By Tony Russell

We were all sitting around the barbershop, conducting our usual grassroots political symposium.

"This prisoner-abuse thing is really gonna hurt Bush," said Easy Ed. "It looks like him and Rumsfeld are in it up to their eyeballs."

"The average man-in-the-street thinks it'll hurt him," said Bunson, "but it ain't necessarily so."

The barbershop grew quiet. You could have heard a hair drop.

"How do you figure?" Ed asked cautiously.

"Look at it this way," said Bunson. "Bush was getting clobbered on ignoring all those warnings about terrorists—how they were planning attacks using airplanes. He got some of the warnings right before September 11, and then he took off for a month's vacation. This business about Al Ghraib takes him off the hook."

"Actually," said Lum, "he was lucky that thing about ignoring warnings came up, because before that all people were talking about was his going AWOL from National Guard duty during the Vietnam war."

"I see what you mean," I said. "That National Guard thing was bad business. He was vulnerable on that that all right."

"Naw," said Lum, "you've got it all wrong. That National Guard controversy was actually a piece of luck," because until that came up, everybody was focused on that lie in the State of the Union speech. The one about Iraq's nuclear program."

Ed jumped in to disagree. "Use your head!" he said. "That whole 'sixteen words' controversy was a godsend. It took people's minds off those missing weapons of mass destruction. That was getting to be a real embarrassment. I mean, that was supposed to be the whole reason for starting the war."

Bunson guffawed. "Are you crazy? That 'weapons of mass destruction' fiasco was the best thing that could have happened to him. It took everybody's attention away from the Enron mess. Enron and Kenneth Lay bankrolled Bush's whole political career. They were by far his biggest campaign backers, and half the people in his administration were dipping from the Enron honey pot."

Lum disagreed. "That Enron scandal was just what he needed. Once that broke, people stopped talking about his pushing huge tax breaks for the rich when the economy was shedding jobs like needles off an old Christmas tree."

"That uproar over the tax cuts and unemployment actually worked to his advantage," claimed Ed. "People stopped talking about how his operatives and right-wingers on the Supreme Court stole the election."

Bunson held up his hand. "Boys," he said, "you're acting as if these breaks just dropped out of the skies. But when you look at it, he's a man who makes his own luck."

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