Bush Takes Heat on Oprah's Couch
February 7, 2006
Satire by Bernard Weiner, The
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
satires. He has taught at various universities, worked as a
writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently
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