Fear and Loathing, Campaign 2004
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson sounds off on the fun-hogs in the passing lane
By DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON
Armageddon came early for George Bush this year, and he was not ready for it. His long-awaited showdowns with my man John Kerry turned into a series of horrible embarrassments that cracked his nerve and demoralized his closest campaign advisers. They knew he would never recover, no matter how many votes they could steal for him in Florida, where the presidential debates were closely watched and widely celebrated by millions of Kerry supporters who suddenly had reason to feel like winners.
Kerry came into October as a five-point underdog with almost no chance of winning three out of three rigged confrontations with a treacherous little freak like George Bush. But the debates are over now, and the victor was clearly John Kerry every time. He steamrollered Bush and left him for roadkill.
Did you see Bush on TV, trying to debate? Jesus, he talked like a donkey with no brains at all. The tide turned early, in Coral Gables, when Bush went belly up less than halfway through his first bout with Kerry, who hammered poor George into jelly. It was pitiful. . . . I almost felt sorry for him, until I heard someone call him "Mister President," and then I felt ashamed.
Karl Rove, the president's political wizard, felt even worse. There is angst in the heart of Texas today, and panic in the bowels of the White House. Rove has a nasty little problem, and its name is George Bush. The president failed miserably from the instant he got onstage with John Kerry. He looked weak and dumb. Kerry beat him like a gong in Coral Gables, then again in St. Louis and Tempe -- and that is Rove's problem: His candidate is a weak-minded frat boy who cracks under pressure in front of 60 million voters.
That is an unacceptable failure for hardballers like Rove and Dick Cheney. On the undercard in Cleveland against John Edwards, Cheney came across as the cruel and sinister uberboss of Halliburton. In his only honest moment during the entire debate, he vowed, "We have to make America the best place in the world to do business."
Bush signed his own death warrant in the opening round, when he finally had to speak without his TelePrompTer. It was a Cinderella story brought up to date in Florida that night -- except this time the false prince turned back into a frog.
Immediately after the first debate ended I called Muhammad Ali at his home in Michigan, but whoever answered said the champ was laughing so hard that he couldn't come to the phone. "The debate really cracked him up," he chuckled. "The champ loves a good ass-whuppin'. He says Bush looked so scared to fight, he finally just quit and laid down."
Ali has seen that look before. Almost three months to the day after John Fitzgerald Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, the "Louisville Lip" -- then Cassius Clay -- made a permanent enemy of every "boxing expert" in the Western world by beating World Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston so badly that he refused to come out of his corner for the seventh round.
This year's first presidential debate was such a disaster for George Bush that his handlers had to be crazy to let him get in the ring with John Kerry again. Yet Karl Rove let it happen, and we can only wonder why. But there is no doubt that the president has lost his nerve, and his career in the White House is finished. NO MAS .
Presidential politics is a vicious business, even for rich white men, and anybody who gets into it should be prepared to grapple with the meanest of the mean. The White House has never been seized by timid warriors. There are no rules, and the roadside is littered with wreckage. That is why they call it the passing lane . Just ask any candidate who ever ran against George Bush -- Al Gore, Ann Richards, John McCain -- all of them ambushed and vanquished by lies and dirty tricks. And all of them still whining about it.
That is why George W. Bush is President of the United States, and Al Gore is not. Bush simply wanted it more, and he was willing to demolish anything that got in his way, including the U.S. Supreme Court. It is not by accident that the Bush White House (read: Dick Cheney & Halliburton Inc.) controls all three branches of our federal government today. They are powerful thugs who would far rather die than lose the election in November.
The Republican establishment is haunted by painful memories of what happened to Old Man Bush in 1992. He peaked too early, and he had no response to "It's the economy, stupid."
Which has always been the case. Every GOP administration since 1952 has let the Military-Industrial Complex loot the Treasury and plunge the nation into debt on the excuse of a wartime economic emergency. Richard Nixon comes quickly to mind, along with Ronald Reagan and his ridiculous "trickle-down" theory of U.S. economic policy. If the Rich get Richer, the theory goes, before long their pots will overflow and somehow "trickle down" to the poor, who would rather eat scraps off the Bush family plates than eat nothing at all. Republicans have never approved of democracy, and they never will. It goes back to preindustrial America, when only white male property owners could vote.
