A teetotaller with a hangover

28th July 2003, Comments 0 comments

A teetotaller with a hangover

So it was a binge.

The longest period of peace and prosperity in American history was a binge, and now we have a hangover.

President Bush's explanation of the economic woes that are now ailing America must go down as among the least compelling bits of sustained imagery to have come from the Presidential speech writing pool.

I wonder if the 'hangover' metaphor was a unanimous offering from the office of the Presidential Metaphor.

Were there alternatives on offer to capture the spirit of the coming together of economic reversal and wholesale corporate fraud that the President was called on to explain?

Perhaps some junior wordsmith looked up brightly from his laptop and shouted: "Cancer...an illness, Doctor Bush will make us well again..."

Another might have gone the meteorological route: "Stormy weather...ride it out?"

But let's not attack the dissemblers of the Presidential word pool. This was a task beyond words.

In a single pithy image they had to convince the American public that the prosperity which, happily for Bill Clinton, coincided with his wild days in the Oval Office was a bad thing — and that the end of the boom which, more or less, arrived with President Bush, was, well...good, sort of.

This was always going to take some pretty fancy phrasing, and even when the final arguments were framed they were always going to be so thin and brittle that they might shatter when placed on the Presidential lectern.

Delivering the speech President Bush looked as if he wanted to be somewhere else and that his mind was far away — so at least that looked normal.

But even in a world where truth is a stranger, this particular address lacked veracity and conviction. But let's hold it up to the light and see what it shows.

Well first we see the unexpected sight of George Bush attacking profits. What next, a eulogy to Osama bin Laden?

Profits had been excessive, he volunteered, and that was the problem. The suggestion that profits can be excessive is heresy of a high order in the Bush Republican circles.

But of course the President's track record on the issue is beyond question. Who can fail to remember the stirring warnings against profits that came from George W. throughout those roaring 90s?

And how vivid are our memories of the restraint he showed in his own share dealings, an ethic adhered to closely by Vice President Dick Cheney and the whole world of Big Oil which has now taken up residence on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Having accepted the President's description of the 90s boom as a binge, and the present condition as a hangover — what logically follows? Remorse? Contrition? A determination not to return to the old ways?

Will corporate America be taking a pledge never to profit excessively again?

No, the President's words were as empty as his speech a few days ago in which he outlined new penalties for corporate fraud.

The measures he outlined were so tough they were welcomed by corporate America.

And another quiet chuckle will pass around America's boardrooms as they listen to his latest address.

Much better to have a President who keeps his zeal for reforming the murky world of the corporate giants to a purely metaphorical level.

17 July 2002

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