Saturday, July 17, 2004

“Nixon’s Ghost”

[Nixon’s ghost] “Ooo-ooo-ooo. Who summoned me from the beyond?”

“It’s just you and me, sir. Thanks so much for coming.”

“What doo-oo you-oo want?”

“I just have a few questions, sir, and I was afraid they wouldn’t be answered this side of the grave.”

“Can I claim executive privilege if I don’t like the questions?”

“I’m afraid not, sir, but I guess you can vanish again if you take a notion.”

“What the heck, I’m game. Shoo-oot.”

“Well, the first one is about that eighteen-and-a-half minute gap on that tape…”

[Nixon laughs.] “Number three forty two-oo. I knew-oo you-oo’d want to ask about that.”

“Yessir, the one where you were talking with Haldeman about the Watergate break-in.”

“What do-oo you-oo want to-oo know?”

“First of all, the White House claimed that that eighteen-and-a-half minute stretch had been ‘accidentally erased’….”


“…but experts said that whoever erased the tape stopped and started ‘Record’ between five and nine times, so the erasure could hardly have been accidental.”

“Damned experts. Who-oo would have thought they could tell that much?”

“So it wasn’t an accident?”

“Of course not! Jesus, son, use your brain! The tape was incriminating. It was in White House custody. I erased it. But who-oo’s going to call the President a liar, even when he is one? It was a win-win situation! Or at least I thought so at the time.”

“Well, that’s what everyone but your most partisan supporters thought, but it’s nice to have it confirmed.”

[Nixon chuckles.] “Last time I looked, you-oo couldn’t enter an admission from a ghost.”

“The other thing I wanted to ask about was President Bush’s military records.”

“Stole a page from the old master, didn’t he?”


“You-oo-’re talking about the microfilm containing the payroll records for the Texas Air National Guard? The microfilm that was ‘accidentally destroyed’? For the exact time period when people claim he went AWOL during time of war?”


“I love the way they handled it. Got some underling in the Defense Department to issue a statement that ‘The Defense Finance and Accounting Service has advised of the inadvertent destruction of microfilm containing certain National Guard payroll record’—followed by a statement that ‘Searches for back-up paper copies of the missing records were unsuccessful.’ In other words, ‘All the evidence has been destroyed, and there’s not a damned thing you-oo can do-oo about it’!”

“Sir? I have to ask. Did you have anything to do with the destruction of this second tape—the Bush tape?”

“You-oo flatter me, son. No, the most I can claim is to have been an inspiration to some.”

© Tony Russell, 2004

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

“Let’s Pretend Again”

Announcer: “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome once again to “Let’s Pretend!” the new Unreality TV show that the whole nation is talking about! And now, here’s our host, Blip Barker!” [Applause, digitally amplified to the level of thunder]

Blip: “Thank you, and good evening everyone! Welcome to the show that explores the ways millions of Americans turn their backs on reality! Tonight we’re going to focus our show on the economic accomplishments of the Bush administration. As usual, we’ve gathered a great set of panelists, all ready to share their lives and the lessons they’ve learned with you, our viewers. We’ll get to it right after this important message from our sponsors." [Cut to commercial.]

Blip [Addressing panelists]: “All right! Here we go! We have an exciting list of questions submitted by our viewing audience! I’ll read each question, and those of you panelists who want to take a swing at it, just jump right in.”

Blip [Looking directly into the camera]: “Our first question is from a viewer in Vinegar Bend, Arkansas. She writes, ‘Mr. Bush has launched a hugely expensive war, increased farm subsidies, and created a costly new Medicare entitlement, at the same time he has pushed through two huge tax cuts. Most economists say this is worse than irresponsible, it’s economic suicide. Republicans have traditionally been fiscal conservatives. How do your panelists manage to accept this?’ Well, look at the hands shoot up! Go ahead, ma'am. You first.”

Panelist #1: “I just shut my eyes to the facts, Blip. It’s sort of like a traffic accident, where you see a big SUV on your side of the road, about to crash into your car. The safest thing to do is just close your eyes, relax, and think of something else.”

Blip: “Techniques like that sound so simple, but they can be enormously helpful. Thanks for sharing that with us, #1. What about you there, in the back row?”

Panelist #2: “Blip, I think your questioner needs to remember that not everybody is poor. My husband and I have an income of over half a million dollars a year, and we’re just thrilled by the administration’s policies!”

Blip: “What is it about those policies you like?”

Panelist #2: “Well, basically, they’ve shifted a huge portion of the tax burden off our backs onto the poor and the middle class. We just think that’s great! We’ve finally been able to upgrade our yacht and remodel our vacation home in the Hamptons without worrying about disrupting our cash flow. So their policies may not work for everybody, but they work for us. I say, ‘Keep up the good work, George, and God bless you!’”

Blip: “An American success story. Terrific!

