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Bush and Paisley are peas in a pod

(, Irish News)

Four more years, four more ... come now, no need for that kind of language. Whatever about 2000, this was a non-rigged election, Bush won it fair and square. Vox populi, vox Dei est – the voice of the people is the voice of God.

So why do we all feel uneasy?

Well, not all perhaps. The unionist section of the population here, and particularly the DUP section, is still in a victory jig over Tuesday's US results. The way they see it, Bush is a lot less likely than Kerry to be taken in by the charm and soft talk of Irish republicans and nationalists. Soon Clinton will be a bad memory and we'll be back to the Regan era, when the US stood four-square with the Brits, the State Department ruled and the Irish-American community could take a running jump at itself.

But there's another reason this morning why the DUP are pleased to see Mrs Bush's little boy settling into the White House for four more years. The fact is, George Bush may not be identical to Ian Paisley, but he's pretty damn near.

Take booze. Ian hasn't had a period of his life that involved fast cars, fast women and pouring large amounts of the devil's buttermilk down his neck. Not yet anyway. But taking different routes, both Paisley and Bush have wound up with virtually identical views on the matter of alcohol: it's baaaad stuff, so avoid it for God's sake.

Or take reading. To the best of my knowledge, Mr Paisley has never publicly confessed to close contact with any book other than the Bible. Mr Bush is pretty much the same. Granted, there is a famous picture of the US president in a primary school, holding a picture book, but since he's holding it upside down, that doesn't really count. You might say the reading tastes of both men have been far from Catholic.

Another similarity between the two men is the shyness of their supporters. What completely threw pollsters in the US on Tuesday was the exit polls. When they asked people coming out of the booths in Florida who they'd voted for, Kerry was a clear winner; when they added up the ballots cast, Bush walked away with that state. Odd, really.

And you get much of the same on the man from Ballymena. There are people who admit to, in fact glory in, their support for Mr Paisley. But most people, including unionists, roll their eyes and snigger a bit when the man's name comes up. Then election day comes round and Paisley tops the poll by a mile. You see? DUP supporters and republican supporters do have a lot in common.

Finally, of course, there's the unitary nature of the religious-political thinking of both men. Wishy-washy Catholics like John Kerry and Rocco Buttiglione and yes, John F Kennedy may tell the electorate that their religious views will in no way affect their political judgement, that they will hang their faith on a hook when they enter the political arena. None of that for Bush or Paisley. When George Bush wants to make a political decision – say, invading Iraq and killing lots of Iraqis – he turns to God and prays for guidance. Only when God says it's OK does he unleash the dogs of war. So too Ian Paisley makes no secret of the central articles of his religious faith. He consults God regularly, believes the Pope is the Anti-Christ and that all Catholics are certain to burn for eternity in the fires of Hell except if they repent and join the Free Presbyterian Church or some similar organisation. There's no question of him putting that thinking on hold when he comes to politics. Like Bush, he shows sincerity and consistency, his political thinking coming out of his religious thinking, not the other way round.

What's that – you now feel more uneasy than ever? What are you, some kind of atheist? OK. Then try comparing Gorgeous George to a couple of other second-term Republican presidents, that might cheer you up.

Remember Dick Nixon? When he got a second term (well, part of one), he wrapped up the Vietnam war and extended the hand of friendship to communist China. And Ronnie Regan – when he got a second term, he stepped up the cosy chats with Gorbachev and the Soviet Union came tumbling down.

Just you watch. Non-drinking, non-reading, God-fearing, two-term George could yet surprise us all. And besides, he's got no way to go but up. OK, after me. Four more years, four more ...

November 5, 2004

This article appeared first in the November 4, 2004 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News