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A Beginner's Guide to Presidential Troubleshooting
May 21, 2002
By birdman

Of course every President runs into problems from time to time. With the proper troubleshooting techniques, however, the implications of bungles and screw-ups can be kept to a minimum.

Let's take a purely hypothetical situation. Suppose you're briefed on a possible terrorist attack involving a well known terrorist organization. The briefing indicates that the attacks may well involve the hijacking of airliners. You take it all in, fire off a couple of vague warnings to the usual agencies and then head off to an extended vacation on your ranch, interrupting your vacation only to protect Americans from the dire threat of stem cell research.

A couple of weeks after your return, however, the terrorists attack America's largest city knocking down two buildings and killing thousands of people. About an hour later another airliner crashes into the Pentagon killing more people. Thinking back, you realize that this was the situation you were briefed on.

Okay, stay calm, maybe nobody will find out. You don't tell anybody the briefings. You start a war and portray yourself as a veritable pillar of patriotism.

But then eight months later - disaster. A TV network finds out about the briefing and is going to air the story.

Holy shit. You're in a load of trouble, right

Not necessarily. There are several troubleshooting techniques that can you use to extricate yourself from the mess you've created.

First: Blame Bubba

It doesn't matter how tenuous the connection or how far back in time you have to go because the true believers will accept it. There are still enough foaming-at-the-mouth Clintonophobes out there who will lose touch with planet Earth at the moment Bill Clinton's name is mentioned.

One of the real beauties of this troubleshooting technique is that you don't even have to do it yourself, since it looks tacky and dishonest to try to evade responsibility by blaming a predecessor. Talk show hosts, internet sites and Fox News can be counted on to do the heavy lifting and you can just sit back, flip on the radio and listen to the results. The base will be behind you.

Next: Bash Mrs. Bubba

Well if there is anything that gets the demented droolers energized more than Bubba it's Mrs. Bubba - and if she actually has the nerve to ask what you knew about this event that killed a bunch of her constituents then you've found the mother lode. Send the Press Secretary out to express your "disappointment" in her comments and your guys will be burning up the phone lines and the internet cables to race to your defense.

Next: The Menendez Maneuver

The Vice President can be good for this so load him up with nitro-glycerine pills and have him declare that it would be unpatriotic to look into this. Make sure he is oozing moral indignation with every syllable and have him declare that an investigation would be "thoroughly irresponsible and totally unworthy of national leaders in a time of war."

In other words how can they investigate whether we were asleep at the switch and let 3000 Americans get killed when we're fighting a war over the 3000 dead Americans? The name of this helpful trouble tip comes from the attorney for Lyle and Eric Menendez who suggested in court that his clients should receive leniency because after all they had recently lost their parents.

Next: Issue a new Terror Alert

Find some evildoers who might be planning to do some new evil. Hey, they might blow up apartment buildings or something. Find a few intercepted communications. Just make sure they're not specific. (Specific is bad - it can lead to things like the expectation that you'll actually prevent the evildoing- so vague is definitely desirable). Point out that the bad guys are probably planning something even worse than the last time so everybody had better leave you alone so you can protect them from the bad guys. I mean maybe you blew it the last time but the last time is just like so over, you know.

Next: Wrap Yourself in the Flag

Patriotism is absolutely the first refuge of a trapped political rat. A well-timed exhibition of flag-waving never hurts. Once a year a president gives an award to the Air Force Academy football team to acknowledge their accomplishment of pounding the daylights out of the punching bag teams of Army and Navy. Have the kids stand behind you in their uniforms and tell them how if you had only known the baddies were going use planes as weapons you would have done something. And of course everybody knows that, don't they?

So with the troubleshooting techniques we've outlined you can see how a potential disaster can at least be contained.

Now let's suppose some hypothetical friends and contributors of yours conspire to deprive the nations largest state of electricity and reap windfall profits while you look the other way...

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