A couple months ago the Atlantic asked me to contribute to the series the magazine runs on the back page of their magazine. Each month they ask a question to a number of individuals. They said the query for January 2017 would be, "Who was the worst leader in history." I was told not to limit myself to world leaders, but to consider celebrities, business people, even athletes.
I am a Redskins fan and I immediately thought of Dan Snyder, the owner of the NFL team. Snyder reminds me of the twerp who always got chosen last for my childhood football games. But he got even. He purchased the Redskins and took a consistently superior team and turned it into a franchise that is nothing but unfulfilled promise. Ask almost any Redskins fan what must happen if the team is once again to become a contender, they will tell you, "Get rid of Snyder."
I was satisfied with naming Snyder, but then I began to reflect. My response didn't have much gravitas and would sit there among people likely naming Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and other worthier contenders. When Vanity Fair asks celebrities what they are reading, it's never James Patterson and The Story of O sitting on their bedstead. It's Aristotle's Poetics, Madame Bovary in French, and similar fare. So, I decided to hedge my bet with a more serious answer: Here it is.
"I was thinking of Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, when the goofy, smiling face of President George W. Bush appeared out of nowhere. Bush's invasion of Iraq was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions, was a major factor in the dismemberment of nation-states, and the tally goes on."
I emailed my response to the magazine and didn't give it much thought until a few weeks later when something terrible started happening. The Redskins began winning. When they beat the Chicago Bears on Christmas Eve, they stood on the verge of getting into the playoffs. By the way they were playing, I could imagine the Redskins winning the Super Bowl.
I was sick. My main hope was that the Atlantic would consider my answer so absurd that the magazine wouldn't run it. But when I got my copy of the January issue, not only did they do the horrendously unfair thing of running my words exactly as I wrote them, but they placed them at the top of the list of respondents.
When I face disaster, I go to a friend of mine who is a successful businessman. He is nothing if he is not shrewd. "There's nothing to worry about," he said. "You tell people that Snyder found out he was going on the list well before it was published. He was so upset and disgraced that he changed the way he handled the team. It was a remarkable transformation and the team responded by turning itself into a winner. If they win the Super Bowl, you can take credit for the victory."
I can't tell you how happy this made me. But a few hours later I woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible thought. Trump and most of his White House aides have no experience running government. After a few weeks, they may realize that they can't govern. What will they do? They can't call the Obama people. They'll have to invite George Bush back into the White House to save them. And I'll look like a fool.
The next time the Atlantic calls me, I'm going to tell them I'm too busy.