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Bush Takes Heat on Oprah's Couch

February 7, 2006
Satire by Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

Oprah: We're back with President Bush. Recently, you may remember, author James Frey sat here with me and admitted that he told lies in his so-called "memoir." I asked him to come back on the show because I had supported him initially, telling everyone to read his book, and felt that he had betrayed me, the reading public, and literature itself.

Bush: Yes, that was a bad thing Mr. Frey did, fudging like that, and the market will decide what his punishment will be. But the real reason I agreed to come on your show, Oprah, was to talk about my optimistic outlook for America and the new optimistic initiatives I announced that should make our citizens feel good and optimistic about the future, both domestically and abroad. I'm an optimist, you know.

Oprah: Yes, I fully understand that we have a Congressional election coming up in November, but I have some questions I'd like to discuss with you first, and perhaps members of the audience do as well.

Bush: (apparently listening to earpiece) Uh, Oprah, those weren't the ground-rules worked out for my appearance here. The President of the United States decides the agenda, and your people signed off on that. We began the show in that spirit, so let us continue.

Oprah: I'm sure we'll get to the talking-points you want to discuss, Mr. President, but let's do it in the context of an authentic discussion between you and me sitting on a couch. I'm sure you don't want to just get up and walk out on a show that daily reaches many millions of viewers, each a potential voter. How about it?

Bush: (listening attentively to earpiece) We will talk first about the issues raised in my State of the Union speech and then, if we have time, I will respond to your questions - as long as they don't encroach upon presidential prerogatives, classified topics, personal matters, or national security.

Oprah: In other words, anything you don't want to talk about. You do realize that this is my show, Mr. President, and it became so popular largely because of the intimate conversations, real conversations, that take place on this sofa.

Bush: You do realize that this is my country, Oprah, and I could have you arrested - ha, ha, just kidding around. (nervous reaction in audience)

Oprah: I've always loved your self-deprecating humor, Mr. President. OK, let's start with some discussion about your State of the Union speech.

Bush: Good. Yes. That's where I want to go. In that speech, I told the American people that we are addicted to oil in this country and we've got to break that habit. I promised that our program would reduce oil consumption from the Middle East by 75% in the next 20 years.

Oprah: Announcing a major decision like that sure sounded good, Mr. President, but we learned two things immediately afterwards. First, your spokesmen had to recast what you said, since it wasn't true; instead, we were told, your numbers were to be regarded as a "metaphor." And, second, you have no policies that can help us break our oil habit - not even raising the miles-per-gallon standard on vehicles.

Bush: (listening to earpiece) Everything changed on 9/11. The terrorists hate us for our freedoms, you know, and would love to get Americans arguing with each other. There is responsible criticism of our policies and there is irresponsible criticism, which weakens America's resolve and creates doubt in the public mind. I hope you hear what I'm saying, Oprah. For national security reasons, I can't tell you all that I know about our oil policy. But one thing I can say is that we need to get unaddicted to the stuff and we have plans for doing that.

Oprah: Your administration - which is intimately tied to the oil and energy industries - keeps saying that you have plans for oil-use reductions, but they are never presented. You've been saying for three years that you have plans for victory in Iraq as well, so that our troops can come home, but no such plans are ever presented. Excuse me, sir, but the clear impression one gets from listening to your administration is that you say things that you know Americans want to hear but there's no follow-up to get us to the goal. Maybe your polls are so low because the American people realize how much public-relations spin is substituting for real policies, both here and in Iraq.

Bush: Iraq. Yes, I was sure that you'd bring that up. You say we have no plans. But we are fighting the terrorists over there so we won't have to fight them over here. 9/11 changed everything. Iraq has become the frontline of the war on terrorism. We...

Oprah: With all due respect, sir, there were no al-Qaida terrorists in Iraq before the U.S. invaded. And, in any case, as your own military has noted, the great majority of the insurgents in Iraq are Iraqis, struggling to throw the occupiers out of their country. What your polices have done, reminiscent of the U.S. in Vietnam decades ago, is to create huge problems where only minor ones existed - with the open-ended nature of this war costing us hundreds of billions of dollars, money that could be spent more wisely on our own people here at home. And the worst part is that you got us into Iraq by deceiving us here in this country.

Bush: We used the best intelligence we had at the time, everyone believed it; it just hasn't worked as easily as we thought it would. But we're making good progress, the Iraqis are being trained to defend their own country, the terrorists are desperate and running out of steam. Pay attention to all these positive, optimistic developments and don't give aid and comfort to the enemy by always talking about the negatives.

Oprah: Not everyone was taken in by those deceptions at the time; arms experts, 10 million people marching in the streets worldwide - they weren't fooled. But are you really saying it is unpatriotic, tantamount to treason - you just used the term giving "aid and comfort to the enemy" - to point out things that are going wrong in Iraq and elsewhere?

Bush: Of course not. Debate is an important part of our free-speech tradition in this country, what we fight for. But there is responsible debate and irresponsible debate; we hope and expect that our critics will forsake irresponsible debate by...

Oprah: By not saying anything really negative about your policies?

