Episode 68: Bashing Bush across the Land of Lincoln
These are, in many ways, sad times in America. So it’s perhaps not surprising that many of the episodes here at The Last Chance Democracy Café have also been sad. But even in the saddest of times, sanity requires that we dedicate at least a little of our energy to the pursuit of the pure joy of silliness.
The Last Chance Democracy Cafe
Episode 68: Bashing Bush across the Land of Lincoln
by Steven C. Day
Intending no offense to the fine folks in Southern Illinois, whose neck of the woods we were cruising through, I have to say that after almost two full days of driving, Horace, Tom, Winston, Zach and I were bored silly — and I mean silly. Still a full day’s drive from Washington, DC, where we planned to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, we were desperately in need of diversion.
Horace, sitting behind me in the van’s second row, ever diligent in his duties as the group’s unofficial den mother, had an idea. “Let’s make up a progressive fictional story about the Bush White House . . . You know, we all take turns adding a line or two to the story. The only rule is that everyone mentioned has to be presented in a way that is completely contrary to their normal character.”
“What do you mean by contrary to their character?” asked Zach.
“Think of Chris Matthews being erudite, or Bill O’Reilly being sane.
“Got it. We’re to make them the exact opposite of the way they really are.”
Winston, who wears his grumpiness as proudly as a beauty queen displays her tiara, complained we had disturbed his nap, and then pretended to go back to sleep. But the rest of us, desperate as we were for entertainment, were ready to try anything.
“You go first, Steve,” said Horace, who, not surprisingly, assumed the role of story master.
I jumped right in, saying:
“It was a dark and stormy night in the White House: suddenly a scream pierced the still of the night air, arousing George W. Bush from the deep contemplation of his nightly Shakespeare reading.”
“Oh come on, Bush reading Shakespeare?!” Winston, who still hadn’t exactly committed to the spirit of the enterprise, grumped with exaggerated contempt.
Ignoring him, Horace told Zach he was up next. Without missing a beat, Zach started out:
“‘To duty!’ cried Alberto Gonzales, the dashing and heroic young Attorney General, as he ran toward the sound of the cry, his sword in hand. ‘For honor,’ he screamed, ‘always for honor.’”
My turn said Tom eagerly, quickly adding:
“‘Cheney’s missing!’ said Gonzales. ‘Some cad has kidnapped him!’”
Winston, who was shaking his head in much the way a Southern Baptist minister might upon learning that the son he’s counting on to follow in his footsteps has just had his tongue pierced, still seemed disinclined to play. Horace skipped him, adding the next part himself:
“Bush arrived on the scene, panting and out of breath from the 20 foot run; almost seven years of 18 hour days spent slaving at the people’s work had left little time for exercise. ‘Oh no,’ he said, ‘how can I ever go on without my trusted councilor of peace! My God, if it weren’t for Cheney’s sound advice urging restraint, I might actually have made the blunder of invading Iraq!’”
It was my turn again:
“Just then, Karl Rove ran into the office shaking his head sadly. ‘I can’t believe someone would actually kidnap Dick Cheney! I realize that everyone isn’t a perfect Boy Scout like me, always following every rule, but, my Lord, this is simply unbelievable! Is nothing sacred? What unthinkable crime will come next? Will someone deliberately disclose the identity of a covert CIA agent? Is there to be no end to the treachery we face?’”
“Back to you Zach,” said Horace, holding his hand up to block the sun, which was now low on the horizon to the west. Once again Zach took off without hesitation:
“Gonzales scowled majestically, saying, ‘Do you think it was Reid and Pelosi? You know what they’re like: tough as nails, never giving an inch, never compromising and never backing down on their principles. God knows they have the guts needed to pull off something like this.’”
Tom followed up immediately:
“Bush shook his head in disagreement. His voice pensive, he said, ‘No, it wasn’t Reid and Pelosi. If they had wanted Cheney eliminated he’d have been gone years ago. You know those two: they never miss.’”
