Volume 73, Number 48 | March 31 - April 6, 2004

Talking Point

Lots of pain, no gain: Working up a sweat with W

By Ed Gold

The trouble started when I found myself on the treadmill with no company, my headset plugged into the TV and George Bush on the screen in a 30-second spot as he began spending his $150 million.

A little background: A quadruple bypass had sent me to the gym on a regular basis. When Equinox opened in the Village I joined; it was convenient, had a wide range of state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, and offered a TV distraction, which turned out to be a mixed blessing.

I lucked out early on by finding a treadmill partner in Susan Brownmiller, the feminist diva and famous writer. We had known each other for more than 40 years, having suffered through a losing Congressional campaign in the ’60s.

Treadmill practitioners know well that time passes much faster when you can shmooze. Brownmiller and I filled the time with an eclectic range of subjects: political nostalgia, eccentric friends, latest aches and pains, writing anxieties and her periodic speaking trips, from Croatia to Detroit.

I can only recall one small irritation we had when she defended NOW’s presidential endorsement of Carol Mosley-Braun. But then she took on several teaching assignments, at Pace and N.Y.U., and had to sharply curtail her treadmill activity. It was TV time for me on the treadmill.

I favor CNN despite a few negatives including a pretty face analyzing ad nauseam where Martha Stewart will spend prison time and what kind of furnishings she will be allowed in her jail cell. Then there’s a breathless Wolf Blitzer reporting on the latest breaking news, “another CNN exclusive,” not to mention the station’s hardest-working, most courageous collection of correspondents.

So I’m watching CNN one afternoon when Bush opens his TV campaign with his “leadership” message, assisted by Laura, who tells us about “the strength, the focus, the characteristics that these times demand.”

The camera pans in on a resolute W: “And as the economy grows, the job base grows and somebody looking for work will be more likely to find a job.”

(I begin talking to myself): Employment is down close to 3 million on his watch. His minions predicted 200,000 new jobs last month and we got 21,000. And what happens to all the new school graduates coming into the market? He of course has no use for people who had good jobs, now have been demoralized and have stopped looking.

W: “I know exactly where I want to lead this country.”

(My heart rate begins to rise): Yes, we have a lot of evidence already. The gulf between rich and everyone else continues to widen. The national debt is exploding, threatening both Social Security and Medicare. We had a giveaway tax relief bill for the rich. And there’s increasing pollution in the air and the water.

W: “I know what we need to do to make the world more free and more peaceful.”

(I am working up a real sweat): We already have a taste of his peaceful intent: a unilateral preemptive war that he took the nation into, based on guesswork and misrepresentation, and which so far has cost us almost 600 dead and 3,000 injured, and has created anti-American sentiment among peoples throughout the world. On the freedom front, we only have to look at our own country where John Ashcroft has played fast and loose with First Amendment and due-process rights, rationalized as part of the war on terrorism.

W: “...raise the standards of schools so children can learn.”

(I stop looking at my heart rate.): That’s without providing funds for qualified teachers or for needed school books and supplies, and creating a rigid regulations nightmare that has state governments in an uproar. But what can we expect from a guy with a C- average?

W: “…fulfill the promises to America’s seniors.”

(I’m red in the face): Like barring prescription drug purchases from Canada! And supporting a Medicare bill that essentially pays off the pharmaceutical industry.

W: “I’m President Bush and I approve of this message.”

(It’s too much. I mutter at the screen): “Of course, you jackass, you must love that message!”

Other treadmillers, bicyclists and weightlifters look a bit startled.

My hope is that Brownmiller’s stint as teacher won’t be too long. Meanwhile, I may switch to “All My Children,” a soap really about nothing.

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