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COLUMN: 'He kept us safe'

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By Art Trujillo

This morning, just five days before the inauguration of a new president, I had a detailed conversation with my grandson and namesake.

I mentioned, in all sincerity, that Bush had ended the year on a positive note. “He demonstrated remarkable leadership, was strong, was quick to make the right decisions, acted courageously and, in the final distillation, made a lot of people happy.”

Arthur, who’s grown accustomed to hearing more vitriol than panegyrics at the name Bush, seemed a wee bit incredulous. “Well, Pompah, do you mean you’re now praising Bush? I’ve heard you being very critical of him,” he said.

My response: “When it comes to leadership and getting the job done, it’s really a ‘mission accomplished.’ It gives me hope for a brighter 2009.”

From there we launched into the pros and cons of my late-2008 observations, covering many forward strides but not overlooking the few setbacks Bush experienced.

“The trouble,” I added, “is that one man can’t carry the load by himself. There are many people who are supposed to support him, and unfortunately, just as many people trying to drag him down.”

At this point, Arthur seemed a bit puzzled. He continued, “Some people say, ‘He kept us safe,’ but is that really true?” And then he asked, “What about the economic collapse, Gitmo, the gutting of the U.S. Constitution, torture, massive deficits, tax breaks for the wealthy, oil dependence, the Iraq war? Did you ‘misunderestimate’ him?” (Here Arthur alluded to Bush’s words, which he re-used, for not-so-comic effect, during his last press conference this week.)

Then Arthur said, “To save time, let’s read the fine print just above this column — let’s do it now, Pompah — and you’ll see what I mean.”

So together, we are looking at the editorial cartoon immediately above the Work of Art in progress and we read, “He kept us safe*,” along with the list of exceptions, those highlighted by an asterisk: “Workplace safety, Karl Rove, signing statements, maintaining national parks, Katrina, SCHIP programs.” We read through Cheney, Halliburton and Alberto Gonzales, all the way to lying about WMDs.

A comedian even suggested a way to facilitate the planned razing of the Dallas football stadium, where the Cowboys played their final game in December.

How? Simply ask President Bush to “bring Democracy to Texas Stadium.”

At this time, I wondered what tack my grandson had been taking, and he must have wondered about mine. “Pompah, are you talking about Bush, the president?”

“No, absolutely not,” I answered. “Are you?”

That’s when we started to unravel the misunderstanding. You see, the strength, leadership and courage I was referring to when I started complimenting Bush referred to MICHAEL Bush, the rising star running back for my Oakland Raiders. I asked Arthur, “Did you think I was referring to the president?”

Maybe I could have been clearer. So let me explain:

The Raiders weren’t having their best year and were eliminated from NFL playoff contention weeks ago. About the only thing they could do to salvage a mediocre season would be to derail the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the same team that destroyed the Raiders, who were weak and weary in a long-forgotten Super Bowl earlier this century.

A seldom-used fullback named Michael Bush, playing in lieu of two injured running backs, got 177 rushing yards, scored two touchdowns, and led the visiting Raiders to a 31-24 win over Tampa Bay. And that ended the Bucs’ post-season hopes.

That’s the Bush I was referring to. With his 245-frame, he simply wore down the defense and gave us Raiders faithful new hope for the coming year.

The setbacks to which I referred were simply his inability to punch in the football for a final touchdown, which would have turned the game into a slaughter. But we can blame the offensive line, not Bush, for that. “Now, does my reference to ‘courage,’ ‘leadership’ and keen decision-making seem clearer?”

• • •

Some people insist on inspecting every word someone else writes. My sister Dorothy Maestas called after last week’s column on misspellings on signs and said, correctly, that I’d incorrectly used “dessert” rather than “desert” in reference to the appearance of a group called The Santa Fe Desert Chorale.

Ironically, it was “chorale” I’d misused, years ago, when I used to arrange letters on the Chamber of Commerce sign on North Grand. I’d gotten up at midnight because of the nagging suspicion that I had used “corral” in place of “chorale.”

But “dessert”? That’s different. After giving the Santa Fe chorus a sweet touch, I received an e-mail from Maridell Monnheimer, a local speech therapist. She wrote, in part, “You spelled desert, dessert. I’m pretty sure you meant desert as in the Sahara and not dessert as in cherry pie. Probably just a typo unless there is some kind of group that sings in return for dessert.”

Well, how can I wiggle out of this one? I could say, for example, that “desert” is pronounced two ways, depending on whether we’re referring to an arid plain or to the verb, which means to abandon.

I watched the chorale’s performance, back in 2004 and left there enriched, with the same feeling I’d get after swallowing a chocolate eclair.

I admit the troupe didn’t exactly sing “Sweet Caroline,” “Home Sweet Home,” “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” “How Sweet It Is,” “Sugar, Sugar” or “Honeycomb.”

However, the director and everybody else comported themselves well, even sweetly, and therefore, maybe they should get their just deserts and be called the Dessert Chorale.

Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to artbt@rezio.net or atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com.