Things haven't changed all that much where George W. Bush comes from. Houston is a cruel and crazy town on a filthy river in East Texas with no zoning laws and a culture of sex, money and violence. It's a shabby sprawling metropolis ruled by brazen women, crooked cops and super-rich pansexual cowboys who live by the code of the West -- which can mean just about anything you need it to mean, in a pinch.
Houston is also the unnatural home of two out of the last three presidents of the United States of America, for good or ill. The other one was a handsome, sex-crazed boy from next-door Arkansas, which has no laws against oral sex or any other deviant practice not specifically forbidden in the New Testament, including anal incest and public cunnilingus with farm animals.
Back in 1948, during his first race for the U.S. Senate, Lyndon Johnson was running about ten points behind, with only nine days to go. He was sunk in despair. He was desperate. And it was just before noon on a Monday, they say, when he called his equally depressed campaign manager and instructed him to call a press conference for just before lunch on a slow news day and accuse his high-riding opponent, a pig farmer, of having routine carnal knowledge of his barnyard sows, despite the pleas of his wife and children.
His campaign manager was shocked. "We can't say that, Lyndon," he supposedly said. "You know it's not true."
"Of course it's not true!" Johnson barked at him. "But let's make the bastard deny it!"
Johnson -- a Democrat, like Bill Clinton -- won that election by fewer than a hundred votes, and after that he was home free. He went on to rule Texas and the U.S. Senate for twenty years and to be the most powerful vice president in the history of the United States. Until now.
The genetically vicious nature of presidential campaigns in America is too obvious to argue with, but some people call it fun, and I am one of them. Election Day -- especially a presidential election -- is always a wild and terrifying time for politics junkies, and I am one of those, too. We look forward to major election days like sex addicts look forward to orgies. We are slaves to it.
Which is not a bad thing, all in all, for the winners. They are not the ones who bitch and whine about slavery when the votes are finally counted and the losers are forced to get down on their knees. No. The slaves who emerge victorious from these drastic public decisions go crazy with joy and plunge each other into deep tubs of chilled Cristal champagne with naked strangers who want to be close to a winner.
That is how it works in the victory business. You see it every time. The Weak will suck up to the Strong, for fear of losing their jobs and their money and all the fickle power they wielded only twenty-four hours ago. It is like suddenly losing your wife and your home in a vagrant poker game, then having to go on the road with whoremongers and beg for your dinner in public.
Nobody wants to hire a loser. Right? They stink of doom and defeat.
"What is that horrible smell in the office, Tex? It's making me sick."
"That is the smell of a Loser, Senator. He came in to apply for a job, but we tossed him out immediately. Sgt. Sloat took him down to the parking lot and taught him a lesson he will never forget."
"Good work, Tex. And how are you coming with my new Enemies List? I want them all locked up. They are scum."
"We will punish them brutally. They are terrorist sympathizers, and most of them voted against you anyway. I hate those bastards."
"Thank you, Sloat. You are a faithful servant. Come over here and kneel down. I want to reward you."
That is the nature of high-risk politics. Veni Vidi Vici , especially among Republicans. It's like the ancient Bedouin saying: As the camel falls to its knees, more knives are drawn.
Indeed. the numbers are weird today, and so is this dangerous election. The time has come to rumble, to inject a bit of fun into politics. That's exactly what the debates did. John Kerry looked like a winner, and it energized his troops. Voting for Kerry is beginning to look like very serious fun for everybody except poor George, who now suddenly looks like a loser.
That is fatal in a presidential election.
I look at elections with the cool and dispassionate gaze of a professional gambler, especially when I'm betting real money on the outcome. Contrary to most conventional wisdom, I see Kerry with five points as a recommended risk. Kerry will win this election, if it happens, by a bigger margin than Bush finally gouged out of Florida in 2000. That was about forty-six percent, plus five points for owning the U.S. Supreme Court -- which seemed to equal fifty-one percent. Nobody really believed that, but George W. Bush moved into the White House anyway.
