Bush Rehearses for Debate: The Mysterious
September 29, 2004
Satire by Bernard Weiner, The
Nobody knows how the young girl, wearing a Victorian dress,
mysteriously got backstage at George W. Bush's practice session
for the first presidential debate. Perhaps she's the one who planted
the bottles of Evian water, the ones with "EM KNIRD" written in
reverse letters at the bottom.
In any event, Bush and his assistants - those playing moderator
Jim Lehrer and the journalists who would pose the questions - apparently
all drank from the bottles, and behaved most irregularly. Here is
a transcript of that Wonderland-like session, which we found in
our mailbox the next day, with a note signed "Alice."
Rove: OK, let's get the show on the road. Don't know about
you, but I'm feeling a bit... peculiar. One minute, I feel like
I'm an unconquerable giant, and then shortly after that, I feel
beaten down like I'm tiny. Sort of like running a campaign. But,
whatever, it's pleasant. Mr. President, are you ready to go?
Bush: Let's do it. I'm feeling a bit strange myself - but
in a fun, exciting way. Can't wait to hear what "John Kerry" is
going to say. Actually, I can't wait to hear what I'm going to say.
Rove: We're mainly going to be working on your answers,
Mr. President. Somebody will stand in for Kerry, and just blah-blah
when it's his turn. Blah-blah - that's good, sort of what he sounds
like when he's speechifying all the time. Borrr-iing! So French,
you know? But you'll do great, Mr. Prez. We'll throw questions at
you, so you can get used to responding quickly. Just let 'er rip
and enjoy; we'll tape the rehearsal and use it as a guide later.
Break an arm, kid!
"Lehrer": I'm just going to have some fun with this, Karl.
Good evening. Welcome to the Presidential Debates. I am Jim Lehrer,
and I'll be your moderator. This evening, the two major candidates
will face off for the first time. Tonight's topic is foreign policy.
You may wonder why other legitimate candidates are not present.
The answer is simple: Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry said they would not
appear if other candidates were invited. And, since the Commission
on Presidential Debates is run by the two major parties, that's
just the way it is. Negotiators for the Democrats and Republicans
approved the format for the debates, and chose the journalists who
will ask the puffball questions the candidates have prepared for.
Before we get to those questions, each candidate will give an
opening statement. By a flip of the coin - or was it a flop? Sorry
I couldn't resist! - Mr. Bush will go first.
Bush: Whooo-eeeeee! Thank you, Texas Man - I mean, Mr.
Lehrer. Are you Jewish, by the way? The name, I mean, kinda makes
you wonder. Anyhoo, glad to be here to try to defend myself from
all the harsh things - many of them containing nuggets of truth,
by the way - said by my opponent here over the past several months.
Johnboy seems to think I'm incompetent and probably stupid. Cop
some to the first, but not the last one: I may be dumb as a woodpost,
but I didn't get to be President by being stupid. I got here by
hard work, street smarts, familial connections, some really effective
dirty tricks, and a firm belief in the American people. I know the
American people - I'm an American-type person myself - and I know
how eager they are to hear anything that makes them feel good inside,
even if they know deep down it's just political bullbleep. Can I
say "bleep" on the air, Jim?
They know, for example, that Iraq is one big stinkin' pile of
manure. I guess if I can say "bleep," I can use the M-word, right?
We got ourselves caught in a huge rathole over there in Iraq, and
I haven't the foggiest idea how to get us out before we've accomplished
our mission there, which is real complicated, involving oil and
military bases and changing the geopolitics of the Middle East and
stuff like that. But none of that matters: All I have to do is to
say how "we'll stay the course" and "America doesn't cut and run"
and slogans like that, and our citizens, totally wanting to forget
that 54,000 of our boys died in Vietnam, just nod and say they like
me, 'cause I am "decisive" and "strong" and "speak my mind" and
other silly things like that.
So, my fellow Americans, I continue to say tonight that, yes,
our Administration made a big mess in Iraq - getting our soldiers
killed daily by rushing into war without many willing allies to
do the job and without a plan for what happened after our quick
invasion victory and without an exit strategy and without the proper
equipment - but Johnboy here doesn't have a way out either. So stick
with them that brought you to the dance. That's me. I know what
I'm doing - making sure you're scared as hell about those terrorists
comin' over here to kill your children - and I'll keep doin' it,
until the next election, when Jeb or that musclebound guy from California
- whose name I won't say because every time I try, it sounds like
I've said the N-word - take over.
