Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas
Years ago, when I was visiting with my French cousin, in Paris, his young son, perhaps 4 years old, had an emotional meltdown – howling and screaming, kicking wildly.My cousin, a quintessential Frenchman, gave that quintessential French shrug, grinned with a bit of embarrassment and said, “Un baton emmerdant.”I speak enough French to know that “un baton” means “a stick” – but I had no idea what “emmerdant” meant.My cousin tried to explain. “It means he is a … um … stick covered with s–t. You don’t want to go near it. No matter where you touch it, you wind up smeared with … ee-yew!” He made one of those French faces, filled with disgust.He did not, by the way, mean that his son was literally coated in excrement, from some sort of toilet training accident. He was referring to his behavior.Which brings us to the subject of George W. Bush.I am not referring to presidential temper tantrums. Or, for that matter, to toilet training mishaps.I am thinking of the way in which people have had their reputations ruined by their association with George W.The first example that comes to mind is, of course, Colin Powell. There was a time, not too long ago, when Colin Powell was a widely respected American hero. He probably could have run for president – on either party’s ticket – and been elected in a landslide. People felt he was a man of intelligence, integrity, skill and courage.Look at him now.He doesn’t even have the respect of the people he serves with in the Bush administration. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Powell urged caution. The Cheney-Rumsfeld contingent ran roughshod over him. He was ignored, irrelevant.Then they sent Powell to stand up and present a bushel basket of half-truths and misinterpretations to the United Nations. I’m not saying that Colin Powell consciously lied – but I am saying that there were people behind him who certainly knew that much of what he was presenting was questionable.And yet, they sent him to the United Nations to say, “My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”They weren’t facts – and Colin Powell is now known throughout the world as someone who stood up and presented a deeply misleading speech to the United Nations. After decades of courageous service to this country, his reputation is permanently stained.John McCain is another man who has had a sterling reputation for integrity and courage – and has had that reputation “emmerdant,” stained with “merde,” by his association with George W. Bush.The first stains came when McCain ran against Bush in the Republican presidential primaries in 2000. When it looked like the Vietnam hero was ahead of Bush, suddenly a group of Vietnam veterans came out of nowhere and attacked McCain, saying he wasn’t a hero, that he had betrayed his Vietnam comrades. A second whispering campaign alleged that McCain had “an illegitimate black daughter.”But that smearing was four years ago. This year’s episode is somehow worse – because McCain did it to himself.In the weeks before the Republican convention, John Kerry was attacked by a series of ads from a group of Vietnam veterans who questioned his service record and declared that he hadn’t deserved the medals he had been given.Their attack was reminiscent of the one launched against McCain four years ago and McCain let it be known that he considered those anti-Kerry ads disgusting. He asked Bush to denounce the ads as untruthful and disgraceful. Bush didn’t do it.And then, as a good Republican, John McCain stood up at the convention and spoke glowing words of praise for the man who had smeared him four years ago and who refused to stop the smears of this year’s campaign.So much for his integrity. John McCain has stained his own record – on behalf of George W. Bush.The list goes on.Robert Dole was known for much of his political career as kind of a nasty guy; but he has worked hard recently to repair his image and his political legacy. Now he has gone on the record attacking John Kerry’s purple hearts on the grounds that Kerry’s wounds weren’t serious enough to deserve a medal. A decorated veteran attacked another decorated veteran on behalf of a man who ducked the war entirely. So much for Dole.Even the president’s father, George H. W. Bush – also a decorated veteran and a true hero – found himself giving some support to the anti-Kerry ads. So much for him.Indeed, in attacking Kerry, one of the leaders of the veterans’ group was forced to cast aspersions on his own Bronze Star – because he won it in the same battle in which Kerry won his. As John McCain said, when those veterans question Kerry’s medals, “They question everybody’s medals.”War heroes all, they betrayed their own proud records to support George W. Bush.George W. Bush, like my very young French cousin, “un baton emmerdant.” Touch him and you become smeared with … ee-yew!Our president.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.