The dominance Republicans held through most of this decade has evaporated in the space of only two years, and many in the party think that this may be the best thing that could have happened. $100 per barrel oil has finally caught up to the economy and all indicators point to us being in the start of a long downward spiral. It is pointless to keep our token force of 50,000 soldiers in Iraq any longer, especially since the Green Zone is being hit with at least two suicide car bombers daily. Any notion that this fight can be won is only espoused by crackiest of crackpots on right wing podcasts. Clinton will likely withdraw them in her first one-hundred days, leaving it to the Democrats to officially lose the Iraq War. It will also be up to Democrats to honor our commitments to Japan and South Korea and deploy a carrier group to thwart the planned PRC invasion of Taiwan. This will not be a popular move. The US public is in no mood for saber rattling abroad and the Dow loses one-hundred points every time we fart in the direction of China.
Yes, not being the party in power right now might be a good thing, and to that end, Dubya's sudden and glorious flame-out may have been the best thing to happen to Republican Party. American politics is rife with stories of a sudden rise to power, followed by an ungracious fall. McCarthy and Nixon are forever etched onto our national memory. Yet, they all pale when compared against the story of the disastrous collapse of George W. Bush.
Within a year of taking office, he had risen from being a mere politician to being a cultural icon, adored or despised depending on your side of the aisle. Despite a drab economy, constant pandering to the cultural conservatives, and a rising chorus of questions about the Iraq War, Bush was indomitable and uncompromising in his first term. If someone hit the United States, they were sure that Dubya would swing, even if he swung at the wrong guy.
Like all Republicans though, his strengths lay primarily in foreign affairs. When he began pressing his domestic policy at the start of his second term the cracks began to show. His social security reform was blocked even though his party held both houses. Even people who voted for him began to get nervous that he'd given too much red meat out to the religious right, especially when the PRC officially sanctioned unlimited stem cell research and billions in venture capital went once more abroad. It finally dawned on people that the war in Iraq might not have been a such good thing to get into in the first place.
Still, by the end of '05 things were looking up for Bush. He got his Supreme Court justice confirmed without any reasonable opposition. In early '06, polls showed that the public viewed his tax reform policies much more favorably than they had his efforts at social security reform. The Iraqi insurgency went into a lull after the execution of Saddam Hussein, and Bush began to reduce the number of troops deployed in that country resulting in feel-good photo-ops of soldiers coming home--Mission Accomplished. His approval ratings, which in the winter of '05 had hit a low of 32%, had bounced back to within a statistical error of 50% and the Republicans looked like they would be able to hold onto even the House in the midterm elections.
Then "chickengeorge.mpg" hit the Internet.
No one can say for certain where "chickengeorge" originated from. The file was spread through peer-to-peer networks for at least three days before it finally got hosted on a few shock web sites. The five-minute video contained a disgusting scene of a man who bore a strong resemblance to a younger George W. Bush wearing lipstick and a pink bra and panties while jamming his phallus into a live and squawking chicken. By the end of the video, the chicken was no longer alive, and the man in the video, his crotch now covered in chicken blood grunting "I loves goin' chicken huntin'" into the camera. It could have been mere coincidence that his voice sounded a lot like the president-to-be as well.
Within the first week of its becoming public, chickengeorge.mpg was one of the most downloaded video clips in the history of the Internet. It was popular, but few people thought that it REALLY was the President of the United States performing such a vile act. Most people chalked it up to advances in video altering technology, a sort of real-time cut and paste. That is, until a forensic video expert named Phil Fletcher began researching the file.
He downloaded every version of the video he could find. Many versions on the web had been edited down to just the gory parts, had their site's watermark attached, or had music dubbed to it (a particularly popular version of the video was dubbed with "My Sharona" by The Knack.)
"It was hard to look for the normal signs of video tampering with these images," Fletcher says. "They had been transferred to create the digital file, and the digital file had been compressed several times."
There was very little that could be gathered from just straight analysis, so Fletcher looked at shadows and ambient light sources, and could find no inconsistencies. The next step was to analyze the color spectrum in the video. "There was not a single frame where color spectrum used changed drastically from the rest of the frame, which is a clear sign that a video has been tampered with, or has had other elements spliced in. Also, the range of the colors in the video is very narrow, which is consistent with the commercial 8mm film stock of the time. The frame rate is also consistent with commercial camera from the mid-sixties to early seventies cranked at standard speed," Fletcher says. "Of course, it is impossible to tell for certain without having access to the original source, but I can only assume that the first chickengeorge.mpg that first arrived on the Internet was no more than two generations from the source."
After three weeks Phil Fletcher published his findings in his blog ("Could Chicken George Actually Be Real?" August 18th, 2006) which set off a firestorm in the politically charged blogosphere of '06 elections. Left wings groups--particularly PETA--were incensed that the president was a chicken fucker. The president's defenders on the right saw it as a smear campaign, in all likelihood orchestrated by the special effects wizards in "Liberal Hollywood."
