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Let's 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 flesh.

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 of it.

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