GEORGE W. BUSH Born in New Haven, Connecticut; distantly related to British monarchy; cheerleader and frontman at various times for: Andover (stickball commissioner), Yale (president of the Dekes), Arbusto and Harken Energy, Texas Rangers, Texas governorship, and 43rd U.S. presidency.
DR. SANDRA FLECKSNIPE Understatedly attractive blond, fifty-nine (looks at least fifteen years younger); Smith College, Johns Hopkins M.D. and Ph.D. (psychiatry); never married; half-Jewish (according to rumor); has been counseling George W. Bush since May, 1968.
12:00 p.m., Friday, September 27, 2002
Dr. Flecksnipe’s Upper East Side office
GWB: I’ve won the war already! Can you believe my power? I rule the whole world, and there ain’t a damn thing anyone can do about it. I kick ass!
SF: What do you mean? Congress hasn’t even authorized the war in Iraq yet. There’s not even a U.N. Resolution.
GWB: What? That war? No, no. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the real war. Did you hear about Hitchens quitting The Nation?
SF: Of course, I read the Times. But what does that have to do with anything? That was just an editorial spat, wasn’t it? He’ll still write for Vanity Fair and the Atlantic Monthly.
GWB: Oh God, you don’t get it! I’m so fuckin’ euphoric! Huh! No one left to write to. People think this sort of stuff is below my radar, that I don’t care for these pseudo-intellectual debates. Wrong! It’s how I know I’m winning the war, keeping the peace. Rove showed me his last column, but I read it myself–it’s only a couple of pages. Minority Report, he called his column. That’s right, Minority Report is what it’s always been, but this sucker’s gonna be one hell of a Majority Reporter now. He’s focused like a laser beam on me, the one-person Majority.
SF: What does he say that has you so–enthused?
GWB: Enthused! Good word. Good, positive construction. Like “empowered.” You know, the other night on Fox TV I was watchin’ my nephew Pierce–Neil’s hyperactive, ADD kid–looks just like me, I tell ya. We Bushes have the same unmistakable face stamp, coming down from grandma Dottie. Neil, you know, he was the dyslexic one. I mean, everyone knows it. That was official, and there’s no denying it. But this kid now, Pierce, I bet he does great things in politics one day. Won’t take Ritalin, won’t listen to counselors, therapists, disses the whole “confessional movement,” as my little brother Jeb calls it. Pierce–how old is he anyway, I keep forgettin’? looks eight but he’s gotta be at least fourteen–he just wants to quit Ritalin one day, cold turkey, never take a pill. That’s what it takes. Determination. Taking personal responsibility. Maybe the Reverend Billy Graham has a youth brigade for just these types of cases, that I don’t know nothin’ about. George P., Pierce, is there an end to the dynasty? I got the Hispanic thing taken care of. Good thing my little brother Jeb married the Mexican, sure looks like a good move now. I used to say, when they asked me in Texas, a dynasty is something that is not earned. Have we Bushes not earned everything we’ve got? We’re giving back to the nation, giving it what it needs to straighten itself out, what the Bushes and Walkers have always done. Do you know grandma Dottie’s the only one I’ve never given a nickname? Dammit, we’re straightening out the nation, making it cough up all the vile stuff it’s taken into its system. Talk to Horowitz and Magnet, they’ll tell ya. The whole country’s gonna be like Texas, not California. From now on the nation’s goin’ jogging three miles a day–heck, six miles if this were a dictatorship. A strong, healthy, dieting, exercising nation, that never touches alcohol, drugs, tobacco . . .
SF: (Controlling exasperation.) You were going to say about Hitchens?
GWB: Oh, that motherfucker, yes. Oops, excuse my West Texas slang. They used to make fun of me, Is Our Children Learning?, was the name of the book Begala wrote, chimp-face. It’s funny what Chris Kattan does to him on Saturday Night Live. Apes, liberals, they’re all prehistoric apes, lower on the evolutionary scale than–rats, armadillos, bugs, crawfish! Fuckers, they’re all dead anyway. Daschle, Gephardt, they’re all too scared to take me on. They fucking want me to make the case for why I want to take over the fucking world, take over those oil fields. They never said I couldn’t do it! My ideas rule! They’re not saying I can’t blow a nuclear bunker buster up Saddam’s ass. They’re only pissed because I said they’re not as bad-assed as I am. They’re only screaming they’ve got bigger dicks than I have, but I’ve got the biggest, baddest dick of them all. Hitchens, what a whore. Eldridge Cleaver’s making my case for me. I’ve got their asses whupped. The German Justice Minister, I kicked her ass. Poisoning our relations, calling me Hitler. I’ll show you Hitler, rhymes with bitch, if you know what I mean. Let’s see the Germans get contracts in Iraq after I’m done. I’ve got ’em World Bank protestors all scared, under control. I’ll pepper spray their slimy asses in jail, if they keep this up. And Blair, he’s my super bitch!
SF: So let’s hear it about Hitchens.
