Bush Rehearses for the Debates:
The Mysterious Transcript
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
September 27, 2004
Nobody knows how the young girl, wearing a Victorian dress, mysteriously got
backstage at George W. Bush's practice session for the first presidential
debate. Perhaps she's the one who planted the bottles of Evian water, the
ones with "EM KNIRD" written in reverse letters at the bottom.
In any event, Bush and his assistants -- those playing moderator Jim Lehrer
and the journalists who would pose the questions -- apparently all drank
from the bottles, and behaved most irregularly. Here is a transcript of that
Wonderland-like session, which we found in our mailbox the next day, with a
note signed "Alice."
Rove: OK, let's get the show on the road. Don't know about you, but
I'm feeling a bit... peculiar. One minute, I feel like I'm an unconquerable
giant, and then shortly after that, I feel beaten down like I'm tiny. Sort
of like running a campaign. But, whatever, it's pleasant. Mr. President, are
you ready to go?
Bush: Let's do it. I'm feeling a bit strange myself -- but in a fun,
exciting way. Can't wait to hear what "John Kerry" is going to say.
Actually, I can't wait to hear what I'm going to say.
Rove: We're mainly going to be working on your answers, Mr. President.
Somebody will stand in for Kerry, and just blah-blah when it's his turn.
Blah-blah -- that's good, sort of what he sounds like when he's speechifying
all the time. Borrr-iing! So French, you know? But you'll
do great, Mr. Prez. We'll throw questions at you, so you can get used to
responding quickly. Just let 'er rip and enjoy; we'll tape the rehearsal and
use it as a guide later. Break an arm, kid!
"Moderator:" I'm just going to have some fun with this, Karl. Feeling'
Good evening. Welcome to the Presidential Debates. I am Jim Lehrer, and I'll
be your moderator. This evening, the two major candidates will face off for
the first time. Tonight's topic is foreign policy. You may wonder why other
legitimate candidates are not present. The answer is simple Mr. Bush
and Mr. Kerry said they would not appear if other candidates were invited.
And, since the Commission on Presidential Debates is run by the two major
parties, that's just the way it is. Negotiators for the Democrats and
Republicans approved the format for the debates, and chose the journalists
who will ask the puffball questions the candidates have prepared for.
Before we get to those questions, each candidate will give an opening
statement. By a flip of the coin -- or was it a flop?, sorry I couldn't
resist -- Mr. Bush will go first.
Bush: Whooo-eeeeee! Thank you, TexasMan -- I mean, Mr. Lehrer. Are you
Jewish, by the way? The name, I mean, kinda makes you wonder. Anyhoo, glad
to be here to try to defend myself from all the harsh things -- many of them
containing nuggets of truth, by the way -- said by my opponent here over the
past several months.
Johnboy seems to think I'm incompetent and probably stupid. Cop some to the
first, but not the last one. I may be dumb as a woodpost, but I didn't
get to be President by being stupid. I got here by hard work, street smarts,
familial connections, some really effective dirty tricks, and a firm belief
in the American people. I know the American people -- I'm an American-type
person myself -- and I know how eager they are to hear anything that makes
them feel good inside, even if they know deep down it's just political
bullbleep. Can I say "bleep" on the air, Jim?
They know, for example, that Iraq is one big stinkin' pile of manure. I
guess if I can say "bleep," I can use the M-word, right? We got ourselves
caught in a huge rathole over there in Iraq, and I haven't the foggiest idea
how to get us out before we've accomplished our mission there, which is real
complicated, involving oil and military bases and changing the geopolitics
of the Middle East and stuff like that. But none of that matters. All
I have to do is to say how "we'll stay the course" and "America doesn't cut
and run" and slogans like that, and our citizens, totally wanting to forget
that 54,000 of our boys died in Vietnam, just nod and say they like me,
'cause I am "decisive" and "strong" and "speak my mind" and other silly
things like that.
So, my fellow Americans, I continue to say tonight that, yes, our
Administration made a big mess in Iraq -- getting our soldiers killed daily
by rushing into war without many willing allies to do the job and without a
plan for what happened after our quick invasion victory and without an exit
strategy and without the proper equipment -- but Johnboy here doesn't have a
way out either. So stick with them that brought you to the dance. That's me.