“Here’s our next question. 'The Bush administration inherited a budget surplus, and in three years has converted that into an annual deficit of five hundred billion dollars ($500,000,000,000). How do you deal with this colossal mishandling of America’s finances?'”

Panelist #3: “Blip, I just take the position that it’s not the administration’s fault. The bubble had to burst at some point, and 9/ll dealt a real blow to the economy.”

Blip: “And the fact that more than 60% of the huge budget gap is directly due to the Bush tax cuts?”

Panelist #3: “I just refuse to acknowledge unpleasant facts like that and keep talking about that bubble and September 11. It’s like the two-headed calf—you go on and on about how pretty its coat is, and how well it’s eating.”

Blip: “Does that work?”

Panelist #3: “With people who aren’t paying much attention. It’s not really lying, because the bubble and September 11 actually were factors. So I just keep repeating the same partial truth over and over again, and you’d be surprised how many people buy it!”

Blip: “Cynicism! You can’t beat it!

“How about another question? A viewer from Ball's Gap, West Virginia, writes, 'My husband has been out of work for nine months. Our car has been repossessed, we’ve lost our health insurance, and our son needs an operation. Apparently our story is not that unusual; 40% of the people out of work have been unemployed for more than 15 weeks, which sets a 20-year record. According to the Economic Policy Institute, if people like my husband hadn’t given up on looking for work, the official unemployment rate would be 7.4 percent. How does all that square with Mr. Bush’s rosy predictions that things are getting better and better?' Okay, panelists, that’s a toughy. Who wants to go first?”

Panelist #2: “Before we get to that, Biff, let me say first to the questioner that her story is just heart-wrenching, and my husband and I will put her on our prayer list.”

Blip: “Wonderful, wonderful.”

Panelist #4: “I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the obvious, Blip. Whenever people bring up this economic stuff or the mess in Iraq, I just start talking about gay marriage!”

Blip: “Gay marriage?”

Panelist #4: “Right. You wouldn’t believe how well that works! People get all fired up about it, and they stop worrying about their kids getting killed in Iraq or their husbands or wives losing their jobs. It’s fantastic!”

Panelist #3: “It’s too bad about all those poor people out of work, Blip, but I try to do the right thing—as the President’s spokesmen are always urging—and avoid the blame game and stop finger pointing.”

Blip: “In other words, you agree with them they shouldn’t be held accountable?”

Panelist #3: “Is that what they mean when they say that? Oh dear. I’m not sure I can go along with that.”

Blip: “Whoops! Looks as if our time is up. All right, that’s it for tonight. Hope you enjoyed our show. Join us again next week as we continue the unending battle to think well of ourselves on ‘Let’s Pretend!’

© Tony Russell, 2004

Friday, July 09, 2004

“And Tonight’s Winner Is …”

Tonight the twentieth annual Al Qaeda Convention conferred its Achievement Award, in absentia, on George W. Bush “For His Outstanding Efforts in Furthering the Cause of Terrorism Worldwide.”

In prepared remarks accompanying the award, the organization cited Mr. Bush’s “unrelenting efforts to undermine U.S. prestige and moral authority,” saying “he has done more than any other single person to make the world an unsafe place to live and raise a family.”

Following the prepared remarks, an organization spokesman said, “This has been a banner year for us, and Mr. Bush deserves a lot of the credit. The American invasion of Iraq has been exposed to the entire world as a fraud, based on lies. The needless deaths of thousands of Muslims, the desecration of holy sites, the administration’s lopsided support of Israel, the revelations accompanying the torture photos, the references to the war as a ‘crusade’—these things have galvanized Muslims all over the world to support our cause.

“But when you add to all those things Mr. Bush’s efforts to weaken the historic alliances between Europe and the U.S., his attempts to undermine the Geneva Convention, his opposition to the World Court, and his dismissal of the United Nations and the Security Council, it’s hard to see how this administration could have done more on our behalf!

“On top of all that, Mr. Bush obligingly spent most of his first months in office on vacation, helpfully ignoring the warnings about al Qaeda plans to use hijacked domestic aircraft to strike at the United States. In a very real sense, then, he helped make the success of September 11 possible.

“Terrorism breeds in poverty, in powerlessness, in lack of hope,” he continued. “That fits the Bush agenda to a ‘t.’ His administration has fattened the rich at the expense of everyone else. They have cloaked government in secrecy. They have stripped their own citizens of the basic freedoms they are always prattling about. And they are draining the treasury of their country for foreign adventures. The country is devouring itself! It’s tempting just to stand aside and watch the U.S self-destruct!”

“With enemies like this,” he quipped, “who needs friends?”

The spokesman noted that terrorism is now firmly rooted in Iraq and that recruits are flocking to al Qaeda in droves. “Plus,” he said, “we’re stronger in places like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and Jordan than we have ever been! It seems as if every other kid you meet wants to be a suicide bomber!”

The climax of the evening was a set of simultaneous car bombings in Fallujah, Baghdad, and Kabul, broadcast live in the convention center on giant closed circuit TVs.

