This biting comment on two untoward things that happened to George W. Bush last weekend is presently the article most recommended by on-line readers of Le Monde (Paris)....


By Eric Fottorino

Le Monde (Paris)
May 25, 2004,1-0@2-3208,36-366088,0.html

We won't go so far as to write that it was the most important thing that happened this weekend, but still: on Saturday, a few hours before Michael Moore was consecrated at Cannes, George W. Bush tried one last pirouette in an effort to win the prize for Best Actor, Comic Category.

According to dispatches datelined Crawford, Texas, where the president who specializes in catastrophe has his cowboy ranch, an unfortunate spill from a bicycle skinned his hide.

The White House spokesman did not indicate to what temperature Fahrenheit Bush skin heated up. The news that came a few hours later from the Croisette [Cannes's waterfront thoroughfare] raised it higher, though.

It was on Saturday that, escorted by his doctor -- as if he had foreseen what was going to happen -- "W" was pedaling away on his all-terrain bike.

Also accompanying him were a military aide and a secret agent. Frankly, given the reviews he's had from the American military and the intelligence services since September 11, it's understandable that he fell off his bike, with two characters like that tagging along.

Fortunately, "Doc" was watching out. We don't know whether, after his boss's tumble on a downslope, he gave him a shot of whiskey, just like in the good old Westerns with John Wayne.

The press release only mentioned insignificant wounds to his face, his right hand (the one that says "I swear"), and his knees (not said to be, in George Bush's case, very flexible).

There are days like that. The specialists in Capitol geese would later swear that this tumble prefigured the one that occurred at Cannes when Michael Moore and his "Fahrenheit 9/11" climbed into the heavenly firmament.

As for the chroniclers of presidential lows -- rather than highs --, they've already established a disturbing list of mishaps for the once rising star of the House of Bush: abrasions to the face after having choked on a pretzel in January 2002, a fall from a motor scooter in June 2003 while visiting his parents in Maine.

What clumsiness! Can you imagine Bush with a weapon in his hand? Even with a movie-set Colt, he'd be capable of shooting himself in the foot.

Anyway, Michael Moore, alias Michael Humoore, expressed the sincere hope that no one would announce his prize to "W" while he was eating salted snacks. Such a gaffe would have made him smart. Keep the salt out of the 'wounds,' as 'Gainsbarre' would have said. [The last sentence of this paragraph -- "Gare au sel sur le 'play,' aurait dit Gainsbarre" -- involves multiple puns (play/plaie = 'wound'; Gainsbarre alludes to Serge Gainsbourg) and defies translation.]

The Moorish "Fahrenheit" revives the memory of another "Fahrenheit," the "451" one, written long ago by Ray Bradbury and adapted to the screen by FranÁois Truffaut.

In an icy and alienating society, the only heat came from the flamethrowers killing books and ideas.

In the middle of that auto-da-fÈ, fireman Montag was climbing up the hierarchy by burning Proust and Balzac, until, seized with remorse and touched by love, he joined the society of the book-people. Impregnated with literature, each of them learned a work by heart in order to conserve in themselves a sense of beauty and values.

Through both "Fahrenheits," the grave moral tale and the buffoonish documentary, the same uneasiness runs. In his role of illiterate beast, what book would "W" be able to memorize, he whose every word is a weapon to lie with?

Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Chair, Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
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