Bush: By not saying anything that could weaken our defenses and give our enemy the feeling that he can win because some American citizens are tearing down the president and his policies. They are free to speak their minds - that's what makes our country great - but they must watch what they say and how they say it, and not go blaring their objections around the Internet and press where someone might hear it and act on it.

Oprah: I wonder if you're referring to foreign terrorists or your domestic critics, Mr. President. But let's move on. In your State of the Union speech, you said that "hindsight" about how we got into Iraq is to be avoided; we're there, you said, and let's deal with the situation as it exists now.

Bush: Yes, the blame game is a waste of energy. It doesn't really matter if possible mistakes might, in some instances, have been made. We need to...

Oprah: But avoiding the assignment of "blame" means that nobody is accountable for anything that goes wrong there. Tens of thousands of Americans and Iraqis have been, and are continuing to be, killed or maimed because of those "possible mistakes" that "may have been" made by some nameless force that's prone to error. One definition of sanity is to stop doing something that constantly causes you and others great pain. Admit your mistake, correct it as best as you can, apologize and move on. Why can't America do that in Iraq? Why can't YOU do that in Iraq? There were no WMD to be found there, there was no connection to 9/11, there was no relationship to al-Qaida at that point, there was no nuclear program, there was nothing but a contained country, run by a brutal beast, with ambitions but no real means of doing much damage outside his borders. Didn't you deceive the country to take us into that war?

Bush: Would you like to also ask if I've stopped beating my wife? Ha, ha - another joke there. But you've accused me of a great many sins in one question, Oprah. First, the President of the United States does not lie to the American people. He told the truth, as he knew it at the time. We believed, on the basis of the best intelligence that we could find, that Saddam had all these dangerous weapons, or would soon have them, and we, the world community, had to do something to stop his aggressive plans. We gave him every opportunity to come clean about his weapons programs, but he didn't, so we, as the leader of the free world, organized a coalition to remove him and destroy his WMD weapons arsenal. We...

Oprah: But he had NO extraordinary weapons arsenal; he did have a lot of conventional weaponry, which, because the U.S. military never secured the ammo dumps and arsenals, is now being used to build bombs that are blowing up American soldiers. Plus, he did let the U.N. arms inspectors back in and their preliminary reports were that there were no WMD - nevertheless, at that point you began the war. Reflecting on how we got into this mess might help us get out, and might help us prevent another such war in the Middle East. I'm talking about Iran.

Bush: Bad man in charge. Dangerous. He's rushing to get nuclear weapons capability. The fundamentalist mullahs oppress the people. The international community can't let this situation deteriorate.

Oprah: There are reliable rumors floating that the U.S. and our ally Israel will attack Iran's nuclear facilities sometime this spring, maybe even next month. Can you comment?

Bush: All options are on the table. Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions so as not to destabilize the region.

Oprah: But both the U.S. and Israel have nuclear weapons in the region. Are you suggesting that there be nuclear disarmament for all countries in the Middle East?

Bush: If the United Nations Security Council determines that Iran is creating an explosive situation in the region, action will have to be taken. I'd prefer that to be diplomatic action, but all options are on the table.

Oprah: That kind of talk sounds suspiciously similar to what you said before invading Iraq three years ago. And most Americans believe you deceived us into that war. Even if Iran is as dangerous as you say - and most experts believe Iran is at least 3 to 5 years away from developing a nuclear weapon - why should anyone believe what you say now about them when you fed us lies about Iraq then?

Bush: That kind of question is what I'm talking about, giving comfort to our enemies abroad by liberal attacks such as yours on the president and his policies. Let's move on.

Oprah: Our audience will make up their own minds about no answer being provided. But, yes, we will move on. Next question: if your chief advisor Karl Rove is indicted in the Plamegate case (with Vice President Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby already indicted), and if the Abramoff scandal leads back into the White House, and if the NSA tapping American citizens' phone calls and emails without authorized court warrants is determined by the courts to be illegal - if all this happens, would you object to the naming of a Special Prosecutor? Don't you think the American people deserve to find out what happened, who was involved in the scandals themselves, and who participated in the coverups that followed?

Bush: None of what you're suggesting will happen, because there's nothing there to find. No proof whatsoever. Besides, the Justice Department is perfectly capable of doing investigations.

Oprah: But Justice is headed by your longtime friend Alberto Gonzales, the same person who made up legal rationales permitting the U.S. government to torture prisoners and for you being able to violate the law whenever you, as "commander in chief," decide it's necessary, with no checks on that power by the legislature or the courts. There's an obvious conflict of interest there - Gonzales himself eventually could be a target as well - so why not a Special Prosecutor? And, if an investigation reveals that you and Mr. Cheney might have been involved in any or all of these scandals, will you cooperate with a House impeachment panel? Would you consider resigning, to save the country the trauma of yet another impeachment of a president?

Bush: I warned you that these types of questions were out of bounds. You are providing our enemies - they hate us for our freedoms, you know - with ammunition to harm the United States. Everything changed with 9/11, and you liberals haven't woken up to that fact. This interview is over. (He removes microphone from his jacket and walks off the set, to stunned silence, and then some loud boos, from the audience.)

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., a playwright/poet, has written numerous Bush satires. He has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers. To comment, write: crisispapers@comcast.net.

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