© Tony Russell, 2004

Thursday, July 01, 2004

“Let’s Pretend”

Announcer: “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome, once again, to “Let’s Pretend,” the new Unreality TV show that the whole nation is talking about! And now, here’s our host, Blip Barker!” [Applause, digitally amplified to the level of thunder]

Blip: “Thank you! Good evening, everyone! Welcome to the show that explores the ways millions of Americans turn their backs on reality! Tonight we’re going to focus our show on Gulf War II. We’ve gathered a great set of panelists, all ready to share their techniques with you. We hope each of you out there watching can take something away from the show that you can use in your own life. We’ll get to it right after this important message from our sponsors.” [Cut to commercial by utility companies extolling the health benefits of mercury emissions]

Blip [Addressing panelists]: “All right! Let’s get started! We have an exciting list of questions this week, submitted by our viewing audience! I’ll read each question, and those of you who want to take a swing at it raise your hand, identify yourself, and jump right in.”

Blip [Looking directly into the camera]: “Our first question is from a viewer in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee. He writes, ‘I am having a hard time dealing with the fact that both of the major reasons we went to war against Iraq turn out to have been false. No weapons of mass destruction have been found, and the bipartisan 9/11 commission says definitively that there were no ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Can your panelists explain how they are able to continue to support an administration guilty of either criminal deception or inexcusable incompetence?’

“Well, panelists, there’s a tough one for openers! Who wants to take the first crack at it?”

Panelist #1: “I’ll give it a stab, Blip. What works best for me is blind faith. I just ignore the facts and put my trust in the President. When he says, ‘The reason we said that there is a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda is that there’s a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda,’ that settles it for me! I mean, the whole definition of faith is ‘trust in things unseen,’ and nobody has actually seen any connection—or any weapons of mass destruction. You’ve just got to believe!”

Blip: “That’s just great! Panelist number two, you had your hand up?”

Panelist #2: “Yes. I wanted to say that labeling and name-calling work really well for me. When somebody criticizes the President or his administration, I just dismiss it all as liberal propaganda. That way I don’t even have to bother dealing with their facts and arguments, because I know they’re wrong to begin with!”

Blip: “Good, good. Let me just ask a follow-up question, number two. If the criticism is from Republicans or former administration officials or bipartisan groups or retired military officers or former ambassadors or anonymous intelligence analysts, is it any harder to dismiss them?”

Panelist #2: “No, it isn’t, Blip. Of course the liberal label doesn’t work in those cases, but I’m able to dismiss critics like that on a variety of other grounds—people trying to promote a book they wrote, people disgruntled because they’re out of the loop now, et cetera.”

Blip: “And so that keeps you from hearing anything they might have to say?”

Panelist #2: “It does. It works great. In one ear and out the other!”

Blip: “Terrific! That’s terrific! Before we tackle another question, let’s hear from the people who bring you our show. Don’t go away!” [Cut to commercial by Halliburton showing smiling employees in immaculate kitchens and dining halls, preparing and serving sumptuous feasts to delighted men and women in uniform.]

Blip: “Welcome back to ‘Let’s Pretend!’ Our next question is from a viewer in Cut and Shoot, Texas. He writes, ‘I would like to know, from those panelists like me who voted for this administration, contributed money to its campaign, and support it politically, how they avoid feeling they have blood on their hands, now that it’s clear the war in Iraq was totally unnecessary, and we’re left with over 800 American soldiers dead, as well as maybe 10,000 Iraqi civilians—women and children as well as men, people who would be alive today if we hadn’t invaded Iraq.'

[Blip looks up.] “Well, how about it, Bush backers? Do you feel responsible in any way for all those corpses, those amputees, those body bags?”

Panelist #3: “Blip, I’d have to say I find that question offensive. So that’s the way I deal with it. I get really defensive. The bodies don’t bother me, but the question does. No way am I taking responsibility for the consequences of my political choices. I just disconnect. That way I can enjoy my politics without regard to their results.”

Blip: “That’s got to be a big help: just cut your conscience out of the equation! Thanks for passing that on, number three. Our audience is looking for tips like these that can help them navigate life’s tougher challenges.”

Panelist #4: “Blip, I’ve got to say that this whole Gulf War thing is just playing out the Biblical scenario for the end times and the Rapture. So none of it bothers me, because it’s all working to fulfill God’s plan.”

Blip: “So you believe the war has a Divine Sponsor?”

Panelist #4 [Laughing]: “If you want to frame it in television terms, I guess you could put it that way.”

Blip: “All right, I guess that about wraps it up for tonight. Hope you enjoyed our show. Join us again next week as we continue the unending battle to think well of ourselves on ‘Let’s Pretend!’

[Audience cheers as photo of huge American flag is gradually superimposed on screen while camera pans over the group of panelists. Fade to commercial featuring Enron executives encouraging people to invest in their company and ‘America’s Energy Future.’]

© Tony Russell, 2004