With only days left in office for the 43rd president of the United States of America, George W. Bush, I decided, on a lark — or a duck, if you will — to Skype the soon to be ex-commander in chief to find out what preoccupies his thoughts as he bids us a solemn farewell. I want to share this very exclusive interview with you, dear readers, so that you will be able to evaluate what President Bush himself calls “the long and short of history, with emphasis on the latter.”
But before I do, I think it only proper that I expose my own biases, so that you will be able to objectively judge my conversation with this unique president. As I have mentioned in these pages before, I was once a citizen of the United States of America, having had what can only be called the divine privilege of being born within its borders. I forfeited that citizenship — oh yes! — in 1976 . . . because, oh Lord, I had a dream! Yes, I dreamed that in that very same year a certain George W. Bush, graduate of Yale University, would be arrested for driving under the influence (of what, it has never been revealed), fined and have his license suspended for two years. And I knew at that moment, dear readers, that I could no longer be a citizen of a country that would so cruelly punish a man who was one day destined, by dint of derivation and devious dealings (now you can see why some of us are journalists and others are mere alliterators), to be president.
That is where the dream turned into a nightmare.
So, from my very modest tatami-mat home in Ikegami, Tokyo, I punched in the secret online telephone number for the man whose White House days were severely numbered . . . and, in a flash, I was talking with the president himself.
R.P.: Hello. Hello? Is that the president?
GWB: Well, who do you think it is, David Axelrod? (Laughter) Yup. It’s me, all right, the lonesome cowboy.
R.P.: Oh, Mr. President, don’t deprecate yourself. You have several days to go.
GWB: Nope, that’s where you’re mistaken, my friend. Hey, can I call you “my friend”? What’s-his-name called everybody that.
R.P.: What’s-his-name? Who do you mean?
GWB: Heck, you know. That guy who ran with Sarah Palin.
R.P.: You mean, Sen. John McCain?
GWB: Yeah, that one! Anyway, I got a revelation to tell you. This is gonna be one helluva scoop for you.
R.P.: Oh, thank you, sir. I really need a scoop right now. My dog’s just been on a walk.
GWB: Very funny. Anyway, I’m not gonna be president on the last day of my tenure.
R.P.: What do you mean?
GWB: Well, come the 19th of January, I am going to resign the presidency. As a matter of natural selection, Vice President Dick Cheney will become president. He always wanted to be.
R.P.: Oh my God.
GWB: Exactly. And, as president, he will issue a presidential pardon for me and say 10 Hail Halliburtons for our country. This means that I will be immune from persecution in the future, and our country will be forever blameless.
R.P.: Don’t you mean “prosecution”?
GWB: Isn’t it the same thing?
R.P.: Well, maybe. But, Mr. President . . . Uh, can I still call you that?
GWB: Call me what you like.
R.P.: Well, not in print. So, what about the 2 million people who were sacked from their jobs in 2008? Do you think this was a result of policies pursued by your administration?
GWB: Heck, no. I mean, shucks, those job losses were a result of policies pursued by William Jennings Bryan.
R.P.: But he died in 1925. Besides, he was never elected.
GWB: See? There you go assuming that only elected officials make policy. Look, it’s been happenin’ for a long time before we got into office. Forces do it, all sorts of forces. Besides, OK, so they lost their jobs. But please note that not one of them was a multimillionaire.
R.P.: Yet it was under your watch that this happened, and Barack Obama has said that he will . . .
GWB: Hey, hold your horses, OK? There is only one president-elect at a time. I won’t be held responsible for statements made by Mr. Obama.
R.P.: But, sir, the failed war in Afghanistan, the illegal war in Iraq, the total abandonment of civil rights, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Hurricane Katrina, the economic crises, I mean, the list just goes . . .
GWB: Whaddya tryin’ to say, huh? You’re not blaming me for acts of God, are you?
R.P.: Well, maybe not the hurricane, but . . .
GWB: All of the things you mentioned were acts of God, my friend. And there is a reason for these things coming to pass. There’s stuff we know happens and stuff we know we don’t know that happens. It is not for us to question them or to apply alleged rules of logic to them. Reality is not what you make of it, but what you are presented with. And, on this, my last day on high, I just wanna say, my motto today is the same as it was on the very first day I became president eight years ago: If the shoe fits, catch it.
R.P.: An admirable motto.
GWB: Glad you approve.
R.P.: But, may I ask one last question, sir?
R.P.: What if President Cheney tomorrow refuses to pardon you of all of the crimes that you may have, if I may say, unwittingly committed as president?
GWB: Not worried about that in the least. I have a waterboard-tight defense.
R.P.: What will be your defense in that case?
GWB: My defense? The best defense ever spoken by a man in power. Of course I’m not guilty.
R.P.: But what defense is that?
GWB: My defense? I was just following orders.
At that point, the Skype connection started to break up, and I suspected that some sort of interference was the cause of it.
R.P.: Mr. President? Mr. President?!
I screamed at my computer screen, but it did no good. I wanted desperately to know whose orders Pres. Bush had been following all these years, but, alas, the line went dead.
I fear, dear readers, that we may now never find out who was pulling the president’s strings. Maybe when President Obama takes office, he will tell us where those strings lead. If not, then the sole change we can believe in will be a form of “change” from the old television crime show “Dragnet”: Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.