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By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
"I'm with my closest colleagues at the top of Mt. Everest. Below us on the snow, or maybe it's white sand, are thousands of bloody bodies. Suddenly, I see a line of approaching figures, armed with pitchforks and clubs, coming up the mountain. At first, I'm happy because they're carrying an American flag, but then I realize they're coming after me, led by a Toy Soldier wearing black. I turn around to figure out a counter-attack strategy with my key aides, but I'm all alone. I hear myself shout: 'A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!' And then I wake up, sitting bolt-upright in bed, trembling and covered in sweat."
"And that's the dream that brought you back here, Mr. President?"
"Well, that one and at my wife's and physician's insistence. They seem to feel I'm in bad shape and could use your help."
"And you? What do you feel?"
"Those times we talked before?** You made me really angry. You forced me to face certain ideas about myself that I didn't want to think about. But afterwards, I must admit, I did feel calmer."
"It wasn't me 'forcing' you to do anything, sir. You wanted to understand what was happening to you. And, in terms of dreamwork, you're actually quite good at figuring out what your nightmare visions represent. Why not give this one a go?"
"OK. Well, it seems obvious that I'm coming to the end of my two terms. A lot of my former buddies and key aides are no longer around -- either they resigned to make some real money or we were forced to ease them out for political reasons. So it's pretty lonely up there on the mountain now."
"And who are the people coming up from the lowlands that you think might be eager to attack you?"
"At first, I was going to say the Democrats, but it's more than that. My numbers these days are barely in the 20s! I'm the most despised American president ever! By nearly everyone! They loved me when the going was good, but now they just want me to go. As if it was all my fault. I didn't ride in on a white horse and stage a coup: The citizens voted me in."
"And the dead bodies, and the 'a horse! a horse!' speech? What do you make of them?"
"I guess the dead bodies on snow, no it's sand -- sand! That must be Iraq. A lot of good American soldiers have given their lives there for freedom. I feel for their families even though their sons and daughters volunteered, you know, knew what they were getting into. I continue to believe that it was the right thing to attack Iraq . The war being so unpopular, maybe that's why the citizens -- led by the Toy Soldier in black (Obama?) -- are coming after me. As for the 'my horse' speech, I spoke those lines in the dream but I don't really know what they mean, other than that I heard them once in a Shakespeare movie."
"They're from The Bard's historical play 'Richard III.' After the climactic battle, King Richard, who is something of a villainous cripple and is feared but not liked in court, is virtually all alone on the battlefield. He is so desperate to escape, he offers to exchange his crown for a horse to carry him away. But there are no takers. He's finished."
"Not sure I like where you're going with this one, doc. You comparin' me to a villain?"
"Of course not. But as your dream is reminding you, you were the President who ordered those young American men and women in uniform to Iraq. And you were the President when many of those soldiers came home in coffins or wounded and facing deficient VA care because they didn't receive their body and vehicle armor in time."
"Watch yourself, doc. Those sound like Democrat talking points to me."
"I'm just trying to indicate that your numbers have fallen as the war has dragged on, and that war, under Rumsfeld, didn't go all that well because the public perception is that your Administration rushed to conflict without the proper equipment and isn't doing such a good job with the wounded vets when they return. Those aren't just 'Democrat taking points', those feelings are shared by most Americans."
"Yeah, you're right. I've lost the conservative middle. But even if I look like an unpopular President right now, history will vindicate me, I'm sure. Look at Truman. He was hated then, is held in high regard now. The public and future historians will see that I made the right decision to go to war, and to attack the Islam militants around the world."
"Mr. President, it's just you and me in the room here. You don't need to make speeches to me. I'm on your side, remember? We're trying to deal here with your inner feelings of abandonment -- this time by the American populace and by many of your closest aides -- and how you can work through those feelings and perhaps those that might make you doubt your 'relevancy' in your final months."
"Lame-duck presidents just naturally start to feel 'irrelevant.' It's partly because of my low poll numbers. My enemies feel like they can take me on, even poke more fun of me, because I'm so unpopular. But mainly lame-duck status means nobody takes me seriously anymore because I can't use the clout of the presidency to punish them; I'm on my way out."
"And how does this powerlessness manifest itself?"
"I'm not blind, you know. Look around. The Republicans in Congress, who I used to be able to count on to vote as a bloc in supporting me and my programs, are racing to separate themselves from me as the November elections approach. They think I'm toxic to their re-election chances. For chrissake, many of them are even voting with the Democrat majority on bills that I care about! Or are not supporting me when I veto a bill. And now I can't even fill a hall to raise money for John McCain; the event had to be moved to a smaller venue. It's embarrassing!"
"But, as you say, you understand that for those Republican officials, putting daylight between you and them is not personal, sir, just politics."
