time we met, sir, you had me thrown out of the White House, thinking
me too aggressive with my questions. Now you're back for another session.
"It's worse. My world is falling apart. People aren't afraid of me
anymore. The whole Plame and Iraq-intelligence and NSA spying stuff is
coming at us full force, and we haven't got good answers. I can't sleep
well. I have more nightmares. Not even the pills help. My wife, my doctors
and my chief adviser more or less ordered me see you again. Otherwise, I
wouldn't have come, believe me."
"I do believe you. Many clients in the early stages of counseling get
very uncomfortable when the therapist brings up sensitive topics. It's not
unusual for them to lash out at the therapist rather than doing the hard
work of diving into that uncomfortable area and trying to deal with those
"I don't believe in therapy, doc."
"Do you mean you don't believe it exists? Or that it doesn't work, at
least that it wouldn't help you?"
"I've gotten to where I am today on the basis of my will and belief in
myself, and I see no reason to question myself now."
"But you seem to be suggesting that you've lost your hold over people
after years of doing what you're always done. So maybe it's the perfect
time to re-examine your patterns and your behaviors and see if any changes
need to be made. I'm happy to work with you, if you wish to do that."
"But if I start doubting myself, then the people will lose their faith in
me, and I'll lose more of my self-esteem, and so on. It's a no-win
situation. I want you to just move on to other areas, doc. But I want to
make sure again that our confidentiality agreement is still in place;
nothing I say leaves this room, right?"
THE SWAMP NIGHTMARE
"Yes, of course. OK, we can move on to other topics, and perhaps as we
talk, some of the other areas that need work will insert themselves. Why
don't you tell me about those nightmares you're having. What's the most
"It reminds me of the one I told you about during our first session. In
this one, I'm stuck up to my neck in black tar, in a swamp red with blood.
Sharks are circling me. I scream for help to my friends in the airboats,
but they just smile and wave at me. Burros, whose noses are machine-guns,
are aiming at me from the bank; big sheets of paper are falling on me from
the sky. I feel like a perfect target: unable to get out of the tar; my
enemies can pick me off; my friends aren't coming to my aid; the paper
sheets are falling faster and faster; the black swamp is sucking me down.
I wake up in a cold sweat."
"I certainly can see why you'd be disturbed by those images. What do
you make of the dream? You began by saying it reminded you of the
nightmare you told me previously, where you were swimming in black sticky
stuff and crying tears of blood. Why do you think, for example, your
friends would not be coming to your aid?"
"In the dream, they think I'm going down anyway, so why come near me? They
might get shot also or get eaten by the sharks. So they smile and wave and
pretend they're still my friends. But they've really just deserted me to
save their asses."
"And can you translate that to your life in the real world? Do you
think your friends are deserting you?"
"My poll numbers are in the toilet, and I'm losing battle after battle in
Congress as conservatives and moderates peel off. I guess those are the
people in the dream smiling and waving at me. They're no longer in my
pocket, not afraid any more. They rode my coattails into power in
Congress, but having to face re-election in November, they're now happy to
put some distance between themselves and me, away from that mucky swamp."
ADMITTING WEAKNESS IS WEAKNESS
"Who's trying to shoot at you? What do you think the swamp means? And
who are the sharks and where do those dropping sheets of paper come from?"
"Burros are like donkeys, so no secret there; the Democrats are taking
pot-shots at me every day. And more and more elements in the press are
circling like sharks, smelling my political weakness, and dumping on me,
though we still have Fox and the cable-news shows and the radio talk-shows
that our base listens to. The swamp? Not a bad description of Washington,
D.C., if you ask me. And, like in the earlier dream, I guess the tar
probably is oil, and the blood is from the war in Iraq."
"You'd make a good therapist, sir; I think your interpretations are
spot-on. So let's extrapolate. If your current policies are losing you
support, bringing out the political and media 'sharks,' why not consider
altering your policies, perhaps moving closer to the center, so you can
get more of your programs passed?"
"For one thing, we can't be sure the people would vote for my policies
these days. Besides, I told you: That way says to the people, and
especially to my supporters: 'I was wrong, my policies were wrong.' That
makes me look weak. If a President appears weak, he loses his clout,
people are not afraid of him any longer, and thus he becomes even weaker."
"But the dream seems to be telling you that your behaviors and policies
have already weakened you. But let's put that political aspect aside for
now; the key question outside the dream is: What are you really afraid of,
deep down, that keeps you from making the necessary compromises
politicians must make?"
(Long silence.) "I'd be seen as what my parents and others have called me
all my life; I'd be a "loser," someone with no intelligence to get things
done effectively, just living off the reputations and assistance of
others. This office was going to change that for me. We were thinking big,
moving big in the world, and in the country; sure, people thought we were
cocky and arrogant, but it was more that we were absolutely sure we were
doing the right thing so why compromise with those who disagreed? God
chose me to save the country, to fight the Evil Ones, and to change the
world for the better, don't forget that."
