OK, so what’s that quote about?
A. Gerald Ford, upon taking the oath of office.
B. Saddam Hussein, swingin’.
C. Me, finally grabbing some cheese on Full Tilt.
D. All of the above.
I’d argue for D, but that’s just me.
A FORD, NOT A LINCOLN
Gerald Ford was really more of an idea – and an ideal – than a person in national life. He was a pretty undistinguished member of the House of Representatives for decades, not responsible for any important piece of legislation. If he hadn’t become Vice President, he would have been most remembered for trying to impeach Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.
But he took a pretty crummy job at a pretty crummy time, succeeded two pretty crummy guys, and restored some legitimacy to the U.S. government, despite the fact that he was the only Vice President not elected as part of a popular vote and the only President who was not elected by popular vote as either President or VP. Still, he was honest and decent. Even though he was excoriated for decades for pardoning Nixon, most people think (and I agree) that we were better off not taking the prosecution of Richard Nixon to its conclusion – and I was and am someone who thought he justifiably resigned in disgrace.
I can add just a couple things to all that’s been said about Ford in connection with his passing and his funeral:
1. Gerald Ford was right-handed when standing up and left-handed when sitting down. Ponder that for a minute. He was a skilled golfer and skier, and remained skillful at both until well into his eighties. Nevertheless, he occasionally appeared clumsy. If you were right-handed standing up and left-handed sitting down, you might be clumsy too.
2. I own an honest-to-goodness Gerald Ford artifact, given to me years ago by my dad. It’s a rotogravure section of a Detroit newspaper with a picture of the 1934 University of Michigan Wolverines football team. Gerald Ford, the center, is in the center. (It was originally saved not for Ford or the Wolverines – I believe the U-M football team was 0-11 that year – but because the 1934 baseball World Series had just ended and on the back were pictures of the Detroit Tigers.)
SAY GOOD BYE TO THE BAD GUY
I’m having trouble reconciling my feelings about the death penalty with Saddam Hussein’s execution, but good riddance. I think the President thoroughly botched the Iraq War but I’ve never opposed him for wanting Hussein out – though I have opposed Bush on nearly every other conceivable ground. (Bush has been good to Israel, which is to some degree related to his hatred of Hussein.) I don’t think it’s unreasonable for each U.S. President to be able to designate one Super Villain and be allowed any means necessary to get him. Maybe it would have been better if Bush had designated Osama bin Laden – it’s been a boomtime for Super Villains. But Hussein was one of the most evil men since Hitler.
Notwithstanding, I want to resurrect something I wrote about Hussein 4 years ago and share it with you. At a low ebb in my writing career, I had worked for a web site owned by the AMERICAN SPECTATOR. You remember those guys, right? The ones who brought forth the Arkansas State Troopers who, if treated properly, would tell you what went on behind closed doors when they were supposed to be protecting then-Governor Clinton?
I’d tell you it was dirty money but I don’t even know that for sure. The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy owes me $1,200. They didn’t pay me for my last 12 columns, including the one I am about to reprint.
A tiny bit of background, to set the stage: Before the Iraq War, while Hussein was still in power, in October 2002, there was some talk of giving diplomacy one more try. (His sons were still alive as well.) That’s when I wrote the following, which starts with the then-current situation and ends with Saddam’s fictional death.
Killing Saddam Hussein … With Kindness
By Michael Craig
October 23, 2002
President Bush says he will give diplomacy one more try. Whether this is just a head-fake toward peace designed to gather some international support or a real attempt to avoid war with Iraq, we owe it to ourselves to explore alternatives. I have heard widely varying estimates on the cost of a war, from $9 billion a month from the Congressional Budget Office, to White House figures of $200 billion. Naturally, there are a lot of variables in the cost, but no one seems to be willing to itemize or explain the components.
While we look over the menu at the possible prices, let me suggest one last diplomatic solution which, though unconventional, could end up satisfying everybody involved: offer to buy all Saddam Hussein’s weapons and his presidency for $9 billion. Furthermore, to secure the agreement, we make him a U.S. citizen and give him and his family diplomatic immunity, as well as immunity from prosecution of all past crimes.
A lot of people will initially find it repugnant that we would pay a gigantic sum to a tyrant, in effect rewarding him for making the world such a miserable place. But stay with me here. I floated this idea by some folks when I was playing blackjack in Las Vegas last weekend, and there’s a way it could work.
See, there’s a catch. He has to live the rest of his life within the Las Vegas city limits.
When he gets there, he hit him with the fine print. The $9 billion is like a lottery payout – equal installments over thirty years. He’ll balk, but when he sees we’re really going to live up to the rest of the agreement, he’ll take the one-time $1.8 billion payment.
With a billion-eight in his pocket and diplomatic immunity, he won’t have much else to do but gamble. Hussein is obviously the gambling type, and he probably thinks he’s smarter than the game. Vegas loves that kind of action. His family will love the high-roller lifestyle. His wife used to go on million-dollar shopping sprees in New York and London. His son wears outlandish suits, with red-and-white stripes or with a lapel on just one side. That wouldn’t even stand out in Vegas. A guy who used to be a singer in Iraq said Uday would have parties where there would be five men and thirty women. While he was singing, Uday would come up on stage and make everyone drink enormous amounts of cognac. Then he would take out a machine gun and fire at the ceiling. On the top floor of Caesars Palace, that happens all the time.
