we met, you were so upset with me I thought I might be headed to
Guatanamo. But those of us in the psychiatric profession are used to
momentary rages from clients when they're dealing with highly sensitive
topics. So why did you ask to see me again?
Dick and Laura and Karl said I was falling apart and needed help in
dealing with all these areas that are crashing in on me right now. Like in
this recurring dream, or rather nightmare, I've been having for the past
What made it a nightmare? Describe it, if you can.
There was more but here's what I remember. I'm in the middle of a large
white circle in a cleared field. Everytime I move outside the circle, an
arrow pierces a different part of my body. I can't see who's shooting the
arrows, but I can hear them whispering and laughing. Eventually, I fall to
the ground, but the arrows keep coming and I find myself unable to move,
arrows having gone through my body and sticking in the earth. I feel like
a butterfly stuck with pins. That's when I wake up covered in sweat.
Do any of these symbols resonate with you at all?
I feel safe only in the White House these days -- maybe that's the white
circle, the Oval Office. I find that I am nervous and anxious anytime I go
on trips, feeling that I'm in danger, either politically or physically
from those opposed to my policies. That part is easy to figure out. I have
no idea what the arrows are, or what the butterfly means.
Well, you did just go through an election campaign, and critics were
taking political pot shots at you daily, aiming arrows at you and your
party. And they did pin you guys down, so to speak. I like the butterfly
Why? You think it's positive, being pinned down for other people to gawk
A butterfly is a transformational insect. Starting off as one thing,
ending up as another. Maybe your dream is suggesting that you will, or
perhaps need to, go through a metamorphosis leading to a new form of you.
Easy for you to say. You're not the one pinned to the board.
BALLOTS AND THE BOTTLE
Granted. But let's talk some about what in real life you feel is
"crashing in" on you.
Just pick up the newspaper, doc! We got creamed in the election. The
results merely verified the insider polls we were reading prior to
November 7. I was a pretty much a basket case for many weeks before that,
since it was clear I was going to get smacked down hard by the electorate.
We're still totally confidential, right?
Yes, of course -- unless you are considering doing physical harm to
yourself or others.
Does Iran count? That's just a joke, doc. (pause) No, I wanted to be sure
about confidentiality because -- well, because, I've been led to the
I appreciate your honesty. I must say that I'm not surprised; under
great pressure, real or considered backsliding is not uncommon. However,
in a certain sense, that's merely another symptom of your reaching out for
help. You realize you have some serious problems. And I'm glad you're
here, even if you think me too intrusive at times.
You ARE too intrusive, damn it! It's not easy for me to come here, you
know. I'm a great believer in the triumphal power of the will, how one can
overcome anything if you're strong enough. (pause) But now I'm wavering.
I'm not so sure I can do it.
And what would "it" be?
AVOIDING SIGNS OF WEAKNESS
Deal with being seen as a "loser," for one. That's the story of my life,
what everybody thought of me -- the guy who always needed to be helped out
and propped up by his parents and their powerful friends. (pause) After
the midterm election, I had to debase myself both by calling in some of my
father's associates to help me out on Iraq and by "cozying up" to the
Democratic leaders. That was a sign of weakness, and if I hate anything,
it's being perceived as weak. I'm a go-getter kind of guy, full of
confidence, who makes things happen because I can will them to happen --
and then can lead or cajole or frighten others into jumping on board.
It's not surprising that these old feelings are coming up again now.
After all, the election results were pretty devastating to your party.
Have you seen my personal poll numbers recently? I'm barely out of the 20s
range. People hate me.
It might not be you per se that they're reacting to, but to some of
your policies. Policies can be changed.
But, damn it, my policies are the right ones. The voters just don't see
that, don't see what we're really doing and why we're doing it, they don't
have the goddamn patience to let those policies work. The liberal press
has the country all stirred up and so, since voters can't take it out on
me via impeachment, they go after our party. The Republicans got whupped
pretty good -- Karl really blew it badly, thinking we could just re-run
the strategy from 2000 and 2004. Clearly, the voters were sending me a
THE AVOIDANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY
Do you realize what you've done in that explanation? You've avoided
considering that maybe your policies might possibly have been wrong, and
shifted the blame of the loss onto everybody else but yourself: the
easily-led voters, the "liberal media," the campaign strategists, and so
on. In order to move on in your final two years in office more assertively
and successfully, you've got to accept some share of the responsibility
here -- not just mouthing the words but really accepting them into the
essence of who you are: a human being who occasionally, along with the
rest of us, makes mistakes, sometimes huge ones. And is big enough to
admit them, correct them and power on through. You seem to be moving in
that direction now with how you're relating to Democrat Party leaders.
I know I have to "humble" myself and talk the talk with them, at least for
public consumption, about "cooperation" and "bi-partisanship." I
understand the politics of the situation. But I'm telling you that it
gnaws at my core to do that. I vowed never to be a "loser" again.
If you want that to be true, then it would seem that you have to come
up with policies that will be popular, that will be "winners."
