helen, the
assembled press, and all the American people that they
share a common cause in this national madness. "After
all," he says emphatically, "I am the eggman; they are
But then the president thinks again. He is the leader
of this Magical Mystery Tour, after all. So he clears
his throat and sings in triumph, "I am the Walrus, goo
goo g'joob!" And the press members dutifully scribble
in their notebooks: ".the Walrus, goo goo g'joob?"
"I am the Walrus," Beatle John once sang. And later,
when Beatle Paul was supposedly dead - and the word
'Walrus' was supposedly Greek for 'Corpse' - John
cryptically sang, "The Walrus was Paul." But in this
decaying Age of Unreason, perhaps the truth is
stranger still. Perhaps, on this Magical Mystery Tour
- where corpses pile high in the cool desert night -
the Walrus is George.
And Walrus George sings: "The Magical Mystery Tour is
dying to take you away, dying to take you away, take
Steven Laffoley is an
American writer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is
the author of "Mr. Bush, Angus and Me: Notes of an
American Canadian in the Age of Unreason."