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Robert J. Elisberg Headshot

Good Friday. Bad Rest of the Year.

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The other day I was passing a store and, fitting this time of year, noticed an Easter Egg in the window. The delicate shell was covered by an ornate, gold-edged design with bright and attractive colors. As I stared at it, the thought occurred that I was staring at a perfect metaphor.

I don't get metaphor thoughts all that often. Usually when I look at an egg, even an adorned one, I tend to think of omelets. But every once in a while the symbolism genes kick into overdrive.

Right in front of me, that was the Bush administration.

George Bush has long-acknowledged that he's put all his chips on the War in Iraq. It was Iraq or Bust, and so there's been no record of achievement on energy, education, poverty, the environment, stem cell research - name the issue, the cupboard will be bare. Everything, everything relied on the Iraq War. And now six years into his presidency, we get the results of that focus: it is an Administration left with nothing. A hollow shell. A pretty Easter Egg. Lots of gold plating and fancy designs, and absolutely nothing inside.

Lest anyone think this is only the ranting of a left-wing, Commie, radical, atheist, America-hating...well, whatever the Far Right is calling everyone not Far Right these days...I direct your attention to the other end of the spectrum only within the past weeks.

The most recent is Matthew Dowd, the president's chief campaign strategist in 2004. Just last week, he broke with Mr. Bush, saying such things as "I think he's become more, in my view, secluded and bubbled in." And - most remarkably - that John Kerry was right, in calling for a pullout from Iraq a year ago.

But remarkable as that statement was, it wasn't an exception. Just a few weeks earlier, for example, perhaps the most ultra-conservative man in the Republican church, Richard Mellon Scaife, has begun praising the once-despised Bill Clinton through surrogates. According to the New York Times --

"Christopher Ruddy, who once worked full-time for Mr. Scaife investigating the Clintons and now runs a conservative online publication he co-owns with Mr. Scaife, said, 'Both of us have had a rethinking.'

"'Clinton wasn't such a bad president,' Mr. Ruddy said. 'In fact, he was a pretty good president in a lot of ways, and Dick feels that way today.'"

That's how empty the Bush administration has become: even Bill Clinton looks good to Richard Mellon Scaife.

Even John Kerry looks good to the man who directed the last Bush campaign against him.

We are getting perilously close to that moment the president himself suggested when his only supporters would be Laura and Barney. And Barney is on the fence these days. Laura, though, you can count on her - she'll happily go on TV again and complain how hard it is to watch a bombing a day in Iraq.

Hey, just imagine how hard it is to live through dozens of them each day.

Empty. Just an empty reaction.

When the president finally got around to visiting Walter Reed Medical Center, several weeks after the scandal broke over conditions in the nation's crown jewel of military hospitals, he happily kidded about at the StairMaster - he just never made it to any of the wings where the scandalous conditions actually existed.

Empty.

Amid news reports, military reports and video coverage for everyone to see, the president defends conditions in the war by happily reading anonymous blogs from Iraq.

Empty.

But it's really pretty decoration!

The attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer in the country, is under investigation for lying to Congress. One of his top aides has said she'll take the Fifth Amendment to keep from testifying. The president only wants his aides to testify in private and not under oath.

Empty.

And on and on it all goes.

You can put up all the "Mission Accomplished" banners you want. You can wear all the flight jump suits you want. You can come up with all the enthralling "Shock and Awe" phrases you want. You can backslap every crony for doing a "heck of a job." You can give noble names to your unfunded "No Child Left Behind" legislation. You can majestically call the billowing of smog a "Clean Air Act." But all that fancy decoration is just added weight on the empty cards being stacked on your empty house of cards. And when you keep piling them on, eventually the weight will give way and crumble.

And my, is it ever crumbling.

Indeed, it's bizarrely gotten to the point where being an empty, hollow Easter Egg is the best egg metaphor the Bush administration has going for it. Because the other one is Humpty Dumpty.

And all the king's horses, men or Halliburton are not going to be able to put the pieces of this empty administration back together again.

Because it's nothing more than a shell game.

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