I see the orange light comin' on, so I'll just close by saying
vote for me. I know what I'm doing, what God wants me to do - or
at least what I think God might want me to do, I haven't got a clue
what God really believes - and I will continue to be a strong leader.
Well, okay, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney will be strong leaders, and
I'll be like the king who makes appearances to make people feel
good. Whoops! Red light now. Whoooo, a Tom Ridge moment. Anyway,
talk to you later, after Johnboy gives his little speecherooni.
SENATOR KERRY'S TURN
"Lehrer": Thank you, Mr. Bush. That certainly was a lively,
little romp. Mr. Kerry, you're on.
"Kerry": Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Bush... Iraq...
disaster... phony intelligence... no WMD... bumbler... catastrophe...
lies... no Osama connection... torture... rosy picture.... Vietnam....
blah, blah, blah.... way over his head... blah, blah, blah.
"Lehrer": You can respond to Senator Kerry's remarks, if
you wish, Mr. Bush.
Bush: I resent the implication that my head is way over
in this job. And, okay, maybe I didn't go to Vietnam, but I did
serve in Iraq - a painted turkey to the troops on Thanksgiving;
great photo op. And, even though things are not what we'd like in
that country - well, okay, we're barely able to hold it together
- the elections are coming and I think democracy will win out. I
mean, over there. Finally, let me remind everyone that Johnboy voted
for the war, so he's to blame too.
"Lehrer": Mr. Kerry? A response?
"Kerry": Blah, blah, blah, blah. Phony intelligence...
lies... authorization... final resort... first resort... body armor...
cuts family benefits... no postwar plan... Fallujah... flip-flop...
commander-in-chief... blah, blah, blah.
"Lehrer": Mr. Bush, I think Senator Kerry just accused
you of flip-flopping. How's that for turning the tables? Your response,
Bush: I have never flipped a flop in my life. I am resolute.
I am decisive. I make a decision and stick to it. And I've never
flopped a flip, either. I love saying that.
You, Monsieur Kerry, are notorious for flip-flopping, constantly
changing your mind. It's almost like you're windsurfing, first you
go that way and then you go the other way. The American people deserve
to know where you stand - or rather where you fall in the water
since you're moving around so much on your board. You like that
one, Karl? And the flipping-flopping one? Those were good, right?
Rove: Mr. President, they were dandy. But let's stay on
track here. We're pretending here that this is for real. Why am
I laughing, then?
Bush: Got ya. Okay, feed me another question. Which reminds
me: I'm getting the munchies. Can someone send out for some ribs
and chips and a Dos XX? Ha, ha, fellas.
"Lehrer": Let's go to one of our tame little journalists.
Who's got the first question?
"Journalist#1": That's me, boss. Here comes the inevitable
question. Mr. President, your opponent and his surrogates allege
that you did not fulfill your National Guard commitment during the
Vietnam era, when you were supposed to be in Alabama. How do you
respond to that charge?
Bush: I am proud to have served in the National Guard,
wherever I was. I received an honorable discharge - I also had a
not-so-pleasant discharge that I had to have a doctor look at, but
that's another matter - which takes care of that unpatriotic question.
You can't be discharged honorably from the armed farces - did I
really just say that? - I mean armed forces unless you fulfilled
all your duties. I got, or somebody got for me, my honorable discharge.
End of story. Those who say otherwise can't prove anything. If there
were any incriminating documents, they disappeared years ago.
"Journalist#1": A followup on that. What about your not
taking the flight physical, which you were ordered to do on base
with the military doctor, and then being dropped from flying? Sorry,
sir, but you've got to deal with this one, as it may well come up
during the debates.
Bush: I understand... I was rushing around like crazy at
that time, and thought my own doctor could do it or maybe I'd take
the physical somewhere else, in Alabama, where I wouldn't have to
run the whole battery of tests, if you get my drift. I did take
a partial exam in Alabama. Of course, it was just of my teeth, but
it shows my good-faith attempt. As for why I stopped flying, I was
little more than a student then, and the air fares were way too
high. But, seriously, folks, I received an honorable discharge,
which answers that.
