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: USA Reality Check with James Campion + Readers Letters

The Bush Doctrine of Manic Gambling
James Campion
That’s how it goes for George W. Bush. He’s diseased. He needs help.

"It’s the action, kid. The action." - Jimmy The Greek

About halfway through the president’s impromptu CYA (cover yo ass) press conference this past Wednesday, I could clearly see the telltale signs of a rabid gambling addict. The glassy-eyed unwavering commitment to "stay the course" despite heavy losses, the implausible denial-speak that it would be worse not to have played the hand, and the remarkably stubborn inability to admit a mistake. I know these signs. I’ve been there. Trust me.

"I know it’s been a bad couple of weeks for us in Iraq," remarked our president. "No one likes to see dead people on television, but we’re going to finish the work of the fallen."
I feel for Captain Shoe-In. He is in over his head. Badly. But he cannot and will not stop. I could see it in his resolve, hear it in the quivering of his voice, and feel it in my bones. This is one Texan who is going all the way, staying at the table and waiting for the once-in-a-lifetime straight flush, banking on nailing the Trifecta, or biding his time until Monday Night Football. As long as the bookie answers the phone, there’s a chance. This is why wars, like casinos, run 24-hours.
"If additional forces are needed, I will send them," the president announced during his opening statement. "If additional resources are needed, we will provide them. This government will do all that is necessary to insure the success of their mission."

Whether you are for him or against him, backed the war in Iraq or opposed it, you must admit that it was a gamble from the start. Even the president broached it several times during his disturbing performance Wednesday. He had to be bold and aggressive and not wait around for an imminent threat. He was going on a hunch, got an airtight inside tip from spies and foreign intelligence. Saddam Hussein and Iraq was and would continue to be a threat to this nation, another in a long line of murderous thugs laying in wait for the right time to hit us again. It was as if he were trying to convince himself after awhile. The time is now. Must invade. Put a scare into the troublemakers. Ramp up the war on terror. Shake up the order of things. Shock and Awe. Easy in. Easy out.
Show the world we are not to be bullied.
"We will succeed in Iraq," the president boldly pronounced. "We’re carrying out a decision that has already been made and will not change." George W. Bush gambled. Presidents do that. Some come away triumphant and end up with their likeness on currency or pitched in some heroic statuesque stance encased in a monument somewhere. Others eat shit. This particular president is somewhere in the middle and he knows it.

Too late to turn back now. As long as he has his money in the middle of the table with the slimmest shot to get even, maybe even walk away with a big pot and buy breakfast for his sleep-deprived, cigar reeking pals, he’s letting it ride.

The White House Press, once a prestigious gig, now reduced to a human Iditerod, will never understand this. You don’t learn about social diseases from journalism professors. You have to live it out in the trenches, put down the rent on a long shot and bite your knuckles if you want to know a hearty soul like George Bush. The group effort to ask the same question 17 times wasted 40 long minutes probing the addict for where he went wrong, what mistakes he made, any regrets? This was a foolish tact, and did not serve the public well. The big stakes gambler knows not of what they speak. The high roller does not make mistakes. Bad Luck. Cold Streak. Someone jinxed me. Maybe. But mistakes? Nah.

When asked if he regretted any decision during his three-plus years at the helm, the president stammered like a school kid trying to flush a cigarette down the boy’s room toilet. And when stupidly pressed to compare the current police action to this country’s most egregious non-war war, Viet Nam, Bush could have said, "Please lady, Viet Nam? That damn thing went on for two decades. We’ve been at this thing barely a year." Instead he sounded the gambler’s lament: "Don’t queer the results by comparing me with past failures!" "I happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops and it sends the wrong message to our enemy," our president responded.
There ain’t no Red Sox curse and I ain’t no Bill Buckner, boy! That’s how it goes for George W. Bush. He’s diseased. He needs help.

Usually those who suffer the ultimate fate of the high stakes junky or have the most to lose, family members, loved ones, spouses or college roommates, have to be sated. The addict must allay their fears that he is down, but not out. There’s a sure thing a-comin’ ma! This was evident in Bush’s repeated calls to not contemplate bailing in Iraq. Any talk of that is un-American and only aids the enemy. With apologies to my pop’s favorite film, "Kelly’s Heroes", "Always with the negative waves, Moriardi!" A sympathetic part of me chose to view that press conference as an intervention. Too bad the press corps poorly represented those paying for the gambler’s losses, namely us. I’m thinking some of the financial backers of this thing might have lobbed stronger demands on when exactly enough will be enough. When will our resources emptied? When can we expect "Mission Accomplished"? Yeah, that bit of theater a few months back was another clue to the gambler’s mentality. Win a big bet and get close to even and call it the big splash, breaking the bank. Then comes another chance to roll the dice, and bam!

The president had no answers for an end game or new government outlines or anything concerning the future of Iraq on 4/13. I heard that has-been fathead Newt Gingrich say the other night that "the press will know when the president damn well wants them to know." Oh, good.

Someone should remind the Bush people that listening to a pompous fraud like Gingrich would sentence the president to his kind of political oblivion. The press is supposed to mine our elected leader for answers that the tax paying, war- funding populace has a right to know. But the reporters let us down by allowing our top employee get away with the pussyfooting, "Wait and see", "Patience and Resolve" and "We’ll be there as long as we need to be there to get the job done."
What job? Free the Middle East? Reign democracy down on centuries of religious and cultural fanaticism? Sounds like the kind of doom talk that the ego-mad British Empire tried on half of the region for most of the 19th and 20th centuries. I recall Russia’s aborted attempt to bully Communism on Afghanistan succeeded nicely in bankrupting the Soviet Union.

