Three Imaginary Girls

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Given that there have been calls for his resignation from both sides of the aisle for years now, it shouldn't have come as such as a surprise when George Tenet finally caved last week. But the timing was so bizarrely out-of-nowhere that everyone was stunned, at such a loss for words that several commentators actually bought the "personal reasons" excuse. And now we're all left scratching our heads like the narrator of Richard & Linda Thompson's "Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed?"

That song, from the Thompsons' final album together, is a mournful, enigmatic ballad posing the title question over the body of a young woman:

She was there one minute
And then she was gone the next
Lying in a pool of herself
With a twisted neck

O she fell from the roof to the ground
There was glass lying all around
She was broken in a hundred pieces
When her body was found

As the track begins, Richard's delicate, halting guitar and Linda's lovely yet distant vocals combine to create a impersonal removal from the scene of the tragedy. The narrator could be someone standing in the back of the crowd, or reading about the events in the next day's paper. And this is for now where we're left in Tenet's case; no real explanation for the timing of his resignation has been forthcoming, and thanks to the distraction provided by the Great National Deification of Ronald Reagan, little attention is being paid.

She used to live life
She used to live life with a vengeance
And the chosen would dance
The chosen would dance in attendance

The song's second A verse gives us a slight glimpse into the life of the "she" of the title, though she remains as much of a mystery as the lack of a name implies. Still, there is nothing personal here — this is not the reminiscence of a confidant but rather that of an onlooker. The description seems to be of a celebrity, or at least a popular rival, judging from the envious sneer towards the "chosen" dancing in attendance.

George Tenet has been counted among the chosen by those stunned that he has remained gainfully employed through two administrations of opposing parties despite the outsized number of failures on his watch. In his announcement of Tenet's resignation, George W. Bush continued to praise the CIA director's performance as "superb" (the same word he used to describe Donald Rumsfeld when he didn't resign. Maybe our addled president thinks "superb" means "godfuckingawful," bless his ign'ant lil' soul). Let's count: there was the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade back in 1999 (oops!), the al-Qaeda bombings of American embassies in East Africa (wha' happened?), the USS Cole (where'd that come from?), September 11 (who did what now?!?), the bungled intelligence gathering leading up to the Iraq war, notably the 16 words about uranium in Niger that found their way into the State of the Union address (how'd that get there?), and well, you get the picture. I got fired from Arby's once for poor performance, yet this guy has kept his gig for seven years.

She crossed a lot of people
Some she called friends
She thought she'd live forever
But forever always ends

Did she jump or was she pushed? (repeat 3x)

For the second set of verses, a harmony vocal has joined Linda's, adding some depth and immediacy lacking in the earlier two. This picks up as the rhythm section, thus far merely a resonant bass and tempo-keeping cymbals, kick in for the second B verse and first chorus. The negative portrait also picks up; the narrator seems personally hurt by the woman's actions, and almost vindictive as she intones "forever always ends." Linda's vocals purport to get inside the head of the dead woman for the first time here, but “She thought she'd live forever” would appear to be an assumption based on the woman's behavior, and as the song leaps directly into the chorus, it is clear that the narrator still doesn't really understand the reasons behind the woman's death.

George Tenet never crossed his friends. The fear that he might was what kept him alive so long, virtually forever in Washington terms. He was a good soldier, willing to fall on his sword over the 16 words, but never appeared ready to shoulder the total blame for the record of screw-ups in the war on terrorism. The threat of a Tenet-authored tell-all hitting the shelves at Borders in an election season is not particularly appealing to the Bushies. So why is George Tenet's forever ending now? There are several reports queuing up to excoriate the Agency, from the 9/11 commission to the Pentagon to Congressional committees investigating the intelligence on Iraq, so it would appear that this is a bailout before the heat comes down on the director's brow. Most likely, the president will attempt to reframe those reports as critical of the Agency as an entity, which will be easier without a CIA director to embody the institution as an individual. So the government gets to talk about institutional reform as if they're fixing the problem, Tenet gets to avoid the condemnation, and voila! no embittered ex-employee smoldering a grudge.

She used to have style
She used to have style and she used it
And they say it turned bad
When the truth came around and she refused it

After the first chorus builds to a peak the song slows back down while Richard Thompson plays an echo-laden, introspective guitar solo. It is as if the narrator, after having gotten carried away in her resentment, has calmed herself and is lost in somber thought before resuming her song. And in fact the Thompsons return to the sparse backing and unaccompanied vocals for this verse, while the lyrics turn slightly more sympathetic.

As for refusing the truth, the administration refuses to give it and the American people refuse to demand it. Coincidentally or not, the night before the resignation was announced, President Bush consulted a lawyer regarding the investigation of the leaking of the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame. But there has been a total lack of outcry during the months this has been going on in the light of more important matters — like J-Lo's parade of weddings, Janet's tit, some friggin' horse, celebrity trials, and now a dead president. The evidence seems clear that the leak came from the White House and yet Bush fails to concern himself, yet there is no public outrage and therefore no serious congressional pressure. The same goes for the evidence that torture was condoned by the Pentagon and that Cheney was personally involved in getting cushy gigs for his Halliburton buddies who went on to rip off American taxpayers. (Oh, and John Kerry took the week off from campaigning to watch Reagans sold-'out casket tour. Why did Dean seem like such a bad idea again?)

They found some fingerprints
Right around her throat
They didn't find no killer and
They didn't find no note

Did she jump or was she pushed?

The tempo picks up again for the last B verse and especially for the final chorus, where Linda finally lets loose and stretches out the title phrase again and again while Richard makes his first vocal appearance of the song, singing the same line in an emotionless bass back-up. A bit of backstory: this was not only the Thompsons' last album as a duo, but their last as a couple. Their marriage was falling apart as they recorded it. And this track is the only one on the album (and one of only two in their career together) where Linda was given a
co-songwriting credit. I don't know if the song would take on the same resonance without that context, but knowing the personal details and hearing Linda wail her heart out with Richard's voice hanging in the background, it is hard not to see the song as self-critical. It is as if she is looking back at her shattered relationship and her own failures, seeing the psychological scars and not knowing who is to blame, but desperately wanting to blame someone. In the end there is no answer because there can be no answer, at least no easy either/or solution.

We have the opposite problem in Tenet's case — we have both a killer and a note. The note says that the director left for "personal reasons," to spend time with his family and help out his newly-graduated son. And the killer, of course, is George Bush (or, if you prefer, Karl Rove). Tenet claims he jumped, but the rest of us are just as sure that he was pushed. Ultimately, that may not end up being as important as the why, and George Tenet's own feelings about the why. That is what will determine whether Mr. Tenet will look passively upon the body lying on the floor, or whether he will sing his heart out over the abuses that forced it to land there.

Hooray for Imaginary Shaun! He's our political correspondent for "Election 2004" and we're extremely pleased that he'll be checking in every week or so to reflect on recent events in the political campaigns.

Three wholeheartedly supports this report but opinions expressed are the author's and do not necessarily reflect opinions or policies of the girls {although, as igLiz says, "It doesn't necessarily not reflect our opinions…}"