Like a lot of Americans, I’m a sucker for technology and strange diseases. So it’s fascinating to me that we have as our President a boy who lives in a bubble.
Because of my interest, Patty and I took a tour of the bubble last month when we were visiting friends who live near Washington. It’s a really popular tour, but we were lucky enough to get tickets. I say “we”; Patty wasn’t as thrilled as I was. As we were waiting for our tour group to get its turn, she said, “I don’t understand it. Why are we lining up with all these other people to see this guy? He’s sick. So why does that make him an eighth wonder of the world?”
“Patty,” I laughed, “this guy campaigned for the highest office in our democracy without ever setting foot outside this bubble. He came within half a million votes or so of being elected President. Now he’s ruling the globe from this bubble. Don’t you have any sense of history?”
She turned on me. “You act like you’re proud of it,” she said accusingly. “Suppose this disease doesn’t stop with him? Suppose it spreads?”
Well, what got into her? But before we could get into an argument, they announced our group was next, and we all surged ahead.
“Hello,” said our tour guide, stepping forward and reading from a script. “My name is fill in the blank—I’m sorry, my name is Lee—, and I’ll be your guide this afternoon. We have five minutes to examine the bubble and view the President. Feel free to ask any questions you would like during the tour, and I’ll do my best to get an approved answer for you.”
“Is it okay to touch the bubble?” a guy near the front asked.
The guide chuckled. “Touch it all you want,” he said. “It’s unbreakable.”
Everybody rushed to put their hands on it. The two women beside us oohed and aahed. “He looks so at home there,” said one. “So natural. Just like my husband, sitting in front of the TV, watching a ball game.”
“He does, doesn’t he?” said the other. “It’s funny. I kind of expected him to be real busy, with such a big government to run, and kind of worried-looking, with all those soldiers getting blown up and killed, and the government going so deep into debt.”
“Oh, no,” said the other. “I’ve read that he watches lots of sports on TV, works out for an hour or an hour and a half every day, and goes to bed at 9:30 every night.”
Women. They just don’t have any sense for the really interesting, technical stuff. “What’s the bubble made out of?” I called out.
I don’t think I was the first to ask; the guide was ready for that one. “It’s made from spun news,” he recited. “The spinning is state of the art, performed by public relations artisans using the most efficient party apparatus ever created. The spinning is nonstop, constantly renewing the surface of the dome. With extensive media cooperation, maintenance is around-the-clock.”
“How does he actually govern from the bubble?” asked someone.
“Most of the detailed work is actually done by his advisors, working in those two buildings connected to the bubble,” answered the guide. “He makes the major decisions, based on the information the advisors bring him.”
“Gosh, you can’t see anything inside those two buildings,” murmured one of the women beside us. “No windows, no cracks, and as black as the ace of spades. They give me the willies.”
The guide heard the first part of her remark. “Those buildings are impenetrable by any known ordinary means,” he said proudly. “They resist newshounds, court orders, the Freedom of Information Act, congressional oversight, and constitutional challenges. They’re the shape of the future.”
“What about the information his advisors bring him?” asked Patti.
“It undergoes an elaborate screening and filtering process,” the guide answered. “It has to pass the most rigid ideological scrutiny before it can be transmitted into the bubble.”
“Then he can’t be contaminated?” asked an elderly lady worriedly.
“It’s totally safe,” the guide reassured her. “Its ideological purity is close to 100%. The atmosphere inside the bubble is monitored constantly.”
“The bubble doesn’t look that strong,” said the guy up front. “How does it hold up when he travels?”
“First off, don’t worry about the strength of the bubble,” said the guide, rushing to reassure him. “It’s deceptive. It’s a lot stronger than it looks. And we don’t place it in harm’s way. He hardly ever gives a press conference, and most of his speeches are in front of carefully selected groups like right-wing think tanks and $2,000 a plate fundraising events. The risk that a well-lobbed question could penetrate the bubble in venues like that is almost nonexistent.”
“What about the trip to London he’s got coming up in November?” a tall African-American asked.
“We’ll be taking extra precautions then,” said the guide. “The bubble will be reinforced by a police cordon of over 5,000 officers. Organizers have canceled the open carriage ride down The Mall as well as plans for Bush to address Parliament. That way he won’t be exposed to the sight of protestors, or asked questions in Parliament.”
“Oh, look!” yelled out a woman excitedly. “He just switched to ESPN2!”
© Tony Russell, 2003