Horace seemed happier now that the sun had passed behind a cloud. With Winston still refusing to participate, it was his turn again:
“Bush continued with his thought, ‘No, this looks more like the work of Al Qaeda. Think about it . . . they probably figure that without Cheney . . . who as we all know, is known throughout the world as The Great Peacemaker, to council me, the likelihood of America doing something like attacking Iraq goes way up. And everyone with any brains at all knows that doing that would play right into Al Qaeda’s hands.’”
Zach, jumping in out of turn, added:
“But then Rove quickly interjected, ‘I don’t know, Mr. President, after we smoked bin Laden out of his hole in the caves of Tora Bora and killed him and the other senior leaders by sending in thousands of US troops, instead of following the advice of those fools who said we should just leave it up to the Afghan tribal fighters, Al Qaeda lost most of its strength. I doubt they have the capacity to pull off an operation like this now.’
“’That’s a good point, Karl,’ Bush immediately responded.”
As was probably inevitable, the orderliness of the process of telling the story had now completely unraveled, as Tom also jumped in out of turn:
“Rove, speaking to Bush in a proud voice, said, ‘If we ever needed proof that God is on our side in this struggle, our magnificent victory at Tora Bora certainly provided it!’
“But Bush responded sternly, ‘Now, Karl, you know I don’t approve of using God’s name to justify our policies. It isn’t right for anyone to claim that God takes sides in a war.’”
“’Sorry, Mr. President,’ said Rove contritely.”
Winston sighed loudly from his perch in the back seat. “Well, if you four insist on continuing with this nonsense, I suppose I should offer my valuable assistance. Anything else would be ungenerous.” Then he jumped in with both feet, starting out:
“Just then, Condoleezza Rice raced into the room, shouting, ‘I just heard the news about . . .’
“Bush cut her off in mid-sentence: ‘Really Condoleezza,’ he said sympathetically but also firmly, ‘you should really get some new shoes. I know that you’re far too devoted to the people’s work to worry about your personal appearance. But just look at those shoes.’
“’Sorry, Mr. President . . .’
“’I’m just worried about you, Condi. You need to take a break once in awhile. I remember back during Katrina, how you insisted on leaving your vacation so that you could personally go to New Orleans to help pull people out of the water and . . .”
Horace cut in, “Um, Winston, the thing is, this is supposed to be a progressive story . . . remember . . . everyone gets a turn. You’re not supposed to make the whole thing up yourself.”
Winston, huffed, “There’s just no pleasing some people. When I won’t play he gets mad. When I do play he gets mad.”
Horace, chuckling in response, added the next piece to the story:
“Just then the president’s secretary broke in. ‘Excuse me, Mr. President, the call you wanted placed to the Chief Justice is ready.’
“Bush picked up the phone. ‘Mr. Chief Justice Roberts, thank you so much for taking the call. As you know, my administration has long been dedicated to showing the utmost respect to the coequal branches of the government under our system of constitutional separation of powers. So anyway . . . after advising the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate on the Cheney situation, obviously, you were next on the list . . . What’s that, sir? Oh, no . . . well, thank you for saying so, but really, there’s no need to apologize for voting against my administration and conservative interests on every single case that’s come before the Court. After all, I picked you for your judicial independence . . . And a good day to you too, sir. Goodbye.’”
Winston half-shouted, “Hey, Horace, you went on for at least as long as I did, even though you cut me off.”
Horace laughed loudly, “I suppose you have a point. So fine, Winston, you go next and talk for as long as you want.”
This is what Winston said:
“Click, went the phone as Bush hung it up.”
“Okay, I’m done.” He added.
Everyone laughed. Still chuckling, Horace slapped Zach, who was riding shotgun in the front of the van with me, on the shoulder. “This thing is clearly degenerating. So, Zach, it’s up to you to finish the rest of the story.”