"Of course I understand what's going on, that's not the point! I look like a weakling. I can't hurt anybody anymore. They're even trying to take away my authority to order harsh interrogations of terrorists."
"But you're not even charging most of those at Guantanamo with any crimes, just holding them."
"Boy, you are dense, doc. We're not charging a lot of them because if we put them on trial, their military attorneys could claim they were tortured. First of all, 'enhanced interrogation' methods are not torture, at least not under our definition. Second, how can those military lawyers behave like that? I'm their Commander-in-Chief, their boss. Don't they have any respect?"
"When contemplating your low approval numbers, Mr. President, perhaps that low regard by the public has something to do with the common public perception that maybe in your zeal to do what's right by the American people and U.S. national security, you've bent the rules and the Constitutional protections way beyond what was necessary."
"I don't give a flying f*ck what the public thinks of me. I've got to stand on principle here."
"Let's take another look at what you've told me so far in this session. First, you describe a nightmare situation where you feel abandoned by the public and by many of your closest aides. You feel all alone up there on the mountaintop. Then you tell me you don't really care how people judge you. The two interpretations cancel each other out. Tell me what you're really feeling."
(Long pause.) "I feel like I did as a boy and young man. I do my best, but somehow I always mess up and my parents and others make fun of me. They bail me out of my worst mistakes, but they never let me forget that I'm a constant screw-up. That's why I stuck with the booze and drugs for so long. But finally Jesus saved me, and gave me strength and courage."
"But some of your decisions led to tragic consequences."
"The Lord talks to me, you know. He told me to invade Iraq. And He was right, and I am right, and history will vindicate that policy. John McCain understands. It may take 50 or 100 years, or more, for the rest of my countrymen and world historians to see that I made the right decision: If our Administration hadn't begun to battle the Islam militants when we did, the U.S. would have had even more 9/11-type attacks, the Middle East would be overrun by Muslim terrorists, Israel would be wiped out, the world's oil reserves would be controlled by the evildoers, the moderate Arab leaders would be overthrown, and Iran would be calling many of the shots in that area of the world."
"Even if all that were to turn out to be true, sir, there are those, not all Democrats, who would say it was your actions that turned a generally-balanced Middle East into the very shambles you're talking about and may wind up aiding Iran's rise to pre-eminent power in that region."
"Bullshit! History will absolve me! You'll see."
"And if it doesn't?"
"What do hell do I care? I'll be dead."
"Well, for one, some angry citizens have threatened to haul you and your top aides into civil or criminal court after you leave office in 2009, to hold you accountable for some of your policies."
"Ain't gonna happen. For a whole lot of reasons I don't want to talk about here. Let's just say that my finger will always be on the buttons of power. And that I still hold enough high cards to make sure I'm protected. Besides, I've still got some tricks up my sleeve."
"Things that will ensure your place in history? There's much talk that you might order a massive bombing of Iran's military installations and nuclear facilities; is that something like what you have in mind?"
"If I told you, I'd have to shoot you (just a joke, don't worry). Let's just say that the Iranians are better stopped sooner than later -- and sooner, for our purposes, means sometime before the election in November -- and my responsibility is to worry about the national security of the United States in this regard."
"In other words, it's true. You're going for it."
"I never said that. Besides, McCain is on board, as well as most of the mainstream press and the Republican leadership, and even Clinton and Obama. We've catapulted the propaganda really well this time. The public is convinced that if Iran has to be taken out now, just do it. Everyone should and will rally around the President -- that's me, in case you've forgotten. My numbers will go up real fast."
"But that was your expectation when you invaded and occupied Iraq. It didn't quite work out that way, sir."
"That's what you think. We effectively control the oil, and we've made the situation so unstable and chaotic that the U.S. has to stay there to keep things from exploding out of control. Even a Democrat President will be unable to alter the reality on the ground in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Israel/Palestine."
"But Obama and Clinton say loudly that they'll be bringing the troops home from Iraq."
"That's campaign talk. Watch what happens if and when they take over the White House. We've hogtied them to the point where they will be bound to fail in Iraq, and we've made sure they will fail in their domestic agenda as well. The scores of judges we appointed to the appeals courts will make sure of that. Then, the public will be fed up with the incompetent Democrats and the Republicans will retake the White House, and maybe even the Congress, in 2012.
"Thank you, doc. I feel a whole lot better just talking with you."
"Well, you know where to find me, sir, if it doesn't all work out as you envision it." #
**See here, ( www.crisispapers.org/essays-w/demons.htm ) here, ( www.crisispapers.org/essays6w/shrink.htm ) here ( www.crisispapers.org/essays6w/postelection.htm ), and here ( www.crisispapers.org/essays7w/shrink.htm ).
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: email@example.com .
First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 5/27/08.
Copyright 2008 by Bernard Weiner.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)