Democratic Underground

Ari Flesicher and the Truth Police
November 6, 2001
by Allen Hope

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Yes, I know. I've heard it all before. Hardly a day goes by without one friend or another telling me that I should drag myself off the couch and get a life. You know, a life that actually involves interacting with real people rather than those folks whose images flicker across my TV screen day and night. And no, I'm not talking about the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Xena, Warrior Princess. I'm way beyond that. I'm referring to the politicians and pundits who inhabit C-SPAN and cable news channels.

I admit that this type of programming mesmerizes me. Watching these folks spin their way into the Liar's Hall of Fame is both hypnotic and infuriating. I honestly believe that should I suffer a heart attack while tuned to the FOX News Channel, I could sue on the grounds of assault with verbal deception and not a jury in the world would rule against me.

Suppose, for a moment, that I file such a lawsuit. Suppose, too, that at every step of the way I win. Finally, the Supreme Court agrees to hear FOX's appeal. Now I know that with the Felonious Five currently in control of the Supreme Court I wouldn't stand a chance. But this is my fantasy so bear with me. In the end, the court rules in my favor. As part of their ruling the justices also decide that false and misleading information violates the public trust. To right this wrong, they mandate a policy of truthfulness whenever public opinion is at stake.

Think of the repercussions. The FOX News Channel would be forced to change its motto to Hateful and Without Merit. CNN and MSNBC would have no choice but to run a disclaimer stating that: "While we know there are plenty of equally important stories to cover besides Anthrax All The Time and Terrorism 24/7, we choose not to cover them because neither are they as profitable nor do they promote our corporate agenda as much as anthrax and terrorism."

But what I would most like to see is a press briefing in which Ari Fleischer must adhere to the truth. Using actual questions asked by the press, I imagine the briefing might go something like this:

MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. Before we get started I'd like to reiterate that the President is focused and in full control of our battle against terrorism. Just this morning I overheard him tell the First Lady that he will soon rid the world of the evil one, his evildoer associates and their evil ways; he is committed to saving this nation from further attacks. I can tell you that the President is under a great deal of stress, particularly since the Vice President has gone into hiding. But there is no need to worry. To alleviate the stress of fighting this battle single-handedly, the President began his day by asking that several of his most-trusted Texas cattle be sent to the White House and discreetly housed on the south lawn. He is looking forward to mingling with his cows and discussing policy issues important to all Americans. It is his way of dealing with stress. This evening the President is scheduled to meet with Bubba Dobson, owner of Bubba's Alabama Style Barbecue, to discuss the military implications of hardwood smoke. Since the plan is to smoke the evildoers out, the President is relying on experts so that he can do the job right. I have one other update. The Attorney General has asked me to relay another alert to the American people. With that, I'm less than happy to take your questions.

Q: Ari, does the continuing spread of anthrax through the mail represent - does the administration conclude that the mail is at greater risk now, and that more steps need to be taken to protect people from the mail?

MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, the short answer to your question is yes, we do need to protect certain people from the mail. To address this issue and protect those individuals most vital to carrying out the President's agenda, the Attorney General has proposed that all suspicious mail be sent directly to the Democratic National Committee for further evaluation. Any mail found to contain anthrax would then be forwarded to Congressional Democrats, the Sierra Club, the ACLU, Amnesty International, Greenpeace and the NAACP. Based on how many members of these organizations drop dead and over what period of time, we should then be able to determine the potency of the anthrax and how much of a threat it poses to us real Americans.

Q: But given that anthrax continues to turn up in post offices and with postal workers, beyond the narrow scope of where those letters actually arrived, isn't there a concern in the administration that the mail is more vulnerable and that perhaps more needs to be done to protect it?

