Remember when the first President George Bush went to a grocery store for a photo op and proclaimed himself amazed at the scanners used to ring up purchases? To 99 percent of the country, scanners were not news. His cluelessness about one of the basic elements of daily life — buying food — defined the senior Bush as out of touch.
A few months back, the second President Bush appeared equally disconnected when asked by a reporter if he was worried about the likelihood of the price of gas rising to $4 a gallon. "Four dollars a gallon? Huh, hadn't heard that," Bush replied. Well, he's heard about it now, as we all have.
We have created a system where we are ruled by the rich. Some of our leaders, like the Bushes, were rich before they got on the government payroll. Others, like the Clintons, got rich as a result of being elected, using the perks of book contracts, speech fees, insider deals, etc. that come with higher office.
When our senators and presidents and Supreme Court justices stop driving, pumping gas, and buying groceries, they lose touch. (That's why it's always reassuring to me when I see Shelby County mayor A C Wharton wheeling a grocery cart around Schnucks. The man knows about the price of milk — and scanners.) This disconnect between our high officials and the average Joe was never made clearer than it was this week when John McCain's economic adviser Phil Gramm declared: "This is a mental recession. ... We have sort of become a nation of whiners."
Oh, really? This, coming from the lips of the man who, as senator, created the financial loophole that enabled the Enron crisis, was particularly galling. McCain wisely and quickly distanced himself from Gramm's remarks. But really, when do you think was the last time McCain pumped gas or W. bought a loaf of bread?
Cindy McCain has charged as much as $500,000 in a single month on one American Express card and $250,000 on another. One of the McCains' two dependent children had an AmEx card with a monthly balance of $50,000 — about the median annual U.S. household income. The McCains own seven houses. Oh well, at least they're not whiners. Bruce VanWyngarden
The lady doth protest too much, methinks. — William Shakespeare
Is there such a thing as "bad activism"? I'm asking because I'm seeing a lot of criticism of the folks who are protesting the Memphis Zoo's encroachment onto the Greensward at Overton Park.
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."