Fear and Loathing, Campaign 2004

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson sounds off on the fun-hogs in the passing lane

DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSONPosted Oct 20, 2004 12:00 AM

Armageddon came early for George Bush this year, and he was not ready for it. His long-awaited showdowns with my man John Kerry turned into a series of horrible embarrassments that cracked his nerve and demoralized his closest campaign advisers. They knew he would never recover, no matter how many votes they could steal for him in Florida, where the presidential debates were closely watched and widely celebrated by millions of Kerry supporters who suddenly had reason to feel like winners.

Kerry came into October as a five-point underdog with almost no chance of winning three out of three rigged confrontations with a treacherous little freak like George Bush. But the debates are over now, and the victor was clearly John Kerry every time. He steamrollered Bush and left him for roadkill.

Did you see Bush on TV, trying to debate? Jesus, he talked like a donkey with no brains at all. The tide turned early, in Coral Gables, when Bush went belly up less than halfway through his first bout with Kerry, who hammered poor George into jelly. It was pitiful. . . . I almost felt sorry for him, until I heard someone call him "Mister President," and then I felt ashamed.

Karl Rove, the president's political wizard, felt even worse. There is angst in the heart of Texas today, and panic in the bowels of the White House. Rove has a nasty little problem, and its name is George Bush. The president failed miserably from the instant he got onstage with John Kerry. He looked weak and dumb. Kerry beat him like a gong in Coral Gables, then again in St. Louis and Tempe -- and that is Rove's problem: His candidate is a weak-minded frat boy who cracks under pressure in front of 60 million voters.

That is an unacceptable failure for hardballers like Rove and Dick Cheney. On the undercard in Cleveland against John Edwards, Cheney came across as the cruel and sinister uberboss of Halliburton. In his only honest moment during the entire debate, he vowed, "We have to make America the best place in the world to do business."

Bush signed his own death warrant in the opening round, when he finally had to speak without his TelePrompTer. It was a Cinderella story brought up to date in Florida that night -- except this time the false prince turned back into a frog.

Immediately after the first debate ended I called Muhammad Ali at his home in Michigan, but whoever answered said the champ was laughing so hard that he couldn't come to the phone. "The debate really cracked him up," he chuckled. "The champ loves a good ass-whuppin'. He says Bush looked so scared to fight, he finally just quit and