The Hula Popper hit the stream with a plop. George W. Bush jiggled the line which was attached to his seven-foot Loomis rod with Shimano spinning tackle firmly in his right hand. Bush was sitting on a folding chair next to a stream that was moving slowly in the Arkansas humidity. The Ozarks were a place where Bush escaped, little known to the media. Even his retinue of White House staffers was unaware that Bush helicoptered into Arkansas to catch fish. Trout. Brown trout. Rainbow trout. Trout is what Bush liked, but not on a fly rod or with waders. Bush liked to sit down with a Diet Coke and some chips in an easy chair with light tackle in hand. And he never used live bait. Lures are what he liked. The colors. The candy colored lures reminded him of toys he had when he was a child. Bush's father was a saltwater man, fishing for big game off of fast moving Cigarette boats in the wild and cold waters of Maine. Not George W. Bush. George W. Bush preferred the quiet of a stream and the subtle sounds of freshwater. Bush also thought that fresh water fish were smarter than their saltwater cousins. The big ocean fish were, as far as he could tell, big and stupid. He liked the sharp-eyed thoughtfulness of trout.
Bush sat there sweating in the cool early morning still air of the notorious Ozark humidity. This secret stream was solace to Bush, particularly now with his popularity plummeting. The public face he offered, that is that he did not believe the polls or that he did not care to govern based on polls, was more face than heart. The negative polls hurt. He did not want to admit it. He shared these thoughts with Laura who told him that it was human to feel the pain of unpopularity. But Laura also cautioned her husband that the polls might not be accurate. Bush thanked her, but knew different. The polls meant something.
Bush kept thinking that trying times test a man's commitment. Think of Lincoln. Bush thought of Lincoln. Lincoln did the right thing. Lincoln stayed the course even when things were really bad. As Bush jiggled the Loomis rod watching the Hula Popper lure bounce in the water, Bush asked himself if he could reasonably compare his troubles with Lincoln's. Could people have said that Lincoln lived in a bubble? Could people have called the Civil War a war of choice? Would Lincoln have stayed the course if he knew his popularity was low and dropping? If that was true, that is. Bush did not really know much about Lincoln’s popularity back when Lincoln governed. He figured Lincoln was not popular in the South. But was Lincoln popular in the North where thousands and thousands of war casualties came from? As Bush jiggled his Hula Popper, he smiled, thinking he was fishing for the truth and not trout. So elusive at times. Turth and trout. When you are in the muck of it all, where do you place the lure? How do you know what trout lies below the surface? It's easy to be critical.
"You really should put waders on and get into the river," said the secret service agent who was standing a few feet away.
The comment startled Bush who forgot that seven secret service agents were stationed at various points in this corner of the Ozarks.
"It's too dirty. I don't like to get dirty and deal with the water and everything," said Bush.
"You can't catch fish unless you get into the water, sir, and that lure you’re using probably is a poor choice," said the agent.
"I do just fine," said Bush.
"You did not catch anything the last four times we have been here, sir," said the agent.
"Fishing has nothing to do with catching fish," said Bush.
"What does it have to do with, sir?" asked the agent.
"It's therapy. It's the process. It's about being in nature," said Bush.
"Your lure is in the middle of the stream. Trout will not hang out in the middle where the sun is hitting. Try over there in the shadows," said the agent as he pointed to a spot on the stream that lied under the leafy roof of a large tree.
"I know what I am doing. This is where I like to place the lure. This is what I do. I like to come here and cast into the middle of the stream, sun or no sun," said Bush.
The secret service agent decided not to pursue the point. And Bush returned to his thoughts about Abraham Lincoln. Stick with what you are doing. Stick it out. I mean afterall, Lincoln got the worst poll news of all, a bullet in the brain, and look how he is viewed today, thought Bush. Lincoln’s an icon. Stick it out. Stick it out.
The Hula Popper kept bobbing. Not a trout in sight.