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Shrub-a-Dub-Dub, thanks for the Grub

The Webster Retort
By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter
July 14, 2006

Shrub-a-Dub-Dub, thanks for the Grub

Before thousands of ballots were discovered in a Florida swamp; before the GOP voter purge list was discovered to contain the names of thousands of African-Americans guilty of committing crimes in the future; before the Supreme Court appointed its very first president; before the nightmarish September atrocity; before the Taliban’s visit to Texas, and Osama’s Presidential Pardon; before the Weapons of Mass Distraction; before the Patriot Act and the cancellation of a majority of the Bill of Rights; before 2,500 plus troops fell to a vicious series of lies; before Camp Casey, Cindy Sheehan and the new Civil Rights Movement; before the plan for a North American Union, and before the erasure of the American Congress … Before all that, I was there.

I met the man, as a kid. I asked him a question, and posed for a photo. How naive I was.

Stephen C. Webster and George W. Bush, March 8, 1998.

Yes, I met George W. Bush in 1998, during his campaign for re-election to the office of Governor. The day was March 8. I was attending high school in a place called Brenham, a sparkling gem in the crown of what Sociologists call “White Flight.” In this small, Texas town, all the cows are happy, all the ice cream is Blue Bell, and all the coloreds are under thumb. I was sitting, as usual, in the Journalism lab, happily building the latest edition of The Cub Growl, our school newspaper.

Seemingly in a rush, my Journalism Professor, Allen Crenshaw, burst through the doorway. “The Governor is at Blinn!” he exclaimed. (Blinn College, a.k.a. “A&M Prep,” is the two-year school in Brenham, where I learned everything I didn’t need to know.) “What are you guys waiting for? Get over there!”

So, being the good Journalism students we were, a crew of us packed up and headed out to meet the Man Who Would Be King. At the time, I had no idea that I would be writing about the Age of Bush for so long. I was young, dumb and full of … well, chocolate milk, as the day was still within morning hours.

Walking into a ramshackle auditorium, packed collar to collar with the Good ‘Ole Boy Elite, I found myself standing head and shoulders above much of the crowd. As it is to this day, I top off at six-foot-four-inches, having been born at that height, much to my mother’s dismay and agony. An awkward little perp, you could spot me from across the room with little effort. Then, a silence swept through the hall. Chucklehead had arrived.

Dubya was plodding across the room, surrounded by a cowboy-hat’ed entourage. He clasped hands with every other person, grinning and hee-hawing and nodding his way through the crowd. I jumped out in front of him at the last minute, pointing to a camera perched on a tripod. We shuffled in together, side by side, and the flash ignited: a moment in time, preserved in photographic form. The black and white image rests on my newsroom perch to this very day.

Finally making his way to the small, hastily-built stage, the audience quieted and piled in as close as possible. He talked about “helping” the old and poor off welfare programs, and how he was going to “save Texas” with a tax cut. Even then, in my disinterested, little center-of-the-world head, I though he sounded insincere. Had I looked underneath those words - had I read between the lines - it would have translated as something more akin Mark Twain’s appraisal of the political archetype W was groomed to be ...

“I admit also that I am not a friend of the poor man,” wrote Twain at his most satiric. “I regard the poor man, in his present condition, as so much wasted raw material. Cut up and properly canned, he might be made useful to fatten the natives of the cannibal islands and to improve our export trade with that region. I shall recommend legislation upon the subject of my first message. My campaign cry will be: ‘Desiccate the poor workingman; stuff him into sausages.’”

Then, to my great shock, Bush opened up the session for questions from the press. All those around me raised hands, but mine stuck up higher. “You, with the shirt,” I remember him saying with a smirk, his stumpy index finger aimed right at me. Perhaps he thought it was clever to call on a high school student before a Houston Chronicle or Dallas Morning News reporter. But who was I to complain? I happily fired away.

“Mr. Bush,” I began. “If you could be either in the Texas Legislature, working to solve this state’s many problems, or at the Ballpark in Arlington, watching the Rangers play, which would you choose?”

His arms went up in a dunce shrug; that quirky, mischievous little grin he flashed just moments before announcing the start of the Iraq War plastered itself across his then youthful face. “Wul’ come on! I think it should be obvious,” he said.

“I’d be at the ballpark,” he exclaimed to a chorus of laughter. “I love them Rangers!”

That was the first and last time I spoke with Der Dummkopf-Kaiser.

Sadly, it seems the only thing that has changed about the man since then is the number of gray hairs on his head. But, I must say, sausage sure is cheap these days.

New Orleans, R.I.P.

Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter with North-Texas weekly The News Connection, a Staff Writer with George W. Bush's hometown paper The Lone Star Iconoclast, a Contributing Writer to Peace Journalism Magazine and The Bleeding Quill, a former contributor to The Dallas Morning News' Science & Technology section and the former Editor-in-Chief of Binary Culture.

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