The Morlocks Take an Early Lead 

9/11 was the best thing that ever happened to George Jr.

Let's get it over with. It's time to bow our heads and observe a worldwide moment of silence as we quietly visualize how we, as a country, will strangle Osama bin Laden with the intestines of his grandchildren. New York City florists will make a killing, ghostly montages of two incredibly horrifying hours of our history will be seen, and a lot of really, really slow versions of "America the Beautiful" will be heard and you will like it. But as long as we're in this contemplative mood, let's take a moment to recall what life was like before. Here, let me fire up the Wayback Machine by making weird flashback noises. Brdddewdodo. Brdddewdodo. Brdddewdodo.

Here we are. Monday, September 10, 2001. It is an innocent time. News holes are chock-full of stories depicting the marauding terror of rampant sharks and an equally soulless Gary Condit. Bush is toast. Floundering like a pig on skates, he has just returned to DC from a 35-day vacation. Five weeks is not a vacation, it's a sabbatical. The only people who get five weeks' vacation are German trade unionists, Parisian customer-service reps, and Santa Claus -- and the last two are fictional. Before that, the president had spent months reintroducing himself to various world leaders. "Hey, Olaf, remember me? I'm Pappy's kid. Sorry about that flaming-cat incident in the guest wing. Karl Rove's got a check for you."

Dick Cheney is generally accepted as being in charge, but a heart attack every three weeks is putting a damper on his energy. Campaign finance reform has reared its ugly head, and the dauphin is being pestered by media reports detailing how his energy policy was written by big energy corporations, including one named Enron. He's also busy fending off charges of how insanely out of touch he is, based on his administration's decision to loosen restrictions on arsenic in tap water and his stubborn determination to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The national honeymoon is fraying like a braided prairie rug in a cat-lady's parlor, and talk show hosts joke how George II passed a sign that said "Wet Floor" and he did.

But a mere 24 hours later, all hell breaks loose in DC and Manhattan and a hero emerges from the rubble of Ground Zero. That man's name is Rudy Giuliani. Bush stands near him a lot. It works.

Let's wormhole to January 2002. Brdddewdodo. Brdddewdodo. Brdddewdodo. Al Qaeda is on the run. America's lust for revenge is being sated by reconnaissance photos of many large Afghan rocks being relocated. We still can't find bin Laden or the one-eyed Mullah, though we did uncover the true satanic seed: John Walker Lindh. No matter: Bush has a higher approval rating than puppies. Shar-pei puppies. The wrinkled ones. The cutest kind. The Yalie wimp has morphed into Yosemite Sam before our very eyes. "We're going to flush them evildoers out from their hidey-holes in the hills and mountains, and then we'll shoot at the feet of the Axis of Evil and make 'em dance." I'm guessing the use of the word "varmints" here was implicit.

George W. is now the red, white, and blue patron saint of Everyman, slapping backs with the same union members whose jobs his policies threaten to eliminate. Even though he's suspending the very constitutional rights we're supposedly fighting to protect, he's totally untouchable. The bumbling kid of four months ago is now an avenging angel steering the ship of America back on a course of righteousness.

Now, let's set the dials to the present. Brdddewdodo. Brdddewdodo. Look around. The economy sucks, and we're threatening terrible retribution on Saddam Hussein. No, wait. Wrong button. This must be December 1990. No, no, wait. It is today -- just this weird mirror-imaging that happens all the time during time travel. Sorry. The stock market has tanked. Apparently, to investors, any Bush overseeing an economic recovery is like having your drug intervention hosted by Robert Downey Jr. -- with Darryl Strawberry driving the van, Ben Affleck at registration, and Mariah Carey supervising the sponge baths.

Like dad, Bush has squandered his moral imperative and knows the only way to get it back is with another holy war. But he can't get any support for his jihad because it doesn't take an evil genius to figure out that a preemptive strike on anyone amassing the ingredients for weapons of mass destruction could just as easily mean popping over to Delaware and leveling Dow Chemical. And nobody is buying the whole "haven't you ever finished up one of your dad's chores?" argument either. The worst part is, he can't blame this one on Bill Clinton.

Now, let's voyage into the future. Brdddewdodo ... oh, skip it. It's Wednesday, November 6, 2002. The Democrats have retaken both the House and the Senate. The refinancing fog has lifted, and the true state of the economy is revealed. It isn't pretty. There are rumblings from John McCain's camp about scheduling some fund-raising trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, and GOP leaders have talked to Cheney's people about a "Dump Bush" movement. George is busy fending off charges of how insanely out of touch he is, based on the administration's decision to continue to attack Iraq in the face of international opposition and national apathy. And talk-show hosts joke that Bush studies for his urine test. It's almost like the previous fourteen months never happened. Almost. But remember, the Ghost of Politics Future only reveals visions of what may be, not what will be.

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