Monday, March 17, 2003
Green Beer, Midnight Bombings, and CNN Dept.
BY THE TIME anyone reads this, we may already have been treated to a press conference by our President announcing that the Day of Reckoning (inconveniently coinciding with St. Patrick's Day) for Iraq has come. In anticipation of the ultimatum and whatever the aftermath of this deadline, I flew to the White House to have a sit-down with the POTUS himself. We discussed the delicate situation wrought by Saddam's stubborn "thumb-in-the-eye" noncompliance in the face of an unprecedented [note to self: check this fact before you get too drunk] military buildup in the Middle East over a bowl of Cheetos and Red Bull and vodka cocktails.
"Mr. President, you realize that I am going to write that you joined me in several cocktails during our discussion, despite the fact that you've been sober for several years. I've got a date later this week with a hot fact-checker from Mother Jones and I want to make sure she's impressed by my depiction of you as a drunk, power-mad rageaholic."
"Do what you must. I've never been one to cock-block," said George. I was there for five minutes and already on a first-name basis with the most powerful man in the world this side of Kim Jong Il. He raised the cocktail to his lips and took a long swig, then chucked his glass against the wall. He's got a good arm. "Hope you score, Butch." In five minutes I'd also acquired one of his pet nicknames. Things were off to a magnificent start.
After I'd finished my drink, I produced my Risk game board, then asked him to show me how our first attack might unfold.
"George, I hope you realize that I'm going to write that you put all of your red Risk pieces in a circle surrounding Australia," I said. He nodded and carefully measured out the game pieces in a proportion of one token per ten thousand U.S. soldiers, placing them in a neat ring around the Australian continent. "I may also throw in something pithy about you being sick of that Russell Crowe or Crocodile Dundee."
"And I suppose you might say that I made whistling, 'bombs away' noises while dropping peanuts representing bombs all over Australia."
"I suppose I might. You want another pop?" I asked, pouring him another cocktail before he could respond. He took a long sip from his glass, then suddenly swept the game pieces off the board and onto the floor.
"So we're really going to do this, huh?" I asked.
He looked over at a Secret Service agent who'd been quietly standing by one of those hidden bookcase-doors. I could see the hinges between copies of what looked like the 1974 Encyclopedia Britannica, and wondered if The Button was behind that door, or if a Button really exists. I imagine that there's an apparatus inside a briefcase that involves the synchronized turning of keys to launch a tactical nuclear strike, but there's something romantic about unleashing havoc by smashing a drunken fist down on a big, red button. And something far more exciting about thinking that the man sitting across from me was one more White Lightning away from doing precisely that, showing those pussies from France, Germany, and Russia what American power is all about.
The agent began to pick up the game pieces from the carpet.
The President picked up the receiver of The Red Phone on his desk, mumbled and few words into it, then gently hung it up.
"Yeah, we're really going to do this."
"I'll probably say that you stopped to call Dick Cheney and ask him if we're going to invade, right after some digression about The Button and what pansies the Europeans are."
"Go for it. They are, you know."
"The Europeans are pussies. Even Blair. He's all worried about getting reelected now."
"I see." My glass was empty. There was nothing left in the large snack bowl but the orange residue of an army of Cheetos sent marching to their death down the President's gullet.
"I guess that covers it," I said, turning off my tape recorder.
The President, a man I'd called Georgie at least three times during our detente, snatched it away and threw it against the wall. It was quickly followed by the mostly-empty bottle of Grey Goose from which he'd been sipping.
"I hope you tap that ass from Mother Jones, Butch," he said, slapping me on the back as he showed me to the door.