I know what I'm doing -- making sure you're scared as hell about those
terrorists comin' over here to kill your children -- and I'll keep doin' it,
until the next election, when Jeb or that musclebound guy from California --
whose name I won't say because every time I try, it sounds like I've said
the N-word -- take over.
I see the orange light comin' on, so I'll just close by saying vote for me.
I know what I'm doing, what God wants me to do -- or at least what I think
God might want me to do, I haven't got a clue what God really believes --
and I will continue to be a strong leader. Well, OK, Karl Rove and Dick
Cheney will be strong leaders, and I'll be like the king who makes
appearances to make people feel good. Whoops! Red light now. Whoooo, a Tom
Ridge moment. Anyway, talk to you later, after Johnboy gives his little
SEN. KERRY'S TURN
"Lehrer:" Thank you, Mr. Bush. That certainly was a lively, little
romp. Mr. Kerry, you're on.
"Kerry:" Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Bush... Iraq... disaster...
phony intelligence... no WMD... bumbler... catastrophe... lies... no Osama
connection... torture... rosy picture... .Vietnam... .blah, blah, blah...
.way over his head... blah, blah, blah.
"Lehrer"You can respond to Senator Kerry's remarks, if you wish, Mr. Bush.
Bush: I resent the implication that my head is way over in this job.
And, OK, maybe I didn't go to Vietnam, but I did serve in Iraq a painted
turkey to the troops on Thanksgiving; great photo op. And, even though
things are not what we'd like in that country -- well, OK, we're barely able
to hold it together -- the elections are coming and I think democracy will
win out. I mean, over there. Finally, let me remind everyone that Johnboy
voted for the war, so he's to blame too.
"Lehrer:" Mr. Kerry? A response?
"Kerry:" Blah, blah, blah, blah. Phony intelligence... lies...
authorization... final resort... first resort... body armor... cuts family
benefits... no postwar plan... Fallujah... flip-flop...
commander-in-chief... blah, blah, blah.
"Lehrer"" Mr. Bush, I think Senator Kerry just accused you of
flip-flopping. How's that for turning the tables? Your response, sir?
Bush: I have never flipped a flop in my life. I am resolute. I am
decisive. I make a decision and stick to it. And I've never flopped a flip,
either. I love saying that.
You, Monsieur Kerry, are notorious for flip-flopping, constantly changing
your mind. It's almost like you're windsurfing, first you go that way and
then you go the other way. The American people deserve to know where you
stand -- or rather where you fall in the water since you're moving around so
much on your board. You like that one, Karl? And the flipping-flopping one?
Those were good, right?
Rove: Mr. President, they were dandy. But let's stay on track here.
We're pretending here that this is for real. Why am I laughing, then?
Bush: Got ya. OK, feed me another question. Which reminds me, I'm
getting the munchies. Can someone send out for some ribs and chips and a Dos
XX? Ha, ha, fellas.
"Lehrer:" Let's go to one of our tame little journalists. Who's got
the first question?
"Journalist" #1: That's me, boss. Here comes the inevitable question.
Mr. President, your opponent and his surrogates allege that you did not
fulfill your National Guard commitment during the Vietnam era, when you were
supposed to be in Alabama. How do you respond to that charge?
Bush: I am proud to have served in the National Guard, wherever I was.
I received an honorable discharge -- I also had a not-so-pleasant discharge
that I had to have a doctor look at, but that's another matter -- which
takes care of that unpatriotic question. You can't be discharged honorably
from the armed farces -- did I really just say that? -- I mean armed forces
unless you fulfilled all your duties. I got, or somebody got for me, my
honorable discharge. End of story. Those who say otherwise can't prove
anything. If there were any incriminating documents, they disappeared
"Journalist" #1: A followup on that. What about your not taking the
flight physical, which you were ordered to do on base with the military
doctor, and then being dropped from flying? Sorry, sir, but you've got to
deal with this one, as it may well come up during the debates.
Bush: I understand... I was rushing around like crazy at that time,
and thought my own doctor could do it or maybe I'd take the physical
somewhere else, in Alabama, where I wouldn't have to run the whole battery
of tests, if you get my drift. I did take a partial exam in Alabama. Of
course, it was just of my teeth, but it shows my good-faith attempt. As for
why I stopped flying, I was little more than a student then, and the air
fares were way too high. But, seriously, folks, I received an honorable
discharge, which answers that.