GWB: (With a glassy look in his eyes.) Here, let me pull out a copy of his article. “Taking Sides,” he calls it. Yep, Hitchens is taking sides with me. I love it. He says it’s “seventy percent” likely that Atta met with Iraqi spies in Prague. Seventy percent is not tolerable, he says. There are “suggestive links” between Iraqis in Kurdistan and al-Qaeda, enough for us to go to war. Saddam Hussein “is not a fundamentalist” but he was happy at the attacks. Enough for us to go to war. He says we have to fight, because the fundamentalists are exporting their revolution to us. I bet he’s expecting us to export democracy to all the countries of the Middle East. When I go after Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, I expect his sweet British ass to fall right in line! He’s leaving The Nation because the goddamn commies there believe Ashcroft is a greater danger than bin Laden. Hitchens, soul of the sixties, prince of the heaviness that’s haunted this country since the Beatles went weirdly psychedelic–I’ve got nothin’ to worry about.
SF: You sound quite relieved.
GWB: (Suddenly deflated, in a slumping posture.) Yeah, I guess.
SF: What, what’s wrong?
GWB: I don’t know. Maybe this excitement is just a diversion. Nothing really seems to satisfy me. I thought the presidency would give meaning to my life. But I can’t even get Laura to give me a hug anymore. She won’t call me Bushie.
SF: You sound depressed.
GWB: (Sighs, sinks deeper into his chair.) Tell me about it. It’s at moments like this that I yearn for a Jack Daniels–but I promised Laura, I’d never touch a drop again. On my fortieth birthday, I did, and it was sixteen years ago now, on that trip to Colorado Springs. It was her or booze, and I made the second-best decision of my life. The best was to marry her. I married up, you know. I married a librarian.
SF: You haven’t talked about Cathy in a while.
GWB: Oh yeah, I’ve forgotten all about her. I mean, I think of her once in a while. You’d think she’d call me after I won the governorship, after the presidency, for God’s sake. But I don’t think about her. Nope. Too smart, in a show-offy kind of way, you know?
SF: You’re sure you don’t want to go on any medications? A little mood-stabilizer couldn’t . . .
GWB: Absolutely not. (Pauses.) That Noelle, though, what’s up with her? I can understand if you’re under the radar, nobody’s lookin’ at you, to do shit like that. But once the whole country’s eyes are on you?
SF: Are you having problems with–you know–Laura?
GWB: I told you already. I can’t even get a hug. What more’s there to say? I don’t want to talk about it. I’m sure it’s temporary. Must have to do with the trauma of September 11, you know. I can’t figure out why she watches the 9/11 intelligence hearings so obsessively. Like I knew somethin’ and didn’t do anything about it! I have to tell you something though. (Lapses into silence.)
SF: (Prodding.) What?
GWB: This movie, Coldblooded, with Luke Priestley or Jason Perry, one of those Beverly Hills 90210 guys with straight eyebrows and flat foreheads, I watch it all the time. Sweet guy turns hitman, kills people like a pro, never used a gun in his life before, but doesn’t sweat a bit. I love that movie. I laugh so hard. Oh, speakin’ of movies, isn’t it great, this brouhaha over Barbershop? I haven’t seen it yet, what with reading–drafting the national security strategy document and all, but man, it’s just the thing to keep Jesse and Sharpton busy. What’s wrong with sayin’ MLK was a whore, if he was? Why can’t black people say it? And Rosa Parks, did I invite her to one of those State of the Union addresses, or was it Clinton? Anyway, it don’t matter. Great diversion. And sets the right precedent. Ten years from now, they’ll never be able to make fun of me in movies. (Pauses.) Oh, who am I kidding? This is not working at all. This is not working.
SF: What’s not working?
GWB: This whole act, this shit. I act all pumped-up and hyper, like I’m climbin’ the walls, when I ain’t got nothin’ to be proud of. Am I really running the country? Or am I just taking orders? I feel like I’m running the country. They bring me these options, these choice menus–Condi and Rummy and Peptalk Cheney–and I don’t know that one option sounds all that different from another. It’s times like these that test great men’s souls. Not that I’m claiming to be great or anything. Grandma Dottie wouldn’t have any of it–braggadello–bordocello–whatever. I just do what they tell me. Even the books I’m supposed to be readin’, like Eliot Cohen’s Supreme Command, to show that generals don’t fight wars as well as civilian dictators–I mean presidents, Milkman Rove hands ’em to me. Besides, Laura won’t read to me now, so how could I read Cohen? I mean, it’s not that I don’t read. I do, I really do. I just like things to be precise.
SF: Do you think our sessions help you?
GWB: Heck, yeah. I mean, these last thirty-four years have been great. I’d never have made it past Andover, with all the ribbing I got in Houston for being a cheerleader. And Yale, Reverend Coffin’s Coffin, what pretense, what guilt, like we owe somebody something, all the privilege, just because we’ve got the privilege and the they that don’t have the privilege need to be handed something we’ve busted our asses for generations to earn. Do you know what Reverend William Sloane Coffin said when my Dad lost his Senate race against that pansy Yarborough?
SF: (Looking resigned and tired.) Yes, what did he say?