But the shitstorm really hit when Osama Bin Laden released a tape on the five-year anniversary of 9/11, directly referencing the "chickengeorge" video. "People of the west, the perversion of your infidel leaders is now obvious to the world. With this act, the Defiler has shown himself to be truly an enemy of Islam," said OBL from his (presumed) Pakistani safehouse. To this day, clips of "chickengeorge" are a staple in nearly every Al Qaida recruitment video.
Worse, the mainstream media could no longer ignore this bizarre scandal. Bush became even more reclusive and the White House stayed quiet on the "chickengeorge" affair. "The administration refuses to dignify this obvious forgery with a response," is all the White House press corp could get out of Scott Richter regarding the video clip. Even more video experts began to analyze "chickengeorge", each side either confirming or debunking the authenticity of the tape depending on which political think-tank they were being funded by.
It did not help that in October, the Iraqi insurgency that had gone dormant for most of the year flared back up with a vengeance. The fragile new government began show serious cracks. Almost every Sunni in the government resigned. A growing faction of Shi'ite separatists were officially backed and sanctioned by Iran. Turkey began to express fears about the Kurds in the north, who were creating militias, stockpiling arms, and began identifying themselves as "Kurdistan." The next month was even bloodier, the Coalition suffering more casualties in November than in any month since the fall of Saddam. There was also mounting pressure for our last ally in the Coalition, Britain, to withdraw their troops.
That November, the Republicans held onto a majority in the Senate, losing only two seats. The battle for the House, which had previously been at even odds as to whether or not the Republicans could hold it, was finally won by the Democrats with a three seat majority, which was two seats more than they were expected to win before "Chickengate" exploded. Emboldened, the Democrats now demanded an independent investigation of the video, citing that they believed such behavior from our Chief Executive had "emboldened our enemies." This was tricky political waters, and there were few voices on the other side of the aisle protesting the creation of the investigation.
The fallout of the '06 elections created the first true schisms in the formerly rock solid Republican party. Though the majority of religious conservatives who backed Bush did not believe the video was real, 99% of those outside the Appalachians also stated that if the video was determined to be real, they would withdraw their support. Critics of Bush within the party who had gone along to get along also began to openly criticize the President and his policies. Those who aligned themselves openly with the President began to see their poll numbers drop.
Silence from the White House on Chickengate was no longer an option. Approval ratings for the President dropped to a historic low of 23%. In December, President Bush held a tense press conference, where he fielded a few questions regarding the scandal. "This is a really strange thing for a president to have to refute. But I will tell the American people, absolutely and cater-geg-gorically that I have not had sex with that chicken or any other livestock at any time in my life."
His Clinton-esque denial did him no good, and the Democrats looking for some payback pushed the investigation forward. "Chickengeorge.mpg" was analyzed more thoroughly than the Zapruder film, with experts doing research on everything from the type of camera used in the filming, the method used to transfer the film to video, to attempting to find the location where the video was shot. After poring over more than 600 hours of testimony, the panel determined that "chickengeorge.mpg" WAS almost certainly untouched and authentic. From comparison of photographs of the President at the time, it was determined that "chickengeorge" was shot sometime during his sophomore and junior years at Yale.
The similarities to the Clinton scandal grew as Bush was called before a grand jury to testify to the commission under penalty of perjury. Like Clinton, the supposedly secret grand jury testimony was released to the news media. Unlike Clinton, he looked absolutely flummoxed and disheveled through the whole ordeal, stuttering most of his answers. He backpedaled from his previous statements and neither confirmed, nor denied the authenticity of "chickengeorge.mpg".
In April of '07, the House enthusiastically impeached Bush. He was saved from being removed from congress by the Republican controlled senate. Even though most of his own party wanted to hang the guy, he was saved through backroom deals, and there were several charges that Karl Rove blackmailed several members into not voting to remove the President. There were also plenty of thorny legal issues since, technically, it wasn't illegal for a sitting President to have had sex with an animal. Bestiality and animal cruelty was certainly illegal in Connecticut at the time, but the statute of limitations had run out on the crime decades ago. The Republicans, also certain that the Democrats were going to use this incident to take complete control of the government, decided to meekly rally around the President in order to prevent a congressional rout of their party.
Still, for the last year and a half of the Bush presidency, he was the lamest of ducks. Every ounce of political capitol he may have had was spent with extra loaned just to keep him afloat. World leaders refused to shake his hand, much less sign treaties with him. Dick Cheney became the de-facto head of Executive Branch, with the President hiding as much as he could out of the public eye in Crawford.
Bush had fallen off the wagon hard and was reported to be regularly drinking again, often sneaking out to roadhouse bars on the outskirts of nearby Waco to get his slosh on. That was where I met with him last week, merely by coincidence while I was doing a minor story on the fifteen year anniversary of the assault on the Branch Davidian compound for the MilitiasOnline blog. His Secret Service detail is careful to make sure the President isn't bothered when he's going on his benders. But he actually asked me meekly if he could buy me a shot that day and I accepted.
