Make a Deal
February 12, 2003
By Bob Volpitto
Picture this scenario: George Bush and Colin Powell are sitting
across from each other in the Oval Office. Bush, with his
head bent forward, his beady eyes squint into Powell's pensive
face. The latter's features show a stern, resolved look. The
corners of his mouth are turned down, his brow wrinkled.
Each studies the thoughts of the other. Bush is the first
to speak. "Colin, you know how things work in Washington —
the same way they did in Austin. When there are differences
in opinion, the parties sit down and they work ‘em out." Powell
raises his hands from his lap. He folds them together on the
desk not unlike his leader sitting across from him. He, too,
hunches forward. Grimly, white knuckled and palms sweating,
the Secretary of State asks, barely moving his tight, thin
lips, "What did you have in mind, Mr. President?" (A title
he loathes when addressing the man from Crawford, but he despises
himself even more for the necessity of having to use it.)
A smirk, Bush's trademark expression of satisfaction when
he knows he holds a winning hand. (Thinks Bush, "I've got
him — he's taking the bait. I'll give him a little slack.
When he tries to pull away then SNAP! He's hooked!") "Let's
make a deal, Colin," Bush, in a cold tone, without compassion,
all but demands.
Anyone more than 35 today remembers the "Let's Make a Deal"
television show where the host, Monte Hall, would offer an
unsuspecting contestant the chance to win a prize if only
he could pick the right door to be opened. Like the game show
host, Bush knows which door conceals the prize. The smirk
widens on Bush's impish visage as he watches Powell's poker
face reflect a feeling of being snookered. "What's the deal?"
the Secretary inquires.
It was only weeks ago that the Secretary of State, Colin
Powell, was at best a moderate if not the nearest thing to
a pacifist in the Bush cabinet. He stood opposed to Vice President
Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense (read War) Donald Rumsfeld,
Attorney General John Ashcroft and other outspoken "chicken
hawks" in the administration.
Powell was the spokesman for those who asked Bush to accept
the United Nations Security Council's wish that UN inspectors
be given ample time to search for weapons, both biological
and nuclear, in Iraq. He used a host of tactics to delay the
onslaught of a unilateral pre-emptive strike against the Hussein
regime in Iraq. The Secretary of State urged caution, begged
for time, begged for cooperation among the nation's might-be
allies and, in so doing, brought a sense of sanity to a government
lead by Bush that was rushing headlong into war.
Almost overnight, however, Powell turned from moderation
to all but demanding we invade Iraq by our overwhelming force.
His bellicose rhetoric in a speech before the Security Council
rivals the Bush Cartel's call to arms. His conversion can
only be described as dumbfounding. Has this man who we once
called the conscience of the Bush administration flip flopped?
Like Paul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, has Colin Powell
seen the light on the road to Baghdad?
Bush, confident he has Powell's undivided attention, speaks.
"I know how much Affirmative Action means to you, Colin. That
20 points thing up in Michigan which offers ‘your people'
a leg up on admission means a lot to you, doesn't it?" Powell
weakly nods in assent. He feels the hook beginning to cut
into his mouth. He feels the line tighten. He wants to thrash
about like a fish does when he knows he's been snared. He
says nothing. He remains passive.
"Ted Olsen's brief outlining the Administration's views I
asked him to write and present to the Supreme Court will have
to go forward, of course, but I think we can make it express
a more neutral position. Maybe that's the way it should be
written. Don't you agree, Colin?" Secretary Powell hears the
reel winding backward, pulling him closer toward the fisherman.
He squirms instinctively, his head shakes from side to side,
but he cannot dislodge the hook that sinks deeper into his
Bush reads from his State of Union address, the part about
sending millions of dollars to Africa to combat Aids. "I gotta
stop short when it comes to recommending the distribution
and encouraging the use of condoms to prevent the spread of
Aids and abortions to terminate fetuses already infected,
but a couple of payments over the next 10 years will keep
those people over there from getting sick especially if we
can teach them that abstinence is the best way to prevent
the disease in the first place. Don't you agree?"
Powell sees the net being lowered from the boat just below
the surface of the water. Weakened from the struggle, he does
not resist the trap. He is about to become George Bush's catch
of the day.
"I've also heard how much you appreciated how I handled that
mess with Trent Lott over his racist remarks. Nobody in his
right mind would have said those things, but I'm glad you're
happy how I got rid of him. He was getting too big for his
britches anyway," Bush added.
"You know, Colin," Bush continues, "when my Faith Based Initiatives
program gets through Congress there will be a large chunk
of money to be divided among lots of congregations. You and
I both know how most African-American churches have been struggling
to make ends meet for a long time, and I think we agree they
should be first in line for help. It would be nice of them
to know how you and I feel about their struggles and how much
you and I want to help. Don't you think so, Colin?"
By this time the Secretary of State is figuratively floundering
helplessly on the bottom of Bush's boat. He took the bait.
He felt the pain of the barbed hook. He was reeled in. And,
now, Bush is going to eat him for lunch. The head of the administration
stands and extends his right hand toward his Secretary of
State, who also rises from his chair. Clearing his throat,
Bush boldly says, "Let's make a deal." With a last gasp Powell
timidly asks, "You will come through for what I want if I
support a war with Iraq — correct, Mr. President?"
"I like you, Colin, and I'm mighty proud to have you on my
team. You see things clearly and don't crawfish on me. I can
trust you to figure the details. You know, like whipping the
American people into line; like ramming the idea down the
throats of those pee-willies at the UN, especially those yellow
livered, ungrateful Europeans. That's why I hired you, Colin."
With bluntness, Bush turns and dismisses his slack jawed,
whipped lackey with, "Now if you'll excuse me it's time for
my morning workout."
Bob Volpitto is a former weekly newspaper publisher living
in the Southwest. He's a progressive Democrat and damn proud