Back In the USSA

Scene: The White House, last June. George W. Bush paces nervously around the Oval Office. He sits at his desk, sticks his finger contemplatively into a mechanical pencil sharpener, then, as he is about to turn the crank, thinks better of it. Instead, he folds his hands together, and looks heavenward.

GEORGE: Oh, Lord, my election campaign is about to heat up and I’m scared. As You know, Iraq and the economy don’t look good. Maybe my detractors are right—maybe I am just a drunken frat boy, driving our country into a ditch. Help me, O Lord –

[There is a blinding flash of red light, a trap door beside George’s desk opens, and a thick-set man with a large, dark mustache emerges from Below. He wears a trench coat and fedora, and speaks with a heavy Russian accent.]

JOE: Vy you ask Heem? Vy you not ask me?

GEORGE: Who—who are you?

JOE: Name will mean nothing to you, Comrade. I am Joseph Stalin, brutal dictator of great Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from 1929 until death in 1953.

GEORGE: Wow, yeah, you’re Boris! Boris Badanov from “Rocky and Bullwinkle”! I love your accent. You’re real funny, man. Hey, where’s Moose and Squirrel?

JOE: Unlike me, Moose and Squirrel not have debt to pay off to Fearless Leader, Satan—who send me to advise you on matters of state.

GEORGE: Hey wait. Aren’t you a pinko? Didn’t you force Russia, Eastern Europe and parts of Asia to become Communist?

JOE: [Shrugging.] Same like you force United States, Iraq and parts of Latin America to become democracies.

GEORGE: [Squinting his little eyes in concentration, he finally decides he gets it.] Well, OK, then. This won’t be the first time I’ve taken advice from a cartoon. Shoot.

JOE: I hear you have doubt. Doubt about self?

GEORGE: Yeah. This is gonna be one tough campaign. What if my opponent questions my ability to govern? Or diagrams one of my sentences? Then there’s the facts. Facts about Iraq, job loss, soldier loss, stem cell abortion. I don’t like facts, Boris. I don’t know any.

JOE: So? American public don’t like facts, either. Poll say, the less public know about Iraq, the more public like Iraq. * And the less president know about Iraq, the more public like president—NOT smart opponent with war record. I speet on opponent. Pah. [He spits into a corner of the room and a little flame pops up from the rug.]

GEORGE: Neat! I wish I could do that.

JOE: Don’t worry, comrade, you will. Just remember polls. People like folksy, Jed-Clampett exterior, forceful body language, and improved facial expressions—not knowledge, experience or ability to govern.

GEORGE: Hoo-wee, I’m a shoe-in! [Unnoticed by George, the fire has quietly begun to spread.]

JOE: Now we do exercise. I am insolent anti-Bush activeest. [Messes up hair, gives “Peace” sign.] Meester President. 9/11 Commission, Carnegie Endowment for Peace and CIA all say there no viable connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. None. How you answer these charges?

GEORGE: Uh. I stand there, forcing my personality and improving my facial forcefulness?

JOE: Nyet, comrade. You lie. Lie like Soviet rug. Lie about military budget, number of jobs created, health care, economic plan, success in spreading of ideology. Same thing work for me.

GEORGE: But won’t people catch on? [Flames move across carpet and up drapes.]

JOE: No matter. Because, from under Jed-Clampett exterior, you extract folksy thug connections. They intimidate black voters in South; lock up activeests for days at Republican Convention; install hackable voting computers; put out false information about opponent’s war record. Then, to get public mind off Iraq, frighten nation with evils of gay marriage.

GEORGE: Gay marriage… [Snapping fingers.] Hey! I think I’ll gay-bait my opponent, too! Call him “sensitive.” Imply he’s a latte-sipper who’s got a thing for his running “mate”—get it? Hey, thanks, Boris! This is gonna be fun! [The back of George’s chair catches fire.]

JOE: You know, comrade, I envy you. Years ago, we in Soviet Union believe—as you do now—in suppression of criticism, dissent, even scientifically proven facts. Only we use Siberia, mental asylums, purges. We make mistake of taking criticism seriously, calling opponents counterrevolutionaries, enemies of state. We should have laughed at them like you do, calling them latte-sippers. Your method friendlier. Cut down on gulag expenses. [Loosening his collar at the growing heat, Joe makes ready to leave.]

GEORGE: [Leaning back in chair.] That’s the American way, comrade. You got to be nice to the serfs. Poor little dudes. Keep working harder, longer, losing their homes and health and kids to this war, never complaining. [Pause.] Bunch of backward idiots…

JOE: [Opening trap door.] Not to worry, comrade. They starve to death in next economic plan.

GEORGE: Meanwhile, I better not catch ‘em storming the Winter Palace—I mean White House. I’ll send out the Cossacks—er—National Guard.

JOE: [Disappearing Below.] Remember to wait until after election, comrade.

GEORGE: Da. I mean, yeah. [Trap door closes, as George, oblivious, from his desk, looks presidentially through the flames, into the future.]

*Pew Research Center for People and the Press, June 17, 2004. “Americans are paying markedly less attention to the bloodshed in Iraq… At the same time, their opinions about the war have become more positive.”

We also publish: