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, you know.
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 continue.
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 it?
AS LONG AS THEY DON'T ENCROACH ON ANYTHING
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 years.
PLANS TO HAVE PLANS
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 on vehicles.
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 --
A VIETNAM QUAGMIRE
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 the negatives.
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?
ONLY RESPONSIBLE CRITICISM IS PERMITTED
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?
"THE PRESIDENT TOLD THE TRUTH"
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.
THE COMING ATTACK ON IRAN
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?
ROILING SCANDALS AND IMPEACHMENT
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
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.]
Copyright 2006 by
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., a playwright/poet, has written numerous
Bush satires ( >>
www.crisispapers.org/weinerpubs.htm#fantasies << ). He
has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with
the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis
Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment, write >>