Fishing Lines: Is Dubya a world-beater? Go figure

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The Independent Online

What has been the highlight of George Bush's presidency? Tough question, huh? There have been so many.The liberation of Afghanistan? His acceleration of solar energy policies? His sterling efforts to stop masses of low-life Mexicans sneaking into the US? Rebuilding Iraq?

The answer is none of these. According to Dubya himself, his finest achievement has been - catching a fish.

The US has been buzzing with Bush's assessment of his six years in office, as told to the German weekly Bild am Sontag. When asked to name his best and worst moments, Bush paused for thought, then said: "I would say the best moment was when I caught a 7 1/2lb perch on my lake."

A chance, throwaway remark, you might say. But it has prompted a stream of "clarifications" from the White House press office. Typical was this one: "President George W Bush meant to say, 'I am most proud of our work fighting the global War on Terror. As president, I feel I have a responsibility to bring the evil-doers to justice'."

When you are leader of the world's most powerful nation, you have to be durned careful with everything you say. This is not an aspect of his presidency that has always concerned the man renowned for such remarks as: "The point now is how do we work together to achieve important goals. And one such goal is a democracy in Germany"; or "I'm honoured to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein".

But on his latest uttering, I'm guessing something was lost in translation. You see, the North American Native Fishes Association list just four species of perch in Texas: yellow perch, logperch, Texas logperch and bigscale logperch. Logperch average about six inches, while the world record for yellow perch is 4lb 3oz. Could it be that Bush broke the world record by more than 3lb, and modestly declined to claim it?

I found a transcript where he talked about his 11-acre lake, saying: "I put 600 black bass in there a few years ago, and about 30,000 bait fish. And they're about 2 1/2-3lb now. We've got blue gill, shad and perch."

If we assume that he wasn't doing what all good fishers do, and exaggerating a teensy bit, it's possible the translator confused largemouth bass with perch. They look a bit similar. Some later US transcripts assumed the Germans didn't know what they were talking about because they don't have largemouth bass, and changed the species anyway.

But then the overworked White House press office made yet another attempt to sort things out, stating in its eighth clarification: "When asked to name his best moment in office, President George W Bush incorrectly stated the weight of the fish that he caught. The perch was 5lb. Disregard all previous clarifications."

Wait a minute! We're still trying to sort out whether it's a perch or a bass. Now the fish's weight has changed too. Is this all sounding a little familiar? Then again, it could be that Bush actually does believe that a fish (perch or bass, 5lb or 7 1/2lb) really is the highlight of his presidential years.