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Davis Sweet Headshot

Bush Team Says "Yes!" to Being All Puppety

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" 'I believe the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.' 'Well, I believe the puppet on the left is more to my liking.' Hey, wait a minute, there's one guy holding up both puppets!" -Bill Hicks

As Bush's face continues its age- and worry-driven (sorry, God-driven) shrink into Muppetheadhood, the dollar-thin mouth alternately flapping or puckering, it's hard not to imagine thoughts behind the tiny plastic eyes.

All right, maybe it's easy not to imagine thoughts behind the tiny plastic eyes. But imagine we must, because we only get to experience the mostly sanitized speech that's allowed to come out in front of microphones and foreign journalists and whatnot. The inside of the probably-not-Styrofoam head -- or, in this case, the writing room that crafts that head's lines and the puppetry team that makes the face go -- is where the decisions are made.

Now, I'm not yet detached enough to suggest there are zero actual measures of actual neural connection in the actual man's actual head. He probably has quite interesting thoughts, in fact, about what it smells like to be greeted by the Pakistani greeting squad. He may even be a tactical genius, like the imagined sharp tack Reagan in that famous SNL skit, acting the world's dimmest bulb only when the cameras are on. (Jumped-up Shiva, you can tell this is written by a liberal! Even giving Bush an out.) I'm not saying he's not holding his part in the puppetry of the POTUS, just that we can only see the show and nothing more.

Climb down with me into the sub-stage well where the puppeteers stand, arms raised as in celebration but capped with absurd mockeries of humanity. See them, T-shirted and unshaven (except the women), presenting dolled-up dolls for the teevee cameras; caricatures of leaders somebody saw in an old movie they don't realize is a satire.

Over there is Donald "Duck!" Rumsfeld, his silk suit as square and well-tailored as an MRE cupcake. His onscreen head asserts that the bad news from Iraq and Afghanistan comes from Al Qaeda's "media committees." Really. The puppeteers below him, conspicuously not military folks, are 100-year-old creatures kept alive only by pharmaceuticals and money. You'd call them "grandfathers," but their bloodless, sneering faces prevent us imagining them engaging in parenting -- in the biological or cultural sense. This puppeteering team has, while not a twinkle in its eyes per se, a certain putrid whimsy that enables them to float the most preposterous trial balloons through Rumsfeld's facade. "We know where the weapons are!" they shout, pointing his puppet hands in all different directions.

Here is Dick "Duck!" Cheney, whose puppeteers include speechwriters frustrated that they missed the #1 guy and many, many medical professionals. And, again, no military folks. Other priorities for Dick's made-for-teevee snarl include threatening civilizations (or America, a distant cousin of a civilization) with destruction if he doesn't get his way, his money, and his wars. This crew knows Dick, and they know America doesn't want to see all that much Dick on their teevees, even if it is a super-embarrassingly lazy joke. One-liners is about all they can manage before the whole thing collapses. When this Dick pops up, its impact has to be felt immediately and to the very colon of our beings. Like one of those Dick-in-the-boxes we had as kids, it's all tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, BANG! A shuddering moment of shock, then nothing. (Apologies for using the word "BANG" with an exclamation point so near that tragic shooting business. It was supposed to be more of a creepy sex joke than a creep-went-hunting joke.)

Here, atop the quite compromised arm of Karl Rove, is the Bush puppet. Scrabbling at that arm are the hands of many, many others, including all the other puppets. Condoleezza Rice's hand that has never otherwise been raised in a fist (and this isn't supposed to be a creepy sex joke either) is there, trying to name itself Veep when the other one retires to spend more time with his doctors. Dubai Ports World has purchased a pretty considerable hand made of gold and giant hypodermic needles full of oil and embarrassing questions about who allowed what to happen and one giant, unused veto pen. And Kim Jong-il, Dear Leader of the Bountiful Leaf-eating Grateful Starvers, has a hand in there too, short-circuiting any mention of an anti-tyrant policy outside of tyrants we already have in prison. Whose is that hand with the hole in it, the one being slapped cruelly away by Pat Robertson's quivering claw? Christ, it's a mess down here. George W. Bush, who shows up occasionally to join the fray vying for control of his face, is napping. George H. W. Bush, a man whose dominant genes make for scary, wobbly clones, is also napping, cheered that his formerly disgraced legacy has been waaaaaaaaaaaay eclipsed by the son.

And who's that up in the hecklers' box? It's... puppets of Hillary and Al! Hill's mammoth team stretches from the nonspecific left to the nonexistent middle, running, briefly, through New York. Al's tiny team includes only three tin-man avatars of himself, each with too much brain to be president but, unlike his reluctant Number One, probably not enough juice in the ol' oil can to obscure that fact.

Meanwhile we can only marvel at the absurd workings of the show and hope against hope that somebody, anybody, shows up with a puppet who can stop getting our soldiers killed, stop smothering our kids (and selves) with toxins, and, if there's any political will left, maybe help us burn the insurance leeches off our throats. But that's probably too much to hope for, 'specially with all this infinite wartime keeping the genuinely human mouths locked tight.