“I don’t get it, Patty,” I said. “Why is the President hiding from Cindy Sheehan?”
“Do you remember when you told me you were going to a lodge meeting, and I found out you were playing poker in Art’s garage?” she answered.
I winced. Some things are better off forgotten. And I don’t have any trouble at all forgetting them. But they’re permanently accessible in Patty’s memory bank. “Vaguely,” I said. “Why?”
“You lied and you hid,” she said. That’s Patty; no beating around the bush. “I had to drag you out from under the Morgans’ SUV. Then you pretended you were just under there to check out an oil leak.”
“What’s your point?” I asked.
“Don’t be so dense, Ace,” she said in exasperation. “George Bush lied to get us into war with Iraq. All the lies have been exposed. Then he claimed that Cindy Sheehan’s son Casey died for a ‘noble cause.’ She’s calling him on it. She says she wants to ask him just exactly what that noble cause was. He can wrap himself in flags and plaster the White House limo with all the ‘Support Our Troops’ stickers he wants, but the bottom line is, there wasn’t any ‘noble cause.’ He’s ducking her because he doesn’t have an answer. What’s he going to say?”
“Well, he needs to say something,” I protested. “It’s embarrassing to have the leader of the free world squirming like a possum caught in the headlights, all because one woman decided to squat beside the road at his ranch.”
“I don’t think it’s embarrassing at all,” she said. “I think it’s enlightening. Here you have all these Democratic politicians who know the whole war was bogus, and they won’t say a word. Then you have all the reporters who know it was bogus, and all they print is White House handouts. They’re all scared to death that Karl Rove and company will label them unpatriotic, so they just keep their mouths shut. And then one woman camps beside the highway in Crawford, says she wants to ask one simple question, and it’s like going behind the scenes in The Wizard of Oz. You find out that the larger-than-life figure everybody was so frightened of is actually a pathetic little man manipulating machinery.”
“He’s a busy guy,” I argued. “He’s got global responsibilities.”
Patty laughed so hard I thought she’d bust her belt. “Ace,” she said, “the man is on a month’s vacation right now. A month. He’s spent almost twenty percent of his presidency on vacation. He’s so seldom on the job that if he were a working man, he’d practically qualify for unemployment. He zipped right past Cindy Sheehan to take a two-hour bicycle ride, that’s how busy he is.”
“Come on, Patty,” I said. “He doesn’t have time to talk to every parent whose son or daughter died in Iraq. If he just spent an hour with each one, he wouldn’t have time to do anything else for the entire next year.”
“It might be a year well spent,” said Patty thoughtfully. “Maybe if he spent an hour with every grieving parent, the lives he’s destroyed would start to get a little more real for him. Maybe he’d lose a little sleep, instead of getting those nine good hours every night. And maybe he’d be less prone to treat people like pawns on a global chessboard.”
“I just don’t understand his thinking,” I said. “The longer he hides, the more he looks like a chicken. Why doesn’t he just walk out, shake her hand, tell her he’s sorry for what happened to her son, and say they’ll just have to disagree on the reasons for the war, blah blah?”
“Ace,” she said, “how long would you have stayed under that SUV?”
© Tony Russell, 2005