Regretting that I am not in the United States at this momentous time, I do the next best thing and sign up to the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign. Every day now, I get an e-mail from George or Dick or one of their nice friends. "Dear Alistair," they greet me, and immediately I feel a warm glow inside that those powerful men actually know me by my first name. I eagerly scan the latest suggestions for helping George get back into the White House. I am urged to throw a George Bush party, I am instructed to find two uncommitted voters and convert them to Republicanism, I am exhorted to visit the George W Bush online store. I log on and find myself tempted by a free Bush-Cheney T-shirt ("size XL only") if I order more than $30 worth of goods. I am also impressed by a pink baseball cap bearing the logo "W Stands for Women". For a moment I am puzzled. I hadn't thought of Dubbya as a feminist. Then I realise it could mean that George stands up for ladies when they come into the room. I suppose it could also mean something darkly priapic but that thought is too horrible and so I quickly click on "Kids", and find myself being offered the Bush-Cheney '04 romper and the Bush-Cheney '04 bib. I hope Laura has purchased the latter. It will keep Dubbya's suit clean when (as we all pray)
he chokes on the election result.
Having just published a comic novel about an American president in denial over climate change, I feel relieved that I no longer own a car. I have discovered to my surprise that being without a car in London is a liberation. It also saves quite a lot of money. Yes, occasionally it becomes difficult, and I can now rant for half an hour about the failings of public transport, but on the whole it's a small sacrifice. The other night, I mentioned the car thing over a meal with friends and met with funny looks. Half the people at the table had two cars. They also cared very much about the planet. I went home feeling revoltingly smug. The next day a friend rang to say he was going to Hong Kong for a month and would I like to borrow his car? Naturally, I said yes. As I drove it home through some disturbingly heavy rain, wondering whether this was climate change, I recalled what Jeb Bush said after yet another hurricane had laid waste large tracts of Florida: "It's sad," he declared. "I don't know quite why we've had this run of storms. You just have to accept it." Good ol' Jeb.
Hearing a Bush in denial is so much easier than having to listen to Tony Blair orate about the challenge of global warming. Our leader is now so out of touch with reality that he believes the power of his own passion is sufficient to change things. Sea levels rising? People dying in Africa? Bloody chaos in Iraq? No problem, Tony will make a speech about it. Watching his latest press conference, I realise that the only initiatives he really follows through on are the reactionary ones. Nothing gets the Blair-Blunkett juices flowing like a new assault on our civil liberties. Now they even want juries to be given the criminal record of defendants, on the grounds that a person's "propensity to commit a crime" is relevant to judging guilt or innocence. On that basis, we really ought not to vote Labour at the next election. After all, we know that Tony has a propensity to invade other countries in defiance of international law. That's good enough for me. Guilty, say I.
As an ex-smoker, I find myself enthusiastic about the European Commission's proposal to put shocking pictures on cigarette packs to illustrate the dire consequences of smoking-related diseases. Possible images include gangrenous legs, throat tumours and smoke-damaged lungs. This terrific idea should be taken further. Petrol stations should display pictures of oil-dunked gannets, four-wheel-drive vehicles should carry photos of injured kids, and all Republican voters should wear T-shirts bearing the image of a dying planet, under the heading "Bush-Cheney 04". Who knows, maybe they'll soon be for sale on the George W Bush Online Store. In XL only, of course.
A Planet for the President is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (£9.99)