Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dancing in the Dark

Maureen Dowd

I can't wait to see what's next.

Dick Cheney carpooling downtown with Brownie? Rummy Rollerblading down
the bike path to the Pentagon? Condi huddling by a Watergate fireplace
in a gray cardigan?

Maybe now that our hydrocarbon president is the conservation president,
he'll downgrade from Air Force One to a solar-powered Piper Cub as he
continues to stalk the Gulf Coast towns and oil rigs like Banquo's

The once disciplined and swaggering Bush administration has descended
into slapstick, more comical even than having Clarence Thomas et al.
sit in judgment as Anna Nicole Smith attempts to get more of the moolah
of her late oil tycoon husband.

We've got the clownish Brownie still on FEMA's payroll, giving advice
on cleaning up the mess he made. ( Let's hope the White House is paying
him only long enough to buy his good will, not to take any of his bad

We've got two oilmen in the White House whose administration was built
on urging us to consume and buy as much oil and energy as possible. Now
they're suddenly urging us to conserve. (Since Mr. Cheney considers
conservation a "personal virtue," at least he'll get some virtue.)

The president called on Americans to drive less, and told his staff
members to turn off their computers at night, turn down the
air-conditioning, form carpools and take the bus.

At the same time, he set a fine example by wasting gazillions of
gallons of fuel with all the planes and Secret Service vans and press
motorcades and police escorts that follow him around every time he goes
on one of his inane photo-ops from the Colorado bunker to what's left
of the Mississippi Delta and the Bayou. He did his part by knocking off
a few cars from his motorcade on his seventh trip to the gulf yesterday
- but if residents had hoped he'd bring them some water, they went

"Even so," as The Times's Elisabeth Bumiller wrote, "security dictated
that Mr. Bush's still-impressive caravan pick him up at the base of Air
Force One in Lake Charles, La. - and drop him off just yards away for a
meeting with local officials at an airport terminal."

Noting that the Bush administration has proposed new fuel economy
standards that critics say could make huge S.U.V.'s and pickups even
more popular, Reuters published some arithmetic about the president's
notorious fuel inefficiency.

Air Force One costs $83,200 to fill up and more than $6,000 per hour to
fly. Then there's the cost of helicopters and a 2006 Cadillac DTS limo
that gets less than 22 miles per gallon.

Karen Hughes, the Bush nanny who knows nothing about the Muslim world
and yet is charged with selling the U.S. to it, wasted even more fuel
this week flying to Saudi Arabia to tell women covered from head to toe
in black how much she likes driving even though they can't.

She knows so little about the Middle East that she looked taken aback
when some Saudi women told her that just because they could not vote or
drive did not mean that they felt they were treated unfairly.

One thing Saudi women like even less than not having certain rights is
to have hypocritical Americans patronize them.

The moment when America should have used its influence to help Saudi
women came on Nov. 6, 1990, as U.S. forces gathered in the kingdom to
go to war in Iraq the first time. Inspired by the U.S. troops,
including female soldiers, 47 women from the Saudi intelligentsia took
the wheels from their brothers and husbands and drove until the police
stopped them.

They were branded "whores" and "harlots" by Saudi clerics, had their
passports revoked, and were ostracized from society for a dozen years.
Even their husbands suffered.

The experience made them more angry at the U.S. than at their own
rulers. They feel that the Bushes play up the repression of women in
the Middle East when it suits their desire to bang the war drums, but
do not care what happens to women once the ideological agenda has been

They feel the administration and the American media have emphasized the
repression of Saudi women post-9/11 as a way to demonize Saudi Arabia
and paint Saudi men as bullies and terrorists.

When Ms. Hughes goes to Saudi Arabia to introduce herself as "a mom"
and to talk about Americans as people of faith, guzzling fuel all the
way in a country getting flush selling us oil, I think we can consider
it taxpayer money well spent.

W. doesn't really need to worry about turning down the lights in the
White House. The place is already totally in the dark.

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