Never Give the Next President an Even Break

The headline on the front page of the Los Angeles Times for Tuesday, June 9, 2009, read: “U. S. caught in a tight spot on North Korea. Now that the President is a member of the Democratic Party, the pro-liberal (?) media is free to criticize him in a way they did not dare when the Republican President resented any negative insinuations, let alone negative tone, and he could regulate the use of the word “recession” and be immune from any disparaging remarks. Now, with a Democrat at the helm, the scrappy journalists are very eager to prove (via the use of Republican talking points) that “the gloves are off.” President Bush invaded Iraq because, he said, Iraq was about to acquire nuclear weapons. When it started to look like Iran would also be making nuclear weapons, Bush talked up a possible preemptive bombing raid. He used very tough talk and delighted all the conservative talk show hosts. Now that North Korea has nuclear weapons, the next man to occupy the Oval Office in the White House faces a loose-loose binary choice. He can either order a preemptive attack on North Korea in an effort to seize the weapons, but that could lead to a bloodbath that would make the toll being paid for the invasion of Iraq seem insignificant or he can back off and seem to observers like someone who has chickened out. Here’s a suggestion: Since Kim Jong-il’s strategy could be interpreted as a bid for attention, and since he also seems to be fascinated by contemporary American culture, especially Hollywood films, perhaps President Obama should invite him to a summit conference in Washington and then the new President could use his considerable amount of charm and a heavy serving of flattery to defuse the tension between the two countries. Bush has set up a clever “fork” for the new Democratic President to face. If President Obama goes for a military solution to the dilemma, the Democrats will feel betrayed by a new war. If he takes the other choice and just remains mum, while Kim Jong-il struts about commanding the world’s attention, he will outrage all Republican and more than a few Democrats. Most pundits who are eager to curry favor with the fat cats in the Republican party will be too polite to point out than any current confrontation with North Korea was set up as an inevitability by Bush. Unfortunately, this columnist didn’t get the memo urging the implementing of that “good Bushy” attitude. That may remind some W. C. Fields fans (Wasn’t it in “Never Give a Sucker and Even Break,”?) of the part of one of his movies that depicted a confidence game that a clever crook used to get a free lunch. The bad guy, who would be finishing up his meal at the counter would engage the guy next to him in a conversation. When it was time for Slick to leave, he would say to his new friend: “I’ll buy you lunch. When I tell the cashier, I’ll point to you and you wave and she’ll give me your bill and I’ll pay for both of us.” When the confidence man got to the cashier, he would say: “My buddy is going to pay for my lunch. It’s him.” He would then point to the sucker, who would wave back on cue. The cashier would assume that what she had been told was true and the swindle would be set in motion. Doesn’t it seem like Bush has done something similar with all the tough talk, Iraq invasion, threats against Iran, and his trademark swagger? Kim Jong Il is free to snarl: “What are you going to do about it?” Now, it’s time to pay the bill and for the new President to decide to “Put up or shut up” regarding North Korea. Bush reaped the benefit of talking touch and now his successor has to be thinking of the old Vietnam era assessment about the eagles coming home to roost. Mae West quote: “A man has one hundred dollars and you leave him with two dollars, that’s subtraction.” Was she a Republican? Now, the disk jockey will play the country tune that surely must be gaining in popularity in the West Wing these days: “Holding the bag” by Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley. It’s time for us to take our bill over to the cashier and leave. Have a “You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man” type week.

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