The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, February 13, 2004  

This Year: With Photographs!
What About Brush Clearing?

In a typically excellent column in today’s New York Times, Paul Krugman tells readers this year’s Budget of the U.S. Government -- which is not only a “thing” but also a document, a set of documents -- includes in the latter form nearly 30 hagiographic photographs of President George W. Bush (“The Real Man”).

That’s remarkable. Astounding, really. And it’s despicable.

In a previous incarnation -- actually, nothing quite so metaphysical, but rather at my first “real” job -- this document, the Budget of the U.S. Government, sat on my desk year-round: dog-eared, heavily Post-It-ed, and very dirty from my newsprint-tainted fingertips.

Today I probably couldn’t make my way around the book or, more accurately, books -- and I mean that, these things are huge -- but I used to know these volumes like the back of my hand.

And so, like Krugman, possibly even more than he since I was young and stupid then, naïve even, not nearly as jaded as I should have been or have become since that time, I was disgusted -- but not entirely surprised -- to learn that under the current White House occupant this collection of numbers and lines and history and projections and explanatory text and footnotes has been transformed into a veritable campaign pamphlet, all at your expense, courtesy of the Government Printing Office which must, by law, print that which it is told to do.

Krugman writes:

We see the president in front of a giant American flag, in front of the Washington Monument, comforting an elderly woman in a wheelchair, helping a small child with his reading assignment, building a trail through the wilderness[,] and, of course, eating turkey with the troops in Iraq. Somehow the art director neglected to include a photo of the president swimming across the Yangtze River.

It was not ever thus. [Former President] Bill Clinton’s budgets were illustrated with tables and charts, not with worshipful photos of the president being presidential.

Actually, Dr. Krugman, as I know you know, it was never thus.

I just have one question, and perhaps someone who has seen the books can answer this quickly: Is there not one single photograph of the president clearing brush at “the ranch”?

Because, as we all know, everyone belonging to this nefarious cabal, including Karl Rove and Andrew Card, and even Karen Hughes and Barbara Bush the Much Elderess, throw major bone over that stuff.

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