MR. FLEISCHER: It isn't necessarily the mail that needs protecting. Let me put it this way: in light of suspicions that anthrax is being disseminated by the very people who support the President - militia types, right-wing hate groups, etcetera - this administration is much more concerned with reducing the fear among postal workers than we are with protecting the mail and prosecuting those who send anthrax-laced letters through our postal system. To help postal workers feel secure in their jobs, the President has on his desk an Executive Order stating that every piece of equipment in our postal facilities shall be of the same color as anthrax. This includes uniforms. We refer to this as the Out of Sight, Out of Mind Order. As an added bonus this order will also lead to fewer Democratic-voting union members. Bottom line? This is a win-win situation for the President: smaller government at the expense of Democrats.

Q: Ari, does the President support retroactive changes to the alternative minimum tax? And what would the possible rationale be for that?

MR. FLEISCHER: If by changes you mean the elimination of the alternative minimum tax on corporations, then of course the President supports it. As for the rationale, that should be as clear as the white powder on your forehead. Ha Ha. In all seriousness, corporate tax refunds result in increased spending, thereby stimulating the economy. If you don't believe me just ask Congressman Bill Thomas. And let's not forget that considering conservatives' infatuation with money and the level of greed-inspired fantasies it produces among us, then the economy isn't the only thing stimulated by corporate tax refunds, if you know what I mean.

Q: Ari, the FAA has established no-fly zones over nuclear facilities in the country. Is that going to be a permanent decree, or is this directly in response to the threat alert that the Attorney General gave last week?

MR. FLEISCHER: This no-fly zone decree is not nearly as ominous as it sounds. It actually resulted from a misunderstanding between the President and Jane Garvey, head of the FAA. A while back, during a roundtable discussion, the President proposed an idea whereby he and several members of his staff, I believe Karl and Karen were among those invited, would lead a field trip comprised of some 100 Pennsylvania fourth-graders on a picnic to Three Mile Island. It was designed to show these youngsters that there is no reason whatsoever to fear nuclear power. As an afterthought, the President inquired whether it might be possible to implement a no-fly zone at the site during the time of their visit. Ms. Garvey immediately did so. Only she went a step further and implemented it over nuclear facilities nationwide. What she failed to understand is that the President was referring to houseflies. So, to answer your question, the no-fly zone is temporary.

Q: It's reported that Michael Bloomberg, the Republican nominee for mayor of New York, has only been a Republican for one year. And 90 percent of his political contributions went to Democrats like Barbara Mikulski. And my question is, while it is understandable that the President in New York did not campaign for him, why has he declined to help genuine Republican gubernatorial nominees in New Jersey and Virginia, whose elections are a lot more important than any baseball game, as demonstrated by George Bush, who gave up baseball for governing?

MR. FLEISCHER: Let me remind you that the President did not give up baseball for governing. He enjoyed riding the bench more than anyone. As a matter of fact, he hoped to make a career of it and was within three games of breaking the record for most consecutive games on the bench when he learned that he had been randomly selected to take a drug test the next day. Only then did he give up baseball. As for your question, the President did not campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nominees in New Jersey and Virginia because neither of them can hit a curveball. I have time for one more question.

Q: Ari, is there advice you can give to the American people on finding this balance between being on high alert and going on with their normal lives? Is maybe "normal" not the right word?

MR. FLEISCHER: Larry, normal is the right word providing you're referring to, well, let me be blunt here, wealthy Republicans. The thought of ordinary Americans considering their lives normal is what keeps all of us in the elite class smiling to ourselves. Why do you think the President smirks? Concerning the balance part of your question, the National Rifle Association, working out of the oval office - you may not know this but Mr. Heston had a desk installed in the oval office that dwarfs the President's desk - is about to issue an ultimatum; wait, let me rephrase that, is about to issue a statement calling on all Americans to prove their patriotism by shopping at gun stores. This will have the dual effect of stimulating the economy and enabling Americans to shoot suspected terrorists on the spot; as it stands now, we need to invest billions in new prison construction because of the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act. If you haven't already figured it out, the Justice Department expects to arrest at least 50,992,335 possible terrorists sometime between now and November 2004. The fact that this number equals the number of votes received by Al Gore in the last election is beside the point. As far as I know there is no connection between the two.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.