Saddam’s mistress has said that his idea of a good time is wearing a cowboy hat, smoking a cigar, and watching videos of his opponents being tortured. That sounds like going to a Tyson fight at the MGM Grand. A documentary said that he likes to fish, but gets impatient, throws a grenade in the water, and has a diver get the dead fish. I’m sure, if you bet enough, you could do that in the fountains at Bellagio. He dyes his hair and wears a relaxation mask to minimize his wrinkles: Canyon Ranch Spa at the Venetian. All his palaces have waterfalls, fountains, and pools; he would be right at home in a lanai suite at the Mirage.
I give Saddam five years in Las Vegas, during which time he will set off a new economic boom in the city that will trickle down to the rest of the country, and be a danger only to himself. [To readers: Remember that I wrote this in October 2002, so these are projected headlines into the future from that time. MC]
Hussein Beats Aladdin Out of $100M
June 1, 2003 – Over the Memorial Day weekend, Saddam Hussein enjoyed a breathtaking run at Baccarat and won as much as $100 million at the Aladdin. The exact amount isn’t known, because the casino was unable to make good on the payout. Consequently, owners and creditors of the resort, in Chapter 11 since 2001, have turned over ownership to the former Iraqi dictator. “I think this should erase doubts in the West that you’d never hear from Saddam Hussein again,” said the jubilant gambler, who also announced he would close the Aladdin for three months and reopen it with a more “authentic” Arabian theme.
War Brewing Between Hussein, Wynn
December 14, 2003 – Casino-owner Saddam Hussein has escalated his feud with Le Reve owner Steve Wynn [Note to readers: Le Reve was the name of the project at the time, which was not, back in October 2002, slated for a specific opening date] after Wynn supposedly told the former sovereign of Iraq that the casino would no longer accept his action. Hussein has tried to put a brave face on the situation, complaining that the casino was too drafty and the mountain looked phony. But insiders say Saddam is furious that, with his Baghdad casino project hundreds of millions over budget, he won’t get a chance to win back the $400 million he has supposedly lost at Wynn’s place. “My resort will be nicer than anything Steve Wynn ever dreamed of when it opens in February 2004.”
Rumors of Hussein Family Gambling Abound
July 7, 2004 – Sources in the gaming industry estimate that Saddam Hussein and his son Uday have lost as much as one billion dollars at the gaming tables. The Husseins, legendary high-rollers who hail from Iraq, have reportedly snuck out of the country in violation of UN rules and gone on high-priced gambling junkets in Australia and Nassau, where they lost more money.
Baghdad Returns to Chapter Eleven
June 17, 2005 – The Baghdad Casino, in financial trouble since opened last December with Rosie O’Donnell as its New Year’s Eve entertainment, finally filed for bankruptcy yesterday. This is the latest setback for the Hussein family, big gamblers from Iraq who also own the casino. Caesars Palace joined the list of casinos that have turned down Saddam or son Uday’s requests for lines of credit. The property, formerly the Aladdin, formerly a vacant lot, formerly the original Aladdin, has been in bankruptcy for most of the last twenty-five years and locals believed it was inevitable it would happen again.
Floorman Stricken at Craps Table
October 23, 2007 – Saddam Hussein, a night-shift floorman at Pit No. 3 at the Imperial Palace Casino, collapsed on the layout last night and was pronounced dead on the scene by casino medical personnel. Hussein was remembered by other members of the pit crew as a boisterous man with a penchant for tall tales, from his adventures as a high roller to the time he was supposedly an Arabian warlord. Said a stickman at the table as they hauled away the corpse, “Sammy was one of a kind. He would insist that he once took a swing at some Washington, D.C. bigwig. We’ll miss his wild stories.”
THE TILT OFFENSIVE
I decided back on December 18 to start keeping detailed tournament records of my play on Full Tilt. It seemed I was cashing in an extremely high percentage of tournaments, but not making the big final-table money. I wanted to evaluate my total buy-ins, the number of hours I was playing, etc.
Well, keeping records cured me of all that. I cashed in exactly 2 of the next 50 tournaments.
Just when I was getting ready to give up online poker and find out about taking the Arizona bar exam, variance caught up with me, or lost me, depending on perspective. On the last Friday of 2006, I played in 4 of the biggest tournaments the site offered:
$150 + $13/$20,000 Guarantee
$24 + $2/$25,000 Guarantee
$100 + $9/$30,000 Guarantee [short-handed tables]
$69 + 6/$16,000 Guarantee
In the $25,000G, with a field of over 1,700, I dodged nearly 1,000 people in an hour and quietly busted. But I snuck into the money in the $16,000G, finishing 44th of out 45 who got paid. I remember almost nothing of the tournament, though, because I had started the $30,000G an hour before, and that tournament, with only 6 players per table, required a lot of attention. I finished 8th of 481.
But my big triumph of the day was finishing 4th out of 285 in the $20,000G. I eventually got busted by Johnny Bax, which I think is the screen name, on Full Tilt and elsewhere, of WSOP bracelet winner Cliff Josephy. And frankly, he misplayed two of the hands at the very end where he won all my chips, underbetting (with a short stack) superior hands, getting most of his chips in after the board put me ahead, and getting bailed out when all the chips were in the pot. He underbet with J-J, allowing me with A-6 to hit an ace on the flop. THEN he put in all his chips, after which he caught a jack on the river. He called my big re-raise with only 3-3, assured of being significantly behind or only slightly ahead. It was the best situation I could hope for with A-4, and I caught a four. But there were 2 diamonds on the board, and 2 more on the turn and river giving him an ugly flush and the last of my chips.
But no hard feelings, especially because I had apparently perfected the art of winning with the worst hand with all the chips in the middle in the $30,000G.
At least for a day, I’m no longer miserable about my play or my results.