"Kerry:" I'd like to respond. Blah, blah, blah, blah. Coward...
Vietnam... swiftboat... my medals... Texas Guard... doesn't make sense...
Alabama AWOL... blah, blah, blah... didn't answer question... ..blah, blah,
ANY MISTAKES MADE?
"Journalist" #2: I guess I'm next up. Mr. President, more than 1000
American young men and women have died in Iraq, with estimates of U.S.
soldiers injured running from 4000 to 17,000; you've constantly changed the
rationale for why you felt it necessary to invade. Do you feel you've made
any mistakes in the way you've conducted the war?
Bush: Everything went so swimmingly, we didn't expect victory to be so
easy. So we slightly miscalculated in the post-war phase. Yes, there are
just a few wascally wabbits out there fighting us, but we'll soon wipe them
out, and establish Iraq as a shining beacon for liberty and democracy.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it, at least through November 2.
"Kerry:" Blah, blah, blah, blah... Mission Accomplished...
mortar attacks... roadside explosions... RPGs... no body armor... blah,
blah, blah, blah... oil pipelines... no electricity... disaster... $200
billion... Halliburton... blah, blah, blah, blah.
"Journalist: #3: I guess it's my turn. Mr. President, Secretary
Rumsfeld said the Iraq election would be legal if not every registered
citizen voted, that some parts of the country were simply too risky to hold
elections in. Do you believe the Iraqi people will accept the results of
such a partial election as a legitimate form of democracy?
Bush: Why wouldn't they? We do it here, don't we? But seriously,
folks. Look, the only election I really care about is the one on
November 2. If the Iraqi election isn't held in January, or only partially
held, that's a problem for another day. All I need to do now is to
constantly assert that there really is going to be an election in Iraq soon,
shortly after ours, and that things are moving quickly in the direction of
democracy. The American voters want to believe what I'm saying and they'll
be happy. What happens after I win will be handled appropriately. Or not.
But there won't be anything they can do about it then. Na nee, na nee!
"Kerry:" Blah, blah, blah, blah... Allawi... rosy picture... sucking
up... leave out Sunnis... civil war... corruption... Vietnam governments...
.blah, blah, blah, blah.
"Journalist" #1: Mr. President, White House and Justice attorneys have
authored memoranda that give you authority as Commander in Chief to do
anything you want in the name of national security during wartime, including
torture of prisoners -- and would declare a partial election in the United
States legal as well. Did you know of these memoranda and do you think the
Supreme Court will OK this rather broad interpretation of presidential
Bush: Of course the Court will approve the action we took. It's
wartime in terror land. And, anyway, it looks like I'll be appointing at
least two or three new justices in the next several years. They better agree
to approve those memos or I won't nominate them.
I'm gonna name me a conservative black Jewish woman to that court -- let
Teddy deal with that one! Goodbye, Roe! Oh, it's going to be such fun to
watch the liberals squirm when I start making those appointments. We'll play
it the usual way, won't we, Karl? We'll nominate some terrible extremist
bigots, the liberals will object loudly, and then we'll name someone a
little less objectionable and they'll sigh and ratify those. I love that
"Lehrer:" One final question on foreign policy, Mr. President.
"Journalist" #2: Your opponent and his followers have said that if you
win another term, you'll re-institute the military draft, given that there
may have to be other wars fought. If there are such war plans in the works,
will it be necessary to re-start the draft?
Bush: You got a better idea? We've got to get the bodies from
somewhere. Lots aren't re-upping, you know, or are going AWOL -- whoops,
better stay away from that word -- or are not signing up for the National
Guard. Whoops! Besides the draft is more fairer all the way around.
Everybody gets a chance to die and kill equally.
Rove: That's a great start, Mr. President. Don't understand why, but I
was giggling the whole time. That's probably enough for tonight. We'll...
uh... "refine" your serious answers for the next rehearsal. That's a wrap,
everyone. See you jokers tomorrow. Anybody want to go out for some pizza?
Hey, someone order more of that Evian water for the Green Room!
Copyright 2004 by Bernard Weiner