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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 1, 2006

VOLCANIC ASH
Smack! Kapow! Take that, Mr. President

By David Shapiro

My wife stopped to check in on the video game our 9-year-old grandson was playing on the computer.

"What's he doing hitting the president?" she asked.

"Huh?" I said.

"He's punching President Bush and giving him black eyes."

I wasn't sure what I was supposed to tell the lad.

"Good boy," I finally said.

I investigated and discovered the game is a banner ad that pops up randomly on gaming sites.

It's primitive for a modern video game, just a cartoonish Bush moving back and forth across the screen like a duck in a shooting gallery while the player pokes at him with boxing gloves that don't actually move.

You know your blows have landed when his eyes sport shiners; the first successful haymaker blackens his left eye, the second his right eye and the third puts him down for the count.

Your "prize" is to be taken to a Web site that encourages you to click to win a portable music player and then probably fills your computer with obnoxious adware.

But you can close that screen without clicking and go back to knocking the president's block off over and over.

It posed a moral quandary; I'm nonviolent by nature and believe we should respect the office of the president no matter who is in it.

But the most recent Oval Office occupants have made it so difficult to do that, and I found it quite therapeutic to keep returning to the virtual punching gallery as I read the week's headlines.

Such as this one: "Bush shrugs off objections to port deal."

His support for letting an Arab firm run U.S. ports wasn't what bugged me.

It's that the monumental failure of the Bush presidency, which hit a new public approval low of 34 percent this week, traces most directly to his alarming habit of "shrugging off" any view contrary to his own without bothering to give it 12 seconds of thought.

If his facts and rationale are proven dead wrong, as in Iraq, he just invents new facts and rationale and continues on his merry way.

There's nothing more dangerous than a leader who's so smug he can't allow for any possibility that he might be wrong.

Smack! Bang! Pow!

An updated story moved a short time later: "Bush unaware of ports deal before approval."

Auwe, it was even worse than I thought.

Bush was blindly defending an administration policy he didn't even know about until he read it in the newspaper a few hours before he defiantly hitched up his shoulders.

Wham! Bam! Kablooey!

Then came this: "Bush blames cuts at energy lab on mix-up."

Whoops. Bush budget cuts forced the layoffs of 32 workers at a Colorado renewable-energy facility where Bush planned a speech to tout the lab as a shining example of his energy policy.

Shrug. The White House had the workers rehired before Bush spoke, but gave back only $5 million of the $28 million that had been cut from the lab's budget.

Slap! Thwack! Sock-a-roonie!

This story took the cake: "White House cites Katrina response failures."

After a report detailed how a bumbling Bush administration failed miserably to help Gulf Coast residents trapped in the aftermath of the storm, the president said, "I wasn't satisfied with the federal response."

It evoked memories of his most outrageous shrug-off of all when Bush went on national TV, as pleading Katrina victims waited on New Orleans rooftops for help that wouldn't come, to tell his embattled FEMA chief, Mike Brown, "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job."

Shortly after, Brownie was forced to resign in ignominy.

Whap! Pop! Kaboom!

David Shapiro, a veteran Hawai'i journalist, can be reached by e-mail at dave@volcanicash.net.