[an error occurred while processing this directive]
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 14, 2002
Several recent letter writers snarled at me recently for what they perceived as slights to a man they consider above criticism: George W. Bush.
That's fair enough. I snarl; they snarl. It's called dialogue.
A couple of them also accused me of senility, meaning, obviously, that anyone who doesn't agree with their opinion must be demented.
Again, they are in their rights in suspecting that, although it doesn't seem too long ago that I was being maligned as a callow, inexperienced youth with no knowledge of the world around me.
And many castigated me for even daring to mention Bill Clinton in the same paragraph as George W. Bush.
Again, fair enough, although you guys really should learn that "sleazeball" is spelled with a Z.
But an accusation that I had a "pathological hatred for anything Bush" sent me to the computer to check.
I assume we're talking about George Bush here and not his brother. I can tell them apart and I hope the letter writer can, but, for the record, I disagree with the younger Bush's initiatives in the areas of education and privatization.
Not pathologically, just politically.
And after reviewing the past couple of years of references to George Bush, I wonder if the reader doesn't have a different definition of "pathological" than the rest of us do, or maybe he has the same problem that a former editor had when he criticized me for my "constant references" to a character in my column when the character had been mentioned something like twice in 18 months.
What I found was that I had referred to George W. Bush 15 times in the past two years or so, out of roughly 300 columns, or about 5 percent of the time.
I would characterize three of those references as negative, nine as either neutral or mixed and three, ahem, as positive.
I defended the fundraising use of a head-and-shoulders shot of Bush doing his job on Sept. 11 against charges of tasteless exploitation made by knee-jerk Democrats.
I said I thought his appointees would do a better job of running a war than those who might have been selected by Al Gore, and I said he was justifiably upset if classified information was being leaked.
And, at about that time, I decided unilaterally to stop calling him "Dubya" for the duration of the war.
On the negative side, I was critical for what was then his lack of activity on promises to do something about drug prices for seniors.
I was critical of those around him who set up "First Amendment zones," for critics at and near a political function in Tampa.
I also predicted that he will bumble his way through his presidency without making any major blunders.
In the neutral zone, I mentioned his largely fictional Texas residency, while pointing out that it is not unusual for politicians not to live where they claim to, mentioned without critical comment his plans (about which he is very, very quiet these days) to put Social Security funds in the stock market and speculated whether Martin Sheen of The West Wing might not make a better president.
I balanced that, however, by mentioning Sheen's tendency to get arrested for his support for, and I quote, "whacked out liberal causes."
Also in the neutral zone, I pointed out (correctly, I might add) that Bush would probably not name me as drug czar, made reference to the kind of grocery store tabloids that speculate whether he is an alien from outer space and quoted him, accurately, as describing a married couple in a speech saying "He's a hard-working man and so is she," a valid point to make in an era in which same-sex marriages are in question.
I mentioned both Bush and Gore negatively in a column in which I said I was voting for Ralph Nader and would point out to Bush fans that there are actually people who believe that column might have swayed enough votes to throw the Florida total to Bush.
Incidentally, a check of the same period shows that I mention Bill Clinton 18 times -- seven times neutrally, 11 negatively and none positively.
I guess that the virus that causes my pathology must be a Republican.