It was the most brutal seizure of power since Hitler burned the German Reichstag in 1933 and declared himself the new Boss of Germany. Karl Rove is no stranger to Nazi strategy, if only because it worked, for a while, and it was sure as hell fun for Hitler. But not for long. He ran out of oil, the whole world hated him, and he liked to gobble pure crystal biphetamine and stay awake for eight or nine days in a row with his maps & his bombers & his dope-addled general staff.
They all loved the whiff. It is the perfect drug for War -- as long as you are winning -- and Hitler thought he was King of the Hill forever. He had created a new master race, and every one of them worshipped him. The new Hitler youth loved to march and sing songs in unison and dance naked at night for the generals. They were fanatics.
That was sixty-six years ago, far back in ancient history, and things are not much different today. We still love War.
George Bush certainly does. In four short years he has turned our country from a prosperous nation at peace into a desperately indebted nation at war. But so what? He is the President of the United States, and you're not. Love it or leave it.
War is an option whose time has passed. Peace is the only option for the future. At present we occupy a treacherous no-man's-land between peace and war, a time of growing fear that our military might has expanded beyond our capacity to control it and our political differences widened beyond our ability to bridge them. . . .
Short of changing human nature, therefore, the only way to achieve a practical, livable peace in a world of competing nations is to take the profit out of war.
--RICHARD M. NIXON, "REAL PEACE" (1983)
Richard Nixon looks like a flaming liberal today, compared to a golem like George Bush. Indeed. Where is Richard Nixon now that we finally need him?
If Nixon were running for president today, he would be seen as a "liberal" candidate, and he would probably win. He was a crook and a bungler, but what the hell? Nixon was a barrel of laughs compared to this gang of thugs from the Halliburton petroleum organization who are running the White House today -- and who will be running it this time next year, if we (the once-proud, once-loved and widely respected "American people") don't rise up like wounded warriors and whack those lying petroleum pimps out of the White House on November 2nd.
Nixon hated running for president during football season, but he did it anyway. Nixon was a professional politician, and I despised everything he stood for -- but if he were running for president this year against the evil Bush-Cheney gang, I would happily vote for him.
You bet. Richard Nixon would be my Man. He was a crook and a creep and a gin-sot, but on some nights, when he would get hammered and wander around in the streets, he was fun to hang out with. He would wear a silk sweat suit and pull a stocking down over his face so nobody could recognize him. Then we would get in a cab and cruise down to the Watergate Hotel, just for laughs.
Even the Fun-hog vote has started to swing for John Kerry, and that is a hard bloc to move. Only a fool would try to run for president without the enthusiastic support of the Fun-hog vote. It is huge, and always available, but they will never be lured into a voting booth unless voting carries a promise of Fun.
At least thirty-three percent of all eligible voters in this country are confessed Fun-hogs, who will cave into any temptation they stumble on. They have always hated George Bush, but until now they had never made the connection between hating George Bush and voting for John Kerry.
The Fun-hogs are starving for anything they can laugh with , instead of at . But George Bush is not funny. Nobody except fellow members of the Petroleum Club in Houston will laugh at his silly barnyard jokes unless it's for money.
When young Bush was at Yale in the Sixties, he told the same joke over and over again for two years, according to some of his classmates. One of them still remembers it:
There was a young man named Green
Who invented a jack-off machine
On the twenty-third stroke
The damn thing broke
And churned his nuts into cream.
"It was horrible to hear him tell it," said the classmate, who spoke only on condition of anonymity. He lifted his shirt and showed me a scar on his back put there by young George. "He burned this into my flesh with a red-hot poker," he said solemnly, "and I have hated him ever since. That jackass was born cruel. He burned me in the back while I was blindfolded. This scar will be with me forever."
There is nothing new or secret about that story. It ran on the front page of the Yale Daily News and caused a nasty scandal for a few weeks, but nobody was ever expelled for it. George did his first cover-up job. And he liked it.
I watch three or four frantic network-news bulletins about Iraq every day, and it is all just fraudulent Pentagon propaganda, the absolute opposite of what it says: u.s. transfers sovereignty to iraqi interim "government." Hot damn! Iraq is finally Free, and just in time for the election! It is a deliberate cowardly lie. We are no more giving power back to the Iraqi people than we are about to stop killing them.
