copyright Bill Widener 2000


Hi Rob,

I wanted to congratulate you on your work at ACE [Tattoo Taboo, Sep 14], I read the magazine religiously, as everyone should, and you are doing a great job! Oh, by the way, congrats on your Lum tatoo.

Take Care and Best Wishes,

Laura H. Kinner

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The Hole Thing

What are George Bush's qualifications? Apparently, he was drunk until he was 40. At which time his dad's friends gave him some money to find oil in Texas, which he couldn't...He's the boss's son who comes in and fires you. That's who George Bush is. -Bill Maher

So George Bush made it through a whole day in the bluegrass this week without branding any member of the press a "rectal aperture," as the Washington Post might say.

No wonder.

He got pretty close to a free ride from most of 'em.

The lead in this morning's daily paper reads, "Texas Gov. George W. Bush brought his new relaxed style of campaigning to Lexington last night, pledging to make schools safer and the military stronger."

A photo caption on the front page reads, "Bush used real Kentuckians as examples of how his platform would help the nation."

What? As opposed to those disconcerting fake Kentuckians?

An editorial in this Sunday's daily promised that all the candidates would get their day.

Here, we'll hold our noses and vote this November. But we're not going to be coy along the way. (Fair, but never coy.)

Bush told Oprah viewers this week that the biggest misconception is that he's running on his "daddy's name."

First, that's as untrue now as it was when he ran for Governor (of a state with a constitutionally weak executive branch anyway). If not for his daddy's name, he'd have washed up in some nice little Plano suburb years ago ... a thoroughly embittered middle-aged drunk along the lines of the Kevin Spacey character in American Beauty - only without the ability to even articulate his misery and madness, and with an IQ that probably wouldn't even qualify him for the burger-flipping job that sustained Lester Burnham in his last days, so reminiscent of "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber."

But second, riding his daddy's coattails is only one of the many disturbing family dynamics swirling, Tennessee Williams-like, around this candidate - another being that he is at once so much more and so much less than his Father's Son, in that he exhibits every tendency of an inveterate Mama's Boy. Plenty insiders report that it's Babs (not Poppy) who's the Betty Badass of the Bush bunch, and Shrub gives every indication of a guy who's squarely under her thumb.

If there's vengeance to be had out of this campaign, it appears to be at her behest, not Daddy's - the same reason he went after Ann Richards' post as Governor (second only to the fact that he didn't get the nod for the job he wanted, as baseball commissioner).

Those are at least a few of the conclusions drawn in the new Bush interview with Vanity Fair, an article largely derided for its fairly unscientific theories about Bush's alleged dyslexia.

If Bush were smart (and by most accounts, he isn't), he'd embrace that diagnosis for the potential salvation it represents. Voters can empathize with a legitimate disability. On the other hand, it's hard to admire a guy who simply drank and coked his way through school, and never learned much about readin', writin', or cipherin' along the way. Voters will forgive an illness long before they will laziness or stubborn, willful ignorance.

If somebody posits Tourette's Syndrome as an explanation for why he called a reporter an asshole - he oughtta latch onto that too.

Bush tells Oprah, "Eventually I realized smarts are not only whether or not you can write well or whether or not you can do calculus, but smarts also is instinct and judgment and competence." (Smarts also IS verb/noun/tense agreement, but we'll let that slide.)

Of course, he flunks on instinct, judgment, and competence as well. This "book larnin'" isn't just some arcane, obscure measure cooked up by the press and a bunch of effete intellectuals.

The guy couldn't make a decision about the debates to save his life. He exercised extremely poor impulse control in calling a reporter an asshole within the earshot of anyone, whether or not he knew a microphone was on. If you need something a little more down to earth - more compelling - he's the guy (as former Texas Rangers owner) who let Sammy Sosa get away. And sure, he never seems to know what the right word is, or when to say it. Whether or not that's dyslexia, or a generally poor command of vocabulary, who can say?

As Reagan and Bush proved throughout the 80s, it ISN'T all about brains, and Junior is clever to try to exploit that. It's all he's got.

Because it doesn't take a genius to realize that you can be cunning without being especially intelligent. Just as Reagan proved you can be charming and magnetic, while still maintaining an enormous capacity for institutionalized malevolence. And good ol' Poppy was former head of the CIA - an agency whose JOB is lying to the American public about what they do (and whatever it is they do, we probably don't want to know) - a fact that whizzed right over most voters' heads, while poor Dukakis was crucified for Willie Horton, and quizzed about his hypothetical response to the hypothetical rape of his poor wife... who was probably zonked on isopropyl alcohol for half the campaign.

And lest you think the Democrats are getting off easy, Clinton isn't just a smart guy, he's Rhodes-Scholar-smart and ought to justifiably be held to a higher standard for his excruciatingly stupid lapses in judgment -while Gore bears an unfortunate moniker that rhymes with Whore and Snore - with both words having painfully accurate applications in his campaign. (And tongue-kissing his wife at the convention rivaled the MTV smooch between Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley in both discomfort and contrivance factors.)

Republicans are pissed off now because Americans seem steadfastly determined to forgive and forget Clinton's sexual imbroglios, but they seem to forget that they got a free ride - courtesy of universal apathy - on real crimes against the country, like Iran-Contra and the savings and loan debacle.

Democrats and Republicans alike are all enjoying the benefits of this country's amazingly, embarrassingly short memory - and worse, our steadily declining standards.

Still, it is insulting to think that a potential President of the United States might not be able to pass a scholastic aptitude test, much less find Pakistan on a map - regardless of how charming, affable, or entertaining he might be. Our standards for that office ought to be higher than what we require of an average cocktail party guest.

And as Bill Maher points out, "if he gets elected, I hope he has some cocaine, because this guy's got a lotta studying to do."