In the current issue of New York, Kurt Andersen laments America’s age of lame-duckism, “in which the discredited and obsolete and totally over shuffle around in the limelight for years after their sell-by dates.”
Andersen artfully skewers the “great flock” of lame ducks in American business–including Ford, GM, MTV and Clear Channel Communications–and the baby boomers running them, among other national institutions. But the springboard for the meditation is the presidency of lame “gung ho daffy duck” George W. Bush.
Andersen argues that lame-duck presidents are crippled domestically not militarily and, implicitly, that the boots on the ground in Iraq stand to lose the most in the remaining two years of the Bush presidency. “It was almost two years ago–almost 1,500 American military deaths ago–that Dick Cheney assured us the Iraqi insurgency was ‘in the last throes,'” Andersen observes.
But for the time being, set aside the politics of war and especially the valor and sacrifice of America’s military men and women serving over seas. Think locally. What U.S. businesses are most directly affected by a lame duck president–with abysmal poll numbers to boot?
Angela K. Brown of the Associated Press finds mom and pop souvenir-shop owners in Bush’s hometown of Crawford, Texas, home of “The Western White House,” have been hit particularly hard by Bush’s quack-up.
“After reporting nearly $813,000 in gross sales in 1999, Crawford’s souvenir shops and other retail businesses generated $1.03 million in 2000, the year Bush was first elected. Sales climbed steadily during Bush’s first term to $2.66 million in 2004.
“But in 2005, sales had dropped to $2.3 million. They were down as much as 20 percent in each of the first two quarters of 2006. And while the third- and fourth-quarter figures are not yet available, all indications are that the slide continued.”
Some of Crawford’s 700 residents blame peace activist Cindy Sheehan, not Bush’s sputtering presidency, for the slump in sales. Norma Nelson Crow, who closed her Crawford Country Style store three months ago, tells Brown that things haven’t been the same since August 2005 when Sheehan made the town the epicenter of the country’s anti-war movement. Sheehan camped out across the road from Bush’s ranch for the duration of his month-long vacation, refusing to leave until he personally spoke with her about the Iraq war.
“When the president would be home, more people would come hoping to get a glimpse of him,” she said. “But with the frustrations caused by the protesters, it wasn’t as popular to come to Crawford and pick up trinkets.”
Well buck up, Norma, because Sheehan hasn’t been all bad for Crawford’s economy. In July she overpaid for 5 acres outside the town for Camp Casey, her anti-war protest village named after her son who died in Iraq. USA Today reports that at the time, large tracts of land in and around Crawford sold for $2,500 to $3,500 per acre and tracts of land 5 acres or less went for $5,000 to $8,000 per acre. Sheehan paid about $10,000 per acre. By contrast, Bush paid $1,000 to 1,5000 per acre for his 1,600-acre spread in 1999.