Your neighbor's grandchildren will be fighting this stupid, greed-crazed Bush-family "war" against the whole Islamic world for the rest of their lives, if John Kerry is not elected to be the new President of the United States in November.
The question this year is not whether President Bush is acting more and more like the head of a fascist government but if the American people want it that way. That is what this election is all about. We are down to nut-cutting time, and millions of people are angry. They want a Regime Change.
Some people say that George Bush should be run down and sacrificed to the Rat gods. But not me. No. I say it would be a lot easier to just vote the bastard out of office on November 2nd.
KERRY WINS GONZO ENDORSMENT; DR. THOMPSON JOINS DEMOCRAT IN CALLING BUSH "THE SYPHILLIS PRESIDENT"
"Four more years of George Bush will be like four more years of syphilis," the famed author said yesterday at a hastily called press conference near his home in Woody Creek, Colorado. "Only a fool or a sucker would vote for a dangerous loser like Bush," Dr. Thompson warned. "He hates everything we stand for, and he knows we will vote against him in November."
Thompson, long known for the eerie accuracy of his political instincts, went on to denounce Ralph Nader as "a worthless Judas Goat with no moral compass."
"I endorsed John Kerry a long time ago," he said, "and I will do everything in my power, short of roaming the streets with a meat hammer, to help him be the next President of the United States."
Which is true. I said all those things, and I will say them again. Of course I will vote for John Kerry. I have known him for thirty years as a good man with a brave heart -- which is more than even the president's friends will tell you about George W. Bush, who is also an old acquaintance from the white-knuckle days of yesteryear. He is hated all over the world, including large parts of Texas, and he is taking us all down with him.
Bush is a natural-born loser with a filthy-rich daddy who pimped his son out to rich oil-mongers. He hates music, football and sex, in no particular order, and he is no fun at all.
I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, but I will not make that mistake again. The joke is over for Nader. He was funny once, but now he belongs to the dead. There is nothing funny about helping George Bush win Florida again. Nader is a fool, and so is anybody who votes for him in November -- with the obvious exception of professional Republicans who have paid big money to turn poor Ralph into a world-famous Judas Goat.
Nader has become so desperate and crazed that he's stooped to paying homeless people to gather signatures to get him on the ballot. In Pennsylvania, the petitions he submitted contained tens of thousands of phony signatures, including Fred Flintstone, Mickey Mouse and John Kerry. A judge dumped Ralph from the ballot there, saying the forms were "rife with forgeries" and calling it "the most deceitful and fraudulent exercise ever perpetrated upon this court."
But they will keep his name on the ballot in the long-suffering Hurricane State, which is ruled by the President's younger brother, Jeb, who also wants to be the next President of the United States. In 2000, when they sent Jim Baker down to Florida, I knew it was all over. The fix was in. In that election, 97,488 people voted for Nader in Florida, and Gore lost the state by 537 votes. You don't have to be from Texas to understand the moral of that story. It's like being out-coached in the Super Bowl. There are no rules in the passing lane. Only losers play fair, and all winners have blood on their hands.
Back in June, when John Kerry was beginning to feel like a winner, I had a quick little rendezvous with him on a rain-soaked runway in Aspen, Colorado, where he was scheduled to meet with a harem of wealthy campaign contributors. As we rode to the event, I told him that Bush's vicious goons in the White House are perfectly capable of assassinating Nader and blaming it on him. His staff laughed, but the Secret Service men didn't. Kerry quickly suggested that I might make a good running mate, and we reminisced about trying to end the Vietnam War in 1972.
That was the year I first met him, at a riot on that elegant little street in front of the White House. He was yelling into a bullhorn and I was trying to throw a dead, bleeding rat over a black-spike fence and onto the president's lawn.
We were angry and righteous in those days, and there were millions of us. We kicked two chief executives out of the White House because they were stupid warmongers. We conquered Lyndon Johnson and we stomped on Richard Nixon -- which wise people said was impossible, but so what? It was fun. We were warriors then, and our tribe was strong like a river.
That river is still running. All we have to do is get out and vote, while it's still legal, and we will wash those crooked warmongers out of the White House.