With the economy (gas)tanking and Bush's approval rating lower than a pregnant armadillo, is it any wonder that our witless leader has bolted the country five times since January? Actually it's a familiar maneuver in White House damage control: When domestic policy flatlines, hit the road Millard.
This presidential disappearing act is nothing new. Back in 1998, Bill Clinton's international itinerary had him traipsing across four continents during much of the Summer of Kenneth Starr. In advance of the 1992 primary election season, George Bush I, already beginning to choke on his "No new taxes" promise from four years earlier, decided to visit Japan, where something far more disturbing came out of his mouth. In the fall of 1974, Jerry Ford left the country three times in three months following his roundly lampooned effort to "whip inflation" by hawking WIN buttons.
But surely the gold standard for this sort of Commander in Chief cut-and-run has got to be Richard Nixon's infamous shuffling off to Cairo—with a bad case of phlebitis, no less—34 years ago, a scant month after the House of Representatives formally opened its impeachment inquiry. The true nature of Tricky Dick's trip was obvious to all, including a pair of beloved Egyptian performers who memorialized the event in withering fashion. [Continue on to hear the hilarious song "Sharaft ya Nixon Baba."]
The story of Richard Nixon's laughable skedaddle to the Middle East in June of 1974 became rich fodder for the duo of Ahmed Fouad Negm, a poet and folk hero who spent nearly two decades in prison for his subversive writing, and the blind troubadour Sheikh Imam Eissa. Together they wrote and performed songs lauding Che Guevara, denouncing the war in Vietnam and mercilessly ridiculing every Egyptian leader since 1962, when they began their partnership.
There's a scene in the Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif's first novel, In the Eye of the Sun, where a doctoral candidate in linguistics attempts to decipher the lyrics to "Sharaft ya Nixon Baba." An excerpt of this scene is posted on a blog by the Moroccan writer Laila Lalami. On the French release shown above (Le Chant du Monde, 1976), the song's title is given as "Le Visite de Nixon en Egypte," along with a French translation of the Arabic. Here is an English translation of the French translation:
You came Father Nixon
They gave you so many honors
These exploiters of the people.
They festooned the widest path
From Ras-El-Tine to Mecca
So that from there you could go to Accra
And that it could be said he made the pilgrimage.
It was a real traveling circus,
Your benediction Parents of the Prophet.
The day of your arrival your agents prepared for you
A beautiful exorcism ritual
Where the whores strutted their stuff
Homos and lowlifes
And where Chamhourèche in person
Made love to the priestess, there were many processions.
A whole retinue of blood suckers followed
Groveling by order of importance,
Those who invited you said to you
Come eat some candies and sweets.
And since you are a little naive,
You thought us easy prey.
You were in ruins;
They wanted to help prop you up.
Undesirable partner, I spit in your face,
Disguised as a blessing.
Listen and remember,
Even though you won't be around much longer,
I won't bid you welcome or to go away.
I won't tell you come, or get lost.
But they say, Egyptian flesh is corrosive there,
Where it's wasting away.
For a real traveling circus,
Your benediction, Parents of the Prophet.
(Many thanks to Andrew Listfield for translating to English the French translation.)