“Really,” said Zach a little nervously. “Well . . .”
“Take all the time you need.”
“Okay, got it.” Then Zach said:
“Suddenly the phone rang, startling everyone in the room. Gonzales answered. ‘That is great news, my good man. Simply fabulous.’ He turned to Bush, ‘That was the Secret Service, Mr. President. They’ve rescued the Vice President and they have the culprit: they’re bringing the fiend here right now.’
“Almost instantly, the office door opened and there standing before them, handcuffed and held at the shoulders by two burly Secret Service agents, but still wearing his ever present ‘Have You Hugged a Neoconservative Today’ lapel button, entered the angry, menacing figure of the criminal now revealed — Colin Powell.”
“I like it,” said Winston.
“Thanks,” Zach waved back at him from the front. “Anyway, continuing:”
“Bush cried out in the pained voice of a parent disappointed by a favored child, ‘Say it ain’t so, Colin!’
“‘Nonsense,’ came the cold reply. ‘You bastards . . .’”
“‘Please Colin, a little decency,’ moaned Bush, ‘you know how much profanity upsets Dick Cheney . . .’
“‘You are all pathetic children,’ Powell glared angrily. ‘America is a great power. We should use that power to project our values throughout the world. Iraq, Iran, North Korea . . . all of them need to be invaded. America must bend reality itself to our will . . .’
“‘You’re mad, Colin, absolutely mad!” screeched Bush. “That sort of recklessness would destroy America’s standing in the world.’
“Powell sneered dismissively. ‘You children disgust me! The world?! Who cares what the world thinks?! America runs the world! Can’t you fools see it. It’s all out there . . . it’s ours for the taking.’”
Then Zach brought the story to a close:
“Bush shook his head sadly, staring at the holes in the soles of the shoes Condoleezza Rice had bought five years earlier at Payless ShoeSource. Then he said, ‘But why kidnap Dick Cheney? What could you have hoped to accomplish by that?’
“’You fool,’ growled Powell, ‘I had to get him out of the way so I could convince you to invade Iraq. I knew I would never have a chance as long as The Great Peacemaker was here. But with him out of the way, I was sure I could get you to fall into line.’
“’No, Colin, you were wrong even about that. I would never have bought into your madness. Not in a million years.’
“Bush looked at the Secret Service agents. ‘Take him away. I can’t stand to look at him anymore. But I’ll tell you one thing Colin, you’re damn lucky to be an American who has a right to due process, legal counsel and the writ of habeas corpus. In a lot of other countries they’d simply take you off to a secret prison somewhere and torture you.’”
“And with that all present stood to sing a rousing verse of God Bless America. The End.”
Everyone in the van applauded Zach, as I steered into the parking lot of the motel where we’d be spending the night.
* * *
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* * *
When not busy managing a mythical café, Steven C. Day lives with his family in Wichita, Kansas where he has practiced law for 27 years. Contact Steven at .
© Copyright 2007, Steven C. Day. WGAw #974001
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August 16th, 2007 at 12:43 pm
Actually I can’t think of any better way to spend a trip across Illinois….try driving from the Wisconsin Border all the way to Paduka, KY. ….If you try it, be sure to keep the Suicide Prevention Hotline on your cellphone speed dial.
August 16th, 2007 at 5:04 pm
Is it that bad, hizzhoner? Having never been to Illinois, I’ll take your word for it, but damn, that sounds bad. We can all suggest similar stretches - my nightmare long-distance trek is from El Paso to San Antonio, TX. Endless stretches of emptiness, interrupted only by little burgs populated by, shall we say, small-minded natives with that delightful twist of Texan machismo. I highly recommend it for masochists everywhere.
August 16th, 2007 at 7:41 pm
I heard somewhere, many years ago, that “heaven was Texas through a rearview mirror.” But that probably wasn’t true. (Not counting Laredo through a rearviw mirror.)