Who’s on First?  The Bush-Cheney 9/11 Dog & Pony Show

by Gary Corseri
April 17, 2004

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Hear those lead doors closing behind the 9/11 Commission hearings?  Sound familiar?  A magic bullet that stops and turns in mid air, kills a president, wounds a governor?   

We’ll probably never know who said what.  But here follows as reasonable a facsimile as we’re ever likely to get.


Dramatis Personae: Bush, Cheney, 9/11 Commissioners.


Scene 1: The oval office; Bush and Cheney alone.



Bush: I’m glad you could make some time for me, Dick, cause I gotta tell ya, I’m a little you know, a little nervous about tomorrow.


Cheney: Pshaw!  I told you there’s nothing to worry about.  I’ll carry the ball.  You just have to remember what I told you.


Bush: I know…I’ve been practicing…Who’s on first, do ya think?  Me or you?


Cheney: I guess that would be you, being President and all.


Bush (laughing nervously, shaking his shoulders): Yeah, that’s right…


Cheney: Look, there’s nothin’ to it.  They ask you about 9/11, say, you say, ah…say something about terrorism.


Bush takes out notepad, writes with concentration, creasing his forehead.


Bush: Say something about terrorism…


Cheney: Yeah…They ask you about Iraq, you say…say something about freedom. 


Bush: Uh, say something about freedom.


Cheney: Yeah…They ask you about war or casualties, you know, collateral damage—

anything like that, you say…say something about democracy.


Bush: Yeah, right…something about…(Puzzled--) How do you spell that again?


Cheney writes it for him, as Bush chuckles, shaking his shoulders.  Bush reads his notes, moving his lips.


Scene 2 : The following day.  Bush and Cheney before the 9//11 Commission.



Ben Veniste: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, we’d like to thank you for coming to meet with us today.


Bush (smirking like a privileged frat boy): Not a prob, Bennie Boy.  Glad to be hea!


Cheney (solemnly, to B.V.): Thank you.


Ben Veniste: Thank you.  I’m sure we all realize the seriousness of this occasion, the grave responsibilities we have taken upon ourselves in the name of the American people to discover the truth of that terrible day and the events leading up to it.


            Bush winks, nods, and gives thumbs up and OK signs to Commission Republicans.


Ben Veniste (continuing): Mr. President, there’s that famous scene of you sitting in a classroom in Florida on the morning of 9/11—


Bush: Say something about terrorism!


Ben Veniste : Excuse me?


Bush: 9/11—


Ben Veniste: Yes, 9/11…I was saying---


Bush: Say something about terrorism!


Ben Veniste: Well, yes, that’s what I’m trying to get to…On that fateful day, when Mr. Card notified you of the World Trade Center attacks, what was your first thought at that moment?


Bush: Thought?  Ah…you mean my first thought?


Ben Veniste: Yes, sir.


Bush: And how long ago was that?


Ben Veniste: Almost a thousand days, sir.


Bush: You want me to remember my first thought from a thousand days ago?  You think that’s a fair question?


Cheney: I think I can answer that…


Ben Veniste (incredulous): You’re going to tell us what the President was thinking?


Cheney: The President has told me what he was thinking then.  The shock of the event clearly registered upon his face, on television, as we all could see.  Who could believe that terrorists would fly hijacked planes into buildings?


Cheney talks for 20 more minutes.


2nd Commissioner: Thank you , Mr. Vice President.  If I might return to questioning the President now.


Bush nods, beaming.


2nd Commissioner: Sir, it has been alleged that your administration’s early focus on regime change in Iraq—


Bush: Say something about freedom!


2nd Commissioner: Ah, yes, sir…I was saying, your administration’s focus on regime change in Iraq—


Bush: Freedom!


2nd Commissioner: Ah, yes, sir…I think—


Cheney: I think the President is saying that his focus was on freedom, not Iraq.


Bush: Freedom!


2nd Commissioner (flustered): Where was I?


3rd Commissioner (to Bush): We’re just trying to get some understanding of your understanding of the events of 9/11.