He was far from the raging drunk frat boy he had been in his younger years. He now had the demeanor of an older alcoholic, who can pace himself all day into stupor. Like the old alcoholic, he is also extremely lonely and extremely chatty. It was reported just last week that Laura Bush had filed for divorce, making him the first President to be divorced while in office. This scandal had isolated him. He was a broken man, looking for anyone to talk to.
We had done four shots of Jameson by the time I felt chummy enough with him to ask him any questions. "So, tell me...honestly. What's the deal with that Chickengate stuff?"
A Secret Service agent moved in to yank me off my stool and toss me out the door, but George graciously waved him off. "You want to know the truth about Chicken George? You really want to know the truth?"
"Hell yes. The whole world wants to know."
He smacked the bar with both his palms, and yelled "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!" This made his SS detail nervous again, but they stayed back. They were used to this sort of behavior coming from their boss lately. "Did you ever see that movie? You can't handle the truth? I love it. It's my favorite movie."
I nodded. "Yeah, it's pretty good," I said, even though I was done with Tom Cruise after he barricaded himself in that Scientology compound in San Diego. Drink the Kool Aid, Tom. Drink the Kool Aid.
He was pretty drunk, but I got the whole conversation on tape, and got him to tell me all this on the record (which is on tape also for all you watchers of journalistic ethics.) Still, he was slurring pretty badly, so I'll have to paraphrase most of it.
It was long and it was wordy, but he basically said "YES YES! That was me fucking the chicken! I was drunk, had snorted about three grams of coke, and took a horrible dare at party! I lied to the American people! I lied to the grand jury! I FUCKED THAT CHICKEN!"
Like everyone else, I was disgusted at thought of anyone fucking a chicken, but it was hard not to have some empathy towards a man in this state. I asked, "Who on earth would dare you to have, um, relations with a chicken like that? Was it a frat thing?"
"It was a Skull and Bones thing," he said. "And no, I'm not telling you WHO."
"So they have something worse on you?" I asked.
It took him a moment, but then he shook his head. "No. They have something bad on everybody; it's a part of their initiation. I think that's the only thing they have on me."
"So I can assume that somewhere out there is film of say, John Kerry fucking a chicken?"
"A chicken, a goat, a dead body, an eight year-old Thai girl; they have something on everybody."
Of course I was curious: was the American government truly being influenced by this secret society?
"No, not really," Bush said. "They never directed the big decisions. The extent of their influence was like *hiccup* add this provision to this bill, be sure this line gets into the next budget and so forth. It wasn't about controlling the big picture; I have no idea what their idea of the big picture is or even who is in control of the society. It's a matter of them achieving their small ends, no matter what the big picture is."
"Where did you draw the line on them?" I asked. "I mean, you must have displeased them since they leaked the film."
"Fucked if I know," he groaned. "It's not like I have a hotline where I can contact them. Maybe they didn't even mean for it to get out. Someone left it out somewhere and it was leaked by a person not even connected with Skull and Bones. Whatever it is, I'm done with them. They can't do anything else they can do to me, so there's no sense in doing their crony favors any more."
The Secret Service man approached us holding a cellphone. "Mr. President, a call for you. It's the Chief of Staff."
He took the phone. "Karl? Karl! Where am I? Oh, I'm out at that place again...what's it's name...Lurleen's Roadhouse or something. Come down here, we'll have a Beck's. Oh, who am I talking to? I don't know?" He looked over the phone. "What's your name?"
"Poopy," I said. Time to get out before I was disappeared into a shallow hole in the Texas desert by Karl's handlers. I mock checked my watch, then gathered my tape recorder and threw a fifty dollar bill on the bar counter. "It was nice talking with you, but I gotta run. Gotta massage appointment. See you around."
"Oh, okay," the President said, looking surprised. "Why are you being so angry Karl? I'm just talking...there's nothing wrong with talking."
I stepped out of Lurleen's Roadhouse into the warm Texas air, acutely aware that I was in possession of some of the most valuable tapes in the country; the one's of the President CONFESSING to having sex with a chicken and implicating the Skull and Bones in the filming of it. I hopped in my car, didn't even bother checking out of my hotel, and drove straight home to where I could make copies and stuff them in a safety deposit box somewhere with an ominous note ("If you are reading this, I am probably dead," type stuff.)
Now, that this is written, I actually kinda feel sorry for Bush. He will not receive the usual perks of being an ex-President; huge speaking fees, inflated advances for memoirs etc. People are already joking that he shouldn't get a Presidential Library, but rather a Kentucky Fried Chicken. At the bar, the look in his eyes was one of a man not long for this world. I imagine we will find him dead with a mouthful of half-chewed sleeping pills within months of the Clinton inauguration next year.
And so will end the strange and sick saga of George W. Bush. We will always wonder if it was he that fucked the chicken, or the chicken that really fucked him.