The Current Occupant decided to go for a walk one fine spring morning, and he strolled down the White House drive to the main gate and chatted with the cops in the guardhouse and then strolled down Pennsylvania Avenue and through Lafayette Park to Christ Church and turned and looked at the White House through the trees - and then it dawned on him that he was alone, no Secret Service in their dark suits and their earpieces with the curly wires. Nobody had tried to stop him from leaving. They just let him wander away.
A couple of kids in Capitals jackets walked past, and then a cop, and an old couple, and nobody stopped: They glanced his way and nodded and moved on. He thought, "It's true what Laura says. I'm different in person than the way the media portrays me." Some folks sat in lawn chairs holding signs, "GET OUT OF IRAQ" and "STOP THE TORTURE" and so forth. He walked in among them to get a closer look and said to the "GET OUT OF IRAQ" man, "What would you say to the president if you could talk to him up close and personal?" "I'd tell him that I'm afraid for my country. We've accepted lies without protest, we're ignoring what we're doing to the planet, we're bankrupting the nation, we're stuck in a senseless war, and we can't even take decent care of our own people."
"Well, everything has its ups and downs," said Mr. Bush.
He walked away and sat down on a bench. His brother Jeb had phoned from his Florida condo. He was trying to write a book and earn some dough and figure out what to do next, and he wasn't hopeful. Decent governor, smart, good man. But the family name was mud, the country was Bushed. The lecture circuit had more or less dried up for Republicans, as Donald H. Rumsfeld was discovering. Nobody wanted to pay to hear an upbeat story about how we're winning in Iraq, and he wasn't getting good offers for his memoirs.
Mr. Bush's approval ratings were down to a faithful remnant who believed that he was God's chosen president as prophesied in Nehemiah, the one whose reign is the beginning of the Tribulation.
And now Congress had discovered the power of the subpoena. The firing of the U.S. attorneys was a mess. He should have said, "No way, Jose," to the Leahy committee, but instead the geniuses on the staff had him offer up Karl Rove to testify in private, no oath, no transcript, which was a joke, of course, and it only got the Democrats riled up more. And using the Patriot Act to slip the new appointments through without Senate confirmation - boy, who was calling the signals on that one? Hello!? They were like, "Let's run this around end," and he was going like, "No way," and they were like, "What's the problem?" and he was like, "Duh, you really want me to tell you?" But they went ahead and did it and now every Republican with a re-election race in 2008 was looking for cover.
Not much chance of him riding a motorcade through cheering throngs in foreign cities, the way other presidents had finished up. Too bad about that. But he still had Laura, and he had Dick. Dick was his insurance policy against impeachment. No chance, not with Gunner waiting in the wings.
It was time for his soup and sandwich and his 1:30 nap, so he headed home. There was a new cop at the gate, and he didn't recognize Mr. Bush either. He waved him away. "I need to go in there," said Mr. Bush. "I've got a job to do." That was all the guard needed to hear. He had the man taken into custody on suspicion of intent to do harm. The case is being investigated.
Garrison Keillor's column appears Thursdays in The Sun. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2007 The Baltimore Sun