GWB: Oh, forget it. We both know this is just one of those tapes I have to keep playing to make us both think that my problems are under control. Psychoanalyzable. You know, the father-mother, Electric Oedipal, Silver Fox and Poppy Bush, over-achieving family, competitive with father, burden of legacy kind of thing. I don’t think about Coffin or Cathy or Robin or none of them folks.
SF: What do you think is the nature of your problems then?
GWB: You’re asking me? You’re the therapist. The one I’m not supposed to be seeing, because I’ve got this thing about psychobabble, looking into the soul, we Bushes hating to think about ourselves and shit.
SF: Ultimately, you’re the one who . . .
GWB: (Cuts her off.) Why was I elected? I mean, I know I really wasn’t, but still–fifty million people voted for me. What do they really know about me? They think I’m some dyslexic moron who’s memorized nothing more than Willie Mays’s batting averages in my life. They think I’m some happy-go-lucky frat guy who gives nicknames to everyone. That’s why they voted for me? What should I be calling Condi? I don’t even know, I don’t know where to begin. Cheerful Chernobyl? Nah, that’s stupid. Piano Woman! Too obvious. You have any idea how hard it is to come up with nicknames that aren’t snobbish or intellectual or in-your-face? What the hell do I call Cheney? Batman? Zorro? Morpheus? I don’t think I’ve nicknamed anybody since becoming president. What kind of a country is it anyway where a guy like me can become president? (Pauses.) You know, I’ve never seen anyone die. I mean, on TV I have. Lots of people died in Black Hawk Down. That movie made me want to throw up. But I ate pretzels afterwards.
SF: You’re worried about people dying in war?
GWB: (Nonchalantly, and sitting up straight in his chair.) Nah! I’m not. You know, I don’t do enough to humanize myself in front of you. Or maybe I go overboard. They think, out there in California and New York, I don’t know the meaning of the word irony. These are the same folks who take Alanis Morrisette seriously. My Dad never knew the meaning of irony. Eating pork rinds and jumping out of airplanes at seventy-five. Neither did grandpa Prescott. Ken Starr–now that’s a man of irony. And Newt Gingrich. And Reagan, before he got shot. I know what irony means.
SF: So you’ve been sleeping well lately?
GWB: I worry–I worry about the country. About what a great responsibility is on my shoulders not to let this moment of opportunity pass by. This is our moment. You know, the country had become slothful, heavy, obese. With feelings of sin and guilt that we don’t deserve to have. I have my personal savior, so that sort of stuff doesn’t bother me anymore. But is Jerry Springer going to save anyone? I don’t think anymore that only Christians can go to heaven. I sorted that out with the Reverend Billy Graham. Okay, the Silver Fox made me do it. I have great Jewish friends. Some of my best advisers are Jewish. Wolfowitz is a Jew. So is Ari, Leon Trotsky, Fleischer. Are these people all goin’ to hell? Heck, they say Cathy was half Jew. Not that that had anything to do with breaking up the engagement. I’m lucky to have married Laura. You know, since I became president, my whole past life–followin’ Poppy to Andover and Yale, lookin’ for oil in Midland, runnin’ for Congress, suckin’ up to Bob Bullock in Austin, all of that seems like a dream, like it happened to someone else. No, I don’t lose any sleep at night. I go right to bed. And even if there is a Black Hawk Down type of situation in Baghdad–and I hope to God there isn’t, because our country needs the young men and women who serve the nation in uniform, and we have raised military morale so much higher than it was in the Clinton years, when all we had was talk of blowjobs and ass-rimming on prime-time TV, instead of new kinds of war that’ll last longer than our lives, and everybody needs to be loved like somebody would like to be loved themselves–but I’m the leader of the civilized world, I can’t let myself–no I can’t. Plus, there won’t be any documents available for those guilty, heavy, heavy historians, pseudo-scholars–and they cheat anyway, you know about Doris Kennedy Goodwin and Stephen MacArthur Ambrose, they all crib and steal–no records for them to look deep into my soul, to do their psychobabble, once I’m gone from the White House. No, all records are going to be sealed. For fifty years. A hundred. I’m takin’ it all with me to Crawford.
SF: Has our talk today helped at all?
GWB: (Sounding really down.) No. Not really. I feel terrible. I feel like the world is coming to an end. Armageddon. Apocalypse. The human race, and cry for me. Whatever.
SF: Maybe we should end for today–but I hate to leave you feeling so glum.
GWB: (Springing to his feet.) I’m fine! I just love my job. That’s what’s been so great ever since 9/11, since the mission of my presidency was clarified, since the purpose of my life to lead this nation into–into what? I don’t know what the fuck I’m saying. But have I feisted out once since I became president? All right, that David Gregory thing in Paris. But the guy takes two semesters of French, and acts all high-falutin’ and Continental. I had to yell at him. But I ain’t taking drugs, no way in hell. If little Pierce can do it, hell I can.
SF: As you wish. You can always call me.
GWB: (Smirking.) I just might. (Muttering under his breath.) See ya next week–Wolfman.
ANIS SHIVANI studied economics at Harvard, and is the author of two novels, The Age of Critics and Memoirs of a Terrorist. He welcomes comments at: Anis_Shivani_ab92@post.harvard.edu