Beginner's Guide to Presidential Troubleshooting
May 21, 2002
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
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
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
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