The American media have a new dismissive name for those who rant against George W. Bush: Bush-bashers.
And there are calls from right and left to cease and desist with the Bush-bashing. I agree. The man himself has become a distraction. But I want to point out that the biggest Bush-basher of them all is George W. himself. And I'm not speaking metaphorically.
Just last week, as the Democrats were trying hard to minimize the Bush-bashing at their convention, Bush was using his mountain bike to give himself a good Bush-bash down at his ranch in Crawford.
Bush has only been riding mountain bikes since February, yet according to Fox News, "He takes on dangerous sections that would give veterans pause." On this occasion, he is reported to have said to his entourage, "I'm gonna show you a hill that would choke a mule" before flying full-tilt downward and off halfway down. It's the second time he's taken a flip on his bike. The first happened in May, just before he was due to give a big speech on Iraq policy. That time he landed flat on his face.
Jerry Ford had a tendency to stumble while getting off airplanes. His reputation as a klutz was a significant factor in his loss of the presidency.
Bob Dole fell off a stage during the Clinton-versus-Dole campaign and never fully recovered. Bush has fallen four times that we know of. Along with the bike mishaps, there was the famous pretzel-choking incident and the tumble when he stumbled on one of those new Segway scooters. Not only is he the fallingest president ever, but he's probably the most famous falling son since Icarus.
All of this has led to considerable chatter on the Internet, not only about the weird pathology involved but also about the possibility of brain damage.
Numerous famous conquerors - Alexander the Great, Caesar, Hitler - all suffered serious head injuries before their conquests. Has Bush somehow whacked himself into a bad case of emperor's disease? Could those whacks on the head account for his ability to refer to his own past statements with such apparent ignorance?
My own belief is that a fool will always find banana skins. Dubya is no Caesar, no Hitler. The cause of his constant falling is not that he's a dry drunk, a wet drunk, punch drunk or into rough trade.
Bush is the great literalist. Politically and morally, he's been choking and falling flat on his face for a long time. Every time he does so, he reifies the great metaphor of his presidency: falling towers, falling bombs, falling employment.
I expect he'll continue to keep his appointment with the horizontal, just as bin Laden kept his with the vertical. He will fall repeatedly. He will fall as though he had a hinge on his toes. He will fall and get back up again with ever longer pauses, weird stares, malapropisms.
All of which would be funny if it weren't for the fact that when Bush falls, he crushes people - literally.
Unfortunately, John Kerry's position on Iraq isn't much different than Bush's. But at least with George out of the way it may become easier to focus on the actual issues at hand. Maybe then the Kerry-whacking will begin.
Robert Priest's new book, How To Swallow A Pig, will be published in the Fall by ECW Press.