"Kerry": I'd like to respond. Blah, blah, blah, blah. Coward...
Vietnam... swiftboat... my medals... Texas Guard... doesn't make
sense... Alabama AWOL... blah, blah, blah... didn't answer question.....
blah, blah, blah.
ANY MISTAKES MADE?
"Journalist#2": I guess I'm next up. Mr. President, more
than 1000 American young men and women have died in Iraq, with estimates
of U.S. soldiers injured running from 4000 to 17,000; you've constantly
changed the rationale for why you felt it necessary to invade. Do
you feel you've made any mistakes in the way you've conducted the
Bush: Everything went so swimmingly, we didn't expect victory
to be so easy. So we slightly miscalculated in the post-war phase.
Yes, there are just a few wascally wabbits out there fighting us,
but we'll soon wipe them out, and establish Iraq as a shining beacon
for liberty and democracy. That's my story and I'm sticking to it,
at least through November 2.
"Kerry": Blah, blah, blah, blah... Mission Accomplished...
mortar attacks... roadside explosions... RPGs... no body armor...
blah, blah, blah, blah... oil pipelines... no electricity... disaster...
$200 billion... Halliburton... blah, blah, blah, blah.
"Journalist#3:" I guess it's my turn. Mr. President, Secretary
Rumsfeld said the Iraq election would be legal if not every registered
citizen voted, that some parts of the country were simply too risky
to hold elections in. Do you believe the Iraqi people will accept
the results of such a partial election as a legitimate form of democracy?
Bush: Why wouldn't they? We do it here, don't we? But seriously,
folks: Look, the only election I really care about is the one on
November 2. If the Iraqi election isn't held in January, or only
partially held, that's a problem for another day. All I need to
do now is to contantly assert that there really is going to be an
election in Iraq soon, shortly after ours, and that things are moving
quickly in the direction of democracy. The American voters want
to believe what I'm saying and they'll be happy. What happens after
I win will be handled appropriately. Or not. But there won't be
anything they can do about it then. Na nee, na nee!
"Kerry": Blah, blah, blah, blah... Allawi... rosy picture...
sucking up... leave out Sunnis... civil war... corruption... Vietnam
governments.... blah, blah, blah, blah.
"Journalist#1": Mr. President, White House and Justice
attorneys have authored memorandums that give you authority as Commander
in Chief to do anything you want in the name of national security
during wartime, including torture of prisoners - and would declare
a partial election in the United States legal as well. Did you know
of these memoranda and do you think the Supreme Court will okay
this rather broad interpretation of presidential power?
Bush: Of course the Court will approve the action we took.
It's wartime in terror land. And, anyway, it looks like I'll be
appointing at least two or three new justices in the next several
years. They better agree to approve those memos or I won't nominate
I'm gonna name me a conservative black Jewish woman to that court
- let Teddy deal with that one! Goodbye, Roe! Oh, it's going to
be such fun to watch the liberals squirm when I start making those
appointments. We'll play it the usual way, won't we, Karl? We'll
nominate some terrible extremist bigots, the liberals will object
loudly, and then we'll name someone a little less objectionable
and they'll sigh and ratify those. I love that game!
"Lehrer": One final question on foreign policy, Mr. President.
"Journalist#2": Your opponent and his followers have said
that if you win another term, you'll re-institute the military draft,
given that there may have to be other wars fought. If there are
such war plans in the works, will it be necessary to re-start the
Bush: You got a better idea? We've got to get the bodies
from somewhere. Lots aren't re-upping, you know, or are going AWOL
- whoops, better stay away from that word - or are not signing up
for the National Guard. Whoops! Besides the draft is more fairer
all the way around. Everybody gets a chance to die and kill equally.
Rove: That's a great start, Mr. President. Don't understand
why, but I was giggling the whole time. That's probably enough for
tonight. We'll... uh... "refine" your serious answers for the next
rehearsal. That's a wrap, everyone. See you jokers tomorrow. Anybody
want to go out for some pizza? Hey, someone order more of that Evian
water for the Green Room!
Satirist Bernard Weiner was the San Francisco Chronicle's
theatre critic for 16 years; a Ph.D. in government, he has taught
at various universities, is co-editor of The
Crisis Papers, and is a contributing author to the recently-released
Big Bush Lies book.