The Great Pretender 

Lights, camera, action … Cut! … Mr. President, I don’t think you should wear the camouflage because you are not actually in Iraq with the soldiers.


Bush: Gee, when I was there on Thanksgiving with that fake turkey, I got to wear my commander-in-chief jacket, heh, heh, heh.


Director: I know, sir, and you looked very commanderish, but that was a carefully scripted and choreographed spontaneous surprise pop-in with you and the troops on a holiday. That plastic turkey didn’t go over too well when the media compared it to a rubber chicken. So while you go change into your presidential suit, I’ll go over the spontaneous questions and answers with the soldiers you are going to talk to.


Bush: OK, but if Karl Rove were here, I bet he would let me wear my army stuff. Remember, it was his idea for me to wear my Top Gun flight suit for my aircraft carrier landing and speech. That reminds me, don’t forget to have them hang the “Mission Accomplished” banner behind the troops. That really looked cool. By the way, where is Karl?


Director: Ah … he is a little tied up at the moment getting indicted by a grand jury.


Bush: Wow, that’s great, heh, heh, heh. That little Turd Blossom deserves every award he gets and getting inducted into a grand jury hall of fame is terrific.


Director: Mr. President, he is not … never mind, let’s just get you ready for this. You will be talking with 10 soldiers from the Army’s 42nd Infantry Division along with an Iraqi soldier and you will ask them about how things are going in preparation for the upcoming elections.


Bush: Well, OK, but don’t you think it is a little early to start pumping up the troops to vote Republican for the midterm elections next year?


Director: Ah … well, sir, you are right about the midterm elections being next year, but we are talking to the soldiers about the Iraqi election on the new constitution.


Bush: I knew that, heh, heh. I was just having a little fun with you.


The only thing more embarrassing than watching this spectacle with the networks capturing the satellite feed of Allison Barber, deputy assistant defense secretary, rehearsing this “spontaneous” event, was watching the White House piñata, Scott McClellan, try and spin his way out of the charade. McClellan said he didn’t think the soldiers were told what they could and couldn’t say: “The troops can ask the president whatever they want. They’ve always been free to do that.” McClellan didn’t mention that the president didn’t invite any questions from the soldiers.


This president and administration have staged and choreographed more performances than the road company of Cats. There was one event that wasn’t so carefully scripted back when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld'whose arrogance knows no bounds'tried to do a Q&A with the troops. That produced one of the most outrageous exchanges in press-conference history. After dancing and dodging and trying to charm and be clever with various questions from the assembled troops, one young soldier dared to ask Rummy why they went to war with outdated, aging equipment, no body armor and no armored Humvees? An irritated and cornered Rumsfeld uttered the most amazing answer: “You go to war with the army you have, not the one you wish you had.” The same response could apply to the intelligence used to go to war in the first place.


Tom Barberi is a talk-show host on 97.5 FM Talk and a freelance writer in Salt Lake City.

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