There’s a story that doesn’t much get told, and I sometimes wonder why, and that is what a pampered little princeling the President is. Not just Dubya, though he certainly fits the bill and then some, but any modern President.
Where his dad tried and failed to strike the right populist note with his pork rinds, Dubya seems to be able to convince his flock that he’s a just-folks ordinary sort of no-nonsense heck-with-all-this-pomp sort of guy.
And yet he does this not with any subtle finesse, but with a silliness that seems tailor-made for parody:
Laura Bush told Newsweek she doesn’t expect that any of the celebrity chefs with books or television shows will be interested in becoming head chef at the presidential home. But she’s looking to fill the job with someone who “can really showcase American foods.”
The previous White House chef, Walter Scheib Ⅲ, has left to pursue new opportunities after nearly 11 years of cooking for two presidents, and the first lady is looking for a replacement who can cater to the first family’s native Texan pallets.
Yup. Just plain folks, those Bushes. Meanwhile, there’s reality.
Between the US president’s 9:45am landing at Frankfurt airport and his afternoon departure, the sleepy Rhineland town and birthplace of Gutenberg will turn into a steel fortress.
In a contemporary echo of the Lady Godiva legend, anyone living on the route of the presidential motorcade is being discouraged from taking a peek at the 60- to 80-strong column of vehicles conveying the US president. In police leaflets, residents have been asked to keep their windows shut and stay clear of balconies “to avoid misunderstandings”…
Neither driving nor parking will be allowed in the zone, where garages have been emptied, mailboxes unbolted and 1,300 manhole covers sealed.
To keep all travel options open for the president, four highway sections east of the city will be blocked to traffic. Schools will be shut and many workers will be taking a “Bush day.” The nearby Opel and Nescafé plants decided to move their shifts or suspend production.
Even our military brass (hush, don’t tell anyone) isn’t averse to lifting the pinky and letting their snooty side show.
Somewhere in Iraq, a young soldier is handing his three-starred boss a bottled water on a platter, or pressing the general’s uniform, or serving his dinner guests dessert — from the left side, of course.
The military has always provided personal assistants to top brass: There are 300 “enlisted aides” who cater to three- and four-star generals and admirals. But now the Air Force and Navy are sprucing up their service by enrolling some aides at the Starkey International Institute for Household Management, the country’s premier school for domestic help. The Pentagon, in short, is now training butlers.
Mary Starkey — that’s Mrs. Starkey to you — started the eponymous institute in after nine years of running a staffing business for butlers, cooks, maids, and nannies. Students live at the school’s Denver mansion for anywhere from a week to two months, where they learn skills such as silver polishing, flower arrangement, and cigar etiquette, as well as household management training, according to the school’s course catalog. The school has published five texts on household management and has more than 600 alumni serving in wealthy households worldwide. Starkey grads work at the White House, the Pentagon, and the vice president’s residence, a school official says.
Which reminds me of Dubya’s $2 million mushy peas from a year and a half back:
It was billed as a quiet pub lunch in the English countryside: a chance for President George Bush to mix with ordinary folk, sample traditional fish and chips and enjoy a kitchen-table chat at the constituency home of his friend and ally, Tony Blair.
The political fiction was always going to be hard to maintain, but even by the standards of the President of the United States of America — and a Texan at that — ’s visit to Sedgefield was quite a performance.
Two jumbo jets, two liveried presidential helicopters, four more US Navy helicopters, a motorcade of limousines, 200 US secret service agents and 1300 English police were required to unite Mr Bush safely with his fish and mushy peas. Total cost? £1 million ($2.3 million).
Not all heads of state choose to travel in such style.
While Mr Bush clattered off from the Buckingham Palace lawns, heading to Heathrow and then to Sedgefield in County Durham, the Queen boarded the train to Winchester to open an army museum.
By Teesside Airport resembled an international air show as Mr Bush transferred for the 18-kilometre drive to the village of Trimdon Colliery and Mr Blair’s modest Victorian constituency home, Myrobella.
The village football pitch was transformed into a helipad as hundreds of police, some with dogs, created a buffer zone of several hundred yards to keep out the locals.
They were almost too effective as Mr Bush, after exchanging greetings with the Blairs, looked around desperately for an English hand to shake only to find himself posing for a photograph with Mr Blair’s press secretary.
Amazing, isn’t it? All the flag-waving, macho, no-nonsense, hard-working, values-loving, pop-beer-cans-with-their-teeth, Christian, red state, middle-America types tripping over themselves to pledge allegiance to this pompous, Ivy League cheerleader and his enormous taxpayer-funded retinue?
Seems like such an easy bubble to pop, and yet it never does. Maybe one day we’ll come to be ashamed of our acquiescence… of how we treated a dope like George W. Bush like a god-man Pharoah — but probably only in the way we sat around in our two-tone, skinny-tied suits in and wondered how we ever wore our wide-lapel polyester shirts and bell-bottoms .