The press intervention failed, except if you believe it was a good political move for the president to say anything, as opposed to the ducking and jiving we’ve gotten for the past six months, or to deflect any talk about the economy or any other wild cards for this November. But like it or not, we’re going for it folks. All the way to the end, whatever end that may be, at whatever cost; lives, money, national safety. Didn’t you hear? Things are better than you think. We will win, but we won’t know when victory comes.
Sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down.
Gambling. As Krusty the Clown’s accountant once told him, "It’s the best thing a person can do, if you’re good at it." And if you’re not? Well, you’re Krusty the Clown.
© James Campion April 19th 2004


Your piece on gay marriage ("Bigotry & Gay Marriage" was magnificent. Too bad many of our leaders do not have the guts and either avoid the issue altogether or become fanatics for some bizarre ritual of keeping people down - blacks, women, gays, the obese, the long-hairs, the unwashed, the nerds, the beasts, and my mother.
God bless you and the horse that props you up. Salvador

Conservatives are always saying get rid of government control but every time something comes up that they hate (flag burning, gay marriage, abortion, Howard Stern, etc) they cry out for a Constitutional Amendment. But it's alright to own assault weapons, pollute the environment, deny the existence of basic scientific facts and give tax cuts to the rich while letting social security die from total lack of fiscal sense. And they say Jesus loves us.

Mr. Campion! I baffle myself trying to think of a reason why any dope would oppose gay marriage and all I could come up with is homophobia! I saw Jon Stewart do stand-up down here in Philly two weeks ago, and he summed it up best: "Wait, you mean gay marriage doesn't mean us straight people will be forced to marry gay people? Than why does anyone give a fuck?!"

Mr. Campion,
PS. he will save you to all you have to do is ask Janessa

Just a few points, my friend,
If it is for love and all that high-minded crap, then let those gay couples tell us so. I am, though, more willing to suspect that this is more of a grab attempt of the entitlement pie. As for Darva, Britney and the rest of the social miscreants, I don't care if you’re gay, straight, bi or sell, if you saw those things all you could do is shake your head in a bewildered disgust.
As for Bush "starting this", it is this kind of history revision that caused a guy by the name of Bill Roberts to start writing a column to prevent such history revisionism. Bush was minding his own business fighting the war on terror and (according to the libs) busy giving out sweetheart contracts to Halliburton when the Mayor of San Francisco decided to break the law and marry same-sex couples. From there, the craze spread like wildfire. Bush only made a stand (if that's what you can call it) after gay couples all over the Union were gettin' hitched.
I think the big question is, where do we stop defining down what our society will welcome as acceptable behavior? People say gay marriage is no big deal and that if people want to love, let them. A mere 30 years ago, two gay individuals marrying would have been unheard of and even less accepted. Now with our loosening social values, gay marriage is being forced on the American population as a "gonna happen, git with it or git out of the way".
In a society that is always pushing the edge of the social envelope, where do we go from here? Do we honestly believe for a second that this is the most extreme social issue of our day? What will we be asked next to accept as normal and acceptable? No one seems to either be able or willing to answer these questions. People talk about freedom, but one thing I learned as a soldier is that with freedom comes from responsibility and it seems lately too many people want one (freedom) without the other (responsibility).

Citizens . . . take note!
Gay, Straight, Incest-ites, Polygamists, Beast-ophiles! Marriage is for everyone! Why should heterosexuals be the only ones who should suffer divorce and alimony! Let all partake!
John Lamppost

Hey, James !
I could not WAIT to respond to your column on "Bigotry & Gay Marriage"! You may say that it is dumbest subject you have had to rebuke in your space (and I DO hear why you say that), but I'm glad you decided to tackle it and loved every word of how you did it.
I believe that not allowing gays the right to be married is about nothing but money as well, and want to take your observation about how (certain) people "blow" at marriage to the next level... How about this(?)- Perhaps we make a limit to how many times someone can get married, and after you've reached that limit - you're not allowed to get married anymore.
This "3 (or how many ever) strikes, you're out" policy would force everyone (not just gays) to REALLY examine whether or not they are truly in love with someone before they decide to take a vow for "all eternity".
What does anyone expect from our sitting President when it comes to this issue? Even sadder was to realize Ronald Reagan's famous moment of amazement during his re-election campaign with a bar code scanner at the checkout of a supermarket (which was already commonplace for us "everyday" people). It came from a sheltered ignorance. PONDER THIS: Just like the bigots who are afraid of people who are anything BUT white because they have never met a "person of color" in their life... our President could quite possibly be afraid of homosexuals because he has never had the opportunity to get to know one (or at least someone who admitted it). For that to even be a possibility in the year 2004 is mind-boggling.
I know a LOT of people who are homosexual, a LOT of great people... who really love their partners (and have for many years more than some of my heterosexual friends loved their spouses). I think in this century a pre-requisite for being the President of the most diverse and powerful country on the planet is you should have at least one good friend (or at LEAST associate) who is gay. To have absolutely NO knowledge of that large a percentage of the population of the country you are in charge of IS ignorance AND bigotry, and gives YOU no right to have ANY opinion on it at all. Peace!

" Reality Check, Thanks for another great article. You know, this subject is one that my current circle of friends have been debating, and not one of us can figure out why people have such issues with this. You can't help who you fall in love with, and if marrying your own kind is immoral, what about all the crazy things people do sexually to each other (not to mention children, dogs, and yes, perhaps a sofa or two) in the name of love and/or lust? Just once I'd like to meet somebody who can explain why love
is wrong.
Brian in St. Pete

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