SAVING THE LEGACY
"Yes, I do understand you feel that way. But I keep getting back to the
central question: Your way, the barrel-on-through approach, confronting
and threatening, seems to have alienated not only your enemies but many of
your friends as well. Unless you're willing to fight to the end, simply
continuing those behaviors that used to work for you in the past, then
you'll have to make adjustments to save yourself and your legacy. And, I
might add, to avoid impeachment."
"Yes, we may have to make a few tactical adjustments in these months
before the November election, so we can hold onto the House and thus stave
off any possible impeachment hearings there -- and maybe criminal charges
later. But my advisors and I are determined in the next two years to
continue to play hard-ball with our enemies and those who desert us.
That's the strategy that got us here, and kept our political enemies
totally flummoxed. We will stay the course in Iraq; we will continue to
roll back governmental regulation of corporations; we will rule from the
Unitary Executive position; we will monitor all communications, domestic
and foreign, and, if it comes to it, we'll force a constitutional crisis
and trust that our court appointees will rule in our favor."
"And if that doesn't work and you and the Vice President are impeached?
Would you resign rather than put yourself and the country through a trial
in the Senate?"
"I don't think it will come to that, but if it does, we'll take it to the
very end and let the chips fall where they may."
"May I speak freely here, sir?
"Of course. You're a rich psychiatrist who has been most generous to the
party; you're a Pioneer. Besides, you don't have an agenda, so it's easier
to listen to you."
"You used the word 'chips.' Many fellow Republicans might well respond
that you're not playing poker here, sir. Those 'chips,' they might say,
are the Constitution, and the GOP, and the people of this country, and
your wife and your girls and, and other nations, and your -- you're really
willing to take the country down with you, if it comes to that?"
SPREADING THE BLAME
"I said you could speak freely, but you're taking liberties, Mr. Shrink.
Watch what you say. Anyway, if we are taken down, it won't be my fault.
It'll be the partisan Democrats, getting revenge for what we did to
Clinton, and the weak-kneed in our own GOP ranks who couldn't take the
heat, and the Iraqis, who would do anything to get back at me for invading
them, and the people for electing me, and the neo-cons -- a number of them
are Jewish, by the way, which will come in very handy in assigning blame.
Our forces will take a hit, sure, but we'll reorganize our true-patriot
movement and go after those evil ones who 'lost Iraq' -- the cowardly
moderate Republicans, the slimy Democrats, the Iraqi terrorists, the Black
Caucus, the Islamists, the Jews, the liberal internet wackos -- and we'll
be back in a few years. And I'll be regarded as a saviour of our cause who
was done in by forces of Satan. I won't go off with my tail between my
legs, but brandishing a sword of vengeance and faith."
"Do you really believe all that?"
"No, of course not, at least not all of it. But it'll play out there in
the Red states, and I'm young enough, I'll be around to give it a focus."
"All this is very interesting. But let me, as your consulting
therapist, offer an alternative idea about your situation. It's just a
theory, so tell me if I've gone wrong here. It's possible that you are
indeed in a swamp, but it's not just oil but a moral quagmire that derives
from the blood you have to spill daily to maintain your control of those
resources, and, in a sense, even to keep control of yourself. In this
interpretation, that's why you're so agitated and depressed. There's no
implication that you're a bad man or a 'loser' in this regard; lots of
presidents, even the best ones, found themselves in that same area of
moral ambiguity when sending young men and women to die in wars."
"I don't like where you're going with this, doc. I'm warning you."
"Another way of looking at your situation, as one reason your poll
numbers have fallen so precipitously, is that the country senses that
you've been sucked down in that swamp not only by external enemies and
situations but by your own choices. In this view, you're a Faustian
character who exchanged his soul for power and control -- but it's not
just you who is suffering because of it. The country as a whole is feeling
the impact of your decisions, in a wide variety of areas, and realizes
that since you're incapable of or unwilling to alter the course of your
policies -- or even to acknowledge that you might have made some major
errors -- they have to move in a different direction.
"I know this interpretation might not be easy to hear, but I'm offering it
as a possibility, something you might want to think about. In my
professional opinion, you need to do something, quickly, sir, to ease the
internal pressures building up in you. I say all this both to help save
your presidency, since I still believe you're capable of greatness, and to
save you, since your psyche is too delicately balanced right now, and I
don't want to see you go over the edge into a total breakdown."
"You're just trying to tear me down, like the rest of them. I warned you.
I hope you enjoy your stay in Gitmo, fella. Guards! Take him away!" [They
start to exit.]
"I know this session may have been really painful for you, sir, but if
you change your mind once your anger subsides, you'll know where to find
"Shrinks! Meddling bastards! [picks up red phone] Rummy, shock-and-awe,
baby! It's Iran time."
Copyright 2006, by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, a playwright and poet, has authored
numerous ##fantasias, parodies and satires. (www.crisispapers.org/weinerpubs.htm) A Ph.D. in government & international relations, 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: >>