Are you with the rest of them, saying I've got to "move toward the center"
and call it quits in Iraq while we're just starting to see some evidence
I'm not proposing anything; that's not my job. I'm trying to mirror
what you're telling me. The way you've operated until now, you say, seems
no longer to be working. Voters want the U.S. to get out of Iraq and for
Republicans and Democrats in Congress to work together to solve the
country's many problems. Continuing what is no longer working doesn't seem
to make much sense, either politically or personally, since in both ways
you say you're in pretty bad shape. The logical alternative therefore is
to make alterations, even if you don't want to and even if they're just
adjustments in political tactics, so that your presidency -- which as a
good Republican Pioneer, I've supported -- will end on a positive legacy.
But what you're suggesting is that I have to admit that my major
initiatives were failures, that I'm a failure. I still believe that we can
win in Iraq, at least win enough so that we can withdraw troops with
honor, not tuck our tail between our legs and skedaddle out of there, the
effect of which would be to turn over Iraq to the Iranian mullahs and the
Al Qaida terrorists.
COMING OUT A "WINNER"
Well, then, you'll just have to develop a plan, in coordination with
the new Democrat majority, that permits you to do that and come out
looking like a winner.
Easier said than done. The Democrats don't want me to look good; this is
about 2008, for chrissakes!
Which could be your opening to success, since the Democrats have to
come out looking like winners on Iraq as well. With the incentive to win
from both camps, that should open the door to compromise.
Jim Baker's Iraq Study Group will present some alternatives, but most of
them are variations of my delay-strategy, try to stay another couple of
years before the Iraqi government and security forces can take over on
their own. I don't think the Democrats will buy it. They want to start
pulling out some troops in the next few months.
And there's no middle-ground?
I guess I could make a feint move. Send a few thousand troops home, make
it seem like it's a down-payment on a larger withdrawal down the line.
Then make it through the 2008 election somehow, and go back to our
original strategy after the Republicans win, yes?
Again, you're thinking P.R. spin can pull it off for you, rather than
re-examining your questionable policies, maybe even reconsidering the war
itself. Besides, you don't sound very convincing, or even convinced. What
are the negatives with your plan?
IRAQ IS ONE BIG S.N.A.F.U.
As I'm finally having to admit, there may be no way ever for the Iraqi
forces to come together. The Iraqi security police, for example, are
riddled with insurgent agents and militia fighters. The situation really
is FUBAR, at least right now. If we were to bring in 10,000 or so more
troops, we might be able to control the situation enough to make something
good happen. But it's a gamble. Such escalation of troop strength easily
could turn into even more of a Vietnam quagmire.
And the positives?
If I can get the Democrats to agree to some sort of compromise that keeps
our troops there without any timetable, or if they'll agree to my sending
more U.S. soldiers there 'temporarily' to close down the insurgent forces
in Baghdad, then my ass is covered. If I go down, the Dems go down with
me, and we're a wash for 2008.
Again, you don't sound convinced or convincing.
Why should I be? We're painted into a corner here on Iraq, and on domestic
issues as well, with the victorious Democrats moving to dilute or
eliminate all our muscular attempts to win the War on Terror. They want to
repeal much of the Patriot Act, take away my right to decide who should be
tortured and eavesdropped on, which Americans should be arrested and sent
off to detention centers, which foreigners should be 'rendered' abroad for
harsh interrogations, when I should declare martial law, and so on. Those
are our most effective weapons in the War on Terror -- and, between you
and me, for tamping down dissent at home. "Watch what you say" -- I love
So, what will you do?
THE BARE-KNUCKLES OPTION
I've got Karl and my other advisers working on that as we speak. Right
now, given what happened on Election Day, we're making nicey-nicey, but
eventually the gloves will come off and it'll be bare-knuckles time again.
I can't let the Democrats pass anything meaningful. I can give them the
minimum-wage hike, as long as they stay away from repealing the tax cuts
to our friends, that sort of thing. Iraq will have to be a special case,
as that was going to be my legacy, using Iraq as a pivot-for-victory in
the Middle East. I won't give that one up easily.
Sounds to me like you have a lot of internal struggling to do, and that
you're at least considering doing it so you can earn your place in history
as a great president who made a difference. I've always believed that you
can do it.
You don't have to butter me up; I'm not really going to send you to Gitmo.
Actually, I like it better when you challenge me, even when you make me
If that's really what you feel, then I will encourage you to save your
reputation by putting the country ahead of your worries about being a
"loser." There's no way you can lose if the people win and if they feel
that you helped them get there.
I'm not promising anything. Only that I'll take a good, hard look at the
situation, and see where I can compromise and where I can't and won't.
Even if it means impeachment, I've got to stay true to my core principles
with regard to Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, and our tax cuts. At
least as much as I'm able to.
Copyright 2006 by Berrnard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, a poet and playwright and Ph.D. in government &
international relations, has taught at universities in Washington and
California, worked as a writer-editor for the San Francisco Chronicle for
19 years, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
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