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Bush Takes Heat on Oprah's Couch

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Message Bernard Weiner
Oprah: We're back with President Bush. Recently, you may remember, author James Frey sat here with me and admitted that he told lies in his so-called "memoir." I asked him to come back on the show because I had supported him initially, telling everyone to read his book, and felt that he had betrayed me, the reading public, and literature itself.

Bush: Yes, that was a bad thing Mr. Frey did, fudging like that, and the market will decide what his punishment will be. But the real reason I agreed to come on your show, Oprah, was to talk about my optimistic outlook for America and the new optimistic initiatives I announced that should make our citizens feel good and optimistic about the future, both domestically and abroad. I'm an optimist, you know.

Oprah: Yes, I fully understand that we have a Congressional election coming up in November, but I have some questions I'd like to discuss with you first, and perhaps members of the audience do as well.

Bush: (apparently listening to earpiece) Uh, Oprah, those weren't the ground-rules worked out for my appearance here. The President of the United States decides the agenda, and your people signed off on that. We began the show in that spirit, so let us continue.

Oprah: I'm sure we'll get to the talking-points you want to discuss, Mr. President, but let's do it in the context of an authentic discussion between you and me sitting on a couch. I'm sure you don't want to just get up and walk out on a show that daily reaches many millions of viewers, each a potential voter. How about it?


Bush: [listening atttentively to earpiece] We will talk first about the issues raised in my State of the Union speech and then, if we have time, I will respond to your questions -- as long as they don't encroach upon presidential prerogatives, classified topics, personal matters, or national security.

Oprah: In other words, anything you don't want to talk about. You do realize that this is my show, Mr. President, and it became so popular largely because of the intimate conversations, real conversations, that take place on this sofa.

Bush: You do realize that this is my country, Oprah, and I could have you arrested -- ha, ha, just kidding around. [nervous reaction in audience]

Oprah: I've always loved your self-deprecating humor, Mr. President. OK, let's start with some discussion about your State of the Union speech.

Bush: Good. Yes. That's where I want to go. In that speech, I told the American people that we are addicted to oil in this country and we've got to break that habit. I promised that our program would reduce oil consumption from the Middle East by 75% in the next 20 years.


Oprah: Announcing a major decision like that sure sounded good, Mr. President, but we learned two things immediately afterwards. First, your spokesmen had to recast what you said, since it wasn't true; instead, we were told, your numbers were to be regarded as a "metaphor." And, second, you have no policies that can help us break our oil habit -- not even raising the miles-per-gallon standard on vehicles.

Bush: [listening to earpiece] Everything changed on 9/11. The terrorists hate us for our freedoms, you know, and would love to get Americans arguing with each other. There is responsible criticism of our policies and there is irresponsible criticism, which weakens America's resolve and creates doubt in the public mind. I hope you hear what I'm saying, Oprah. For national security reasons, I can't tell you all that I know about our oil policy. But one thing I can say is that we need to get unaddicted to the stuff and we have plans for doing that.

Oprah: Your administration -- which is intimately tied to the oil and energy industries -- keeps saying that you have plans for oil-use reductions, but they are never presented. You've been saying for three years that you have plans for victory in Iraq as well, so that our troops can come home, but no such plans are ever presented. Excuse me, sir, but the clear impression one gets from listening to your administration is that you say things that you know Americans want to hear but there's no follow-up to get us to the goal. Maybe your polls are so low because the American people realize how much public-relations spin is substituting for real policies, both here and in Iraq.

Bush: Iraq. Yes, I was sure that you'd bring that up. You say we have no plans. But we are fighting the terrorists over there so we won't have to fight them over here. 9/11 changed everything. Iraq has become the frontline of the war on terrorism. We --

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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...)
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