Bush: Say something about terrorism!


3rd Commissioner: Yes, sir, that’s what we’re trying to understand.  How did those terrible events fit into your paradigms?  How prepared were you?  How prepared were we as a nation to meet the new threats that had developed since the end of the Cold War?


Bush: Pair of dimes?


4th Commissioner: Mr. President?


Bush (scowling): Is this a trick question?


Cheney: Ah, I think what the President means is, with all due respect to the Commission, that we ought to focus on the procedural protocols that were then in place, whether or not they were the right protocols, and whether fine-tuning or revamping of said protocols is now a consideration for the Commission to, ah, consider as a substantive model proceeding from multiple correlations in our randomized designed experiments, whether statistically controlled, or, in more concrete terms…


            Cheney continues for 30 more minutes.


5th Commissioner (waking with a start): Ah, yes, ah, thank you, ah, Mr. Vice President, that was most, ah, informative.


6th Commissioner (as though coming out of a trance): Thank you, thank you, Mr. Vice President…Ah, if I may return to directing the line of questions to the President.


            Bush nods, beaming.


6th Commissioner: Mr. President, to be frank, sir, a troubling percentage of Americans, that is, a great many Americans believe you took your eyes off the War on Terror—


Bush: Say something about democracy!


6th Commissioner: Yes, sir, I will…I said, they think you took your eyes off the War on Terror because of this obsession with Iraq—


Bush: Freedom!  Terror!


6th Commissioner: What would you like me to say, sir?  I’m talking about the War on Terror and—


Bush: Say something about democracy!


Cheney: I think the President is wisely counseling us not to stray from our mission, not to cut and run, as elected or appointed representatives of our Corporate System, our mission being to safeguard our freedom and democracy at all costs, notwithstanding the sacrifices our gallant young men and women are called upon to make with their blood, and the rest of us—even those in the higher echelons of Halliburton, for example, make in terms of lost holidays and other hardships which I need hardly point out to you is a kind of collateral damage that—


Bush: Say something about democracy!


Cheney: Ah, yes, I was coming to that.  And, furthermore…


            Cheney continues for forty more minutes, speaking slower and slower for the last five minutes until he talks in a baritone, winding down, then stops and stares catatonically.


7th Commissioner: Mr. Vice President?


Bush (beaming): Aw, hell, it’s nothing…Seen it a hundred times at Crawford…


            Bush retrieves a gold key from a gold chain he keeps around his neck.  Removes the gold chain and key, inserts the key into the back of Cheney’s neck and winds with a creaking sound.


Cheney (reanimated; continues very quickly): And so the parameters had changed; what we were looking at after 9/11—


Bush: Something about terrorism!


Cheney: Exactly…This was terrorism on an unprecedented, unimaginable scale.  This was a war that—


Bush: Democracy!


Cheney: --that, that pitted democracy against the forces of evil, the axis of evil in North Korea, Iran and Iraq, and—


Bush: Freedom!


Cheney: And, and freedom demanded that we pass the Patriot Act to protect our freedom by limiting it, because freedom unchecked is as dangerous as tyranny, and democracy unsupervised is Communism, and, furthermore, and more to the point, what we must never forget, and I cannot stress this enough, this is the apogee, this is the apogee of what we have to accomplish here today--


            Cheney continues for another hour.


8th Commissioner: Ah, Mr. Chairman, it appears the time has flown and…


Chair: Yes, ah…


9th Commissioner: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.


10th Commissioner: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.


Cheney: Yes…I hope I have cast some light…


All Commissioners: Thank you, Mr. President.


Bush (waking): Is it over?


Gary Corseri’s dramas have been performed on Atlanta-PBS and in five states. His articles, fiction and poems have appeared in The New York Times, Village Voice, Common Dreams, Intervention, Redbook and over 100 other publications in the U.S. and abroad. He has published two novels, two collections of poetry and recently edited the anthology, Manifestations. He can be reached at corseri@comcast.net.  


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