Welcoming Mr. Bush 

As we go to press, President George W. Bush is due for an imminent set-down in Memphis, his second such visit this year. The first occasion was the president's journey to Graceland, back in June, in tandem with the Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, a well-known Elvis fan. That was Mr. Bush at his best -- accommodating, gracious, and rendering a public service -- both to Koizumi and to our fair city, which, let us not deny, benefited from the publicity.

This week's visit is designed to assist former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate and a candidate who is struggling just now. The president appeared with Corker in Nashville some weeks ago, and this Memphis reprise, for a fund-raiser, confirms what we had begun to fear: namely, that Corker, whom we had invested some hope in as a political moderate, has chosen to stay the course he charted during the Republican primary as a faux right-winger whose attacks on "liberal" Harold Ford Jr., his Democratic opponent, derive from the unscrupulous school of veteran Bush-meister Karl Rove.

We concur with former Congressman Harold Ford Sr. that his son, now surging ahead of Corker in the polls, profits to the degree that Corker is caught in this unholy embrace and only lament that the younger Ford himself feels compelled -- no doubt for strategic reasons in red-state Tennessee -- to keep professing affection for "my president."

Like everybody else, we have to buy gasoline and have noticed the recent decline in prices at the pump. Cynically, we can't help wondering if that isn't the result of some pre-election collusion between the administration and the oil companies. If so, and if that's the best Rove and Bush can do by way of an October Surprise, then we suspect that the real surprise on November 7th will be all theirs, and it won't be a pleasant one for them.

We wonder, too, if the recent forthrightness shown by individuals as diverse as former President Bill Clinton and TV commentator Keith Olbermann isn't a truer indication of a revised national mood than anything the polls might say. Did we enjoy Clinton's recent trashing of Fox News anchor Chris Wallace for attempting "a nice little conservative hit job" on the president's efforts against al-Qaeda? We did. Did we further enjoy the resulting commentary by Olbermann in which the MSNBC sage (a miraculous blend of Edward R. Murrow, David Letterman, and Cicero) accused Bush of attempting to "hide your failures by blaming your predecessor"?

Oh, we did, we did. And, above all, we enjoyed Olbermann's climactic statement, in which, we believe, he spoke for the emerging American majority: "The 'free pass' has been withdrawn, Mr. Bush." We could only hope that our two senatorial hopefuls come to see that as clearly as have Clinton and Olbermann.



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