David Blaine, watch your back. Despite your impressive resume of awe-inspiring street magic and death-defying physical exploits, a far better illusionist is attempting to complete his last and most astonishing trick. A vanishing act, so incredibly unbelievable, that it will forever be considered one of the greatest acts of deception ever displayed to an audience. No, I am not talking about Criss Angel hovering across the stage in his Las Vegas smash success, “BeLIEve”. The performer of which I speak is none other than the sitting President of the United States, George W. Bush, who successfully made both the United States and, now, himself utterly invisible. Allow me to explain his grand illusion.
Like the exceptional film “The Prestige” tells us, a magic trick consists of three parts. First, there is ‘the pledge’. You show the audience something completely ordinary, in this case a seemingly traditional conservative president presiding over the United States during peacetime. Next, there is ‘the turn’. Here, Mr. Bush earned his universal reputation as a skilled magician by making the America we knew and loved completely disappear. It was one hell of a turn. Through war profiteering, the torture of prisoners in secret military prisons, the corruption of domestic civil liberties and a collapsed economy, Mr. Bush succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. But, as Michael Cain so pleasantly narrated, to make something disappear is not enough. You have to bring it back. Otherwise, the audience is simply confused and disappointed. The remedy to this disillusionment, the final part of the trick, is quite appropriately entitled ‘the prestige’. Mr. Bush, however, encountered a serious problem. He has, in more ways than one, no prestige to give. So, to pull off the greatest trick of all – to disappear America and then return it – Mr. Bush has engineered a great and final vanishing act. He has convinced the world that Mr. Obama is already the President. For then, we might be able to have the prestige everyone so desires.
Although the President still has until January 20th to preside over our much besieged Union, it has become remarkably clear that he no longer believes he has any duty to lead. I cannot say that I am entirely surprised by this development, as it perfectly coincides with the empirical record. Nonetheless, the degree to which everyone is comfortable with Mr. Bush’s prestige, or lack thereof, is remarkable. Having only won the presidential election days earlier, Mr. Obama has already begun talking with foreign leaders, conferring with top business executives about the financial crisis, recruiting a crack team of advisers, receiving invitations to direct diplomacy from our enemies and affecting the outcome of our military adventure in Iraq. No President-Elect in modern history has had so great a burden forced onto his lap months before assuming office.
We the people, the shocked and horrified audience of the greatest magic trick ever performed, demand our prestige. Whether or not Mr. Obama can pull off the final act of President Bush’s grand illusion remains to be seen. If he does not, we will be left with a dead bird called America, crushed by the collapsing cage of neoconservatism.