Sep 27, 2013

Freedom Fries --- Chapter 4, Part I ("We didn't keep America safe")

Previously, George W. Bush has retired, and a change of heart. Events ensue, involving John Yoo, professor at Berkeley law school and author of the infamous torture memos of the Bush administration, Pamela Nachtrieb Timbers, dean of said law school, George Lukacs, who was Pamela's lover in the distant past and has invented hedge funds in the meantime, a certain President Hu, another of Pamela's (very former) lovers, and Samuel Fisher, Founder of LYNX, a TV network of fair and balanced repute (who was never Pamela's lover and possibly never will be because he's gay). Fisher isn't happy with the ratings and experiments with new people meters that measure a TV-audience's reaction by telepathic means. 

Pamela wants to get rid of Yoo, and Lukacs has promised to help. But for now, we are back at Chapel Hill, Bush's farm, where the change of heart continues. 


Laura studies the mirror next to the fridge. She had just dismissed George for getting into another tussle with the silverware. He had offered to help with the dishes, and she had turned him down again, but he had insisted this time and followed her to the kitchen and started to load the dishwasher. She persisted, he persisted. She had won, however.

Chapel Hill, G.W. Bush's  farm in Crawford, Texas
Ninety percent of Americans marry at least once, and twenty percent of all marriages are distressed at any point in time, statistically. Ours isn’t distressed, statistically, she thinks. Not at all, it’s not going downhill. Texas is flat.

What are the signs? You know what the signs are. Well, she had always corrected his malapropisms and his grammar, even during their engagement period, and Doubya had always gleefully accepted her advice — not that it made any difference, but still. Yes, she has monitored his email correspondence lately, and Doubya had, in fact, ordered a luxury edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species, and, yes, she was concerned. Not that she has any problem with evolution herself, but why Darwin now? Well, it’s only a luxury edition, perhaps it’s meant as a practical joke for the coffee table. Doubya’s grin, it could be so sweet. Darwin as a pocket book would be more serious. But he had also ordered a set of magnetic poetry for the fridge. He had always been proud of not being a poet. Leaving messages on the fridge? What kind of messages?
Other signs? Yes. He had recounted the number of days they had spent at the farm during his presidency. He had traced the names of these Arabs that had committed suicide at Gitmo, unfathomable names, and learned them by heart. He had studied a map of Afghanistan and insisted on pointing out the location of Tora Bora to her. He had calculated the budget deficit at his time of taking office and concluded that there had been no deficit, as if anybody would care. He had removed the likenesses of Cheney and Rumsfeld from the picture gallery on the desk in the library. Even more vexing, she had been quite happy to see them gone, these masturbatory grins, until she realized the implications. And so on and so forth. Laura abandons the mirror. This is not a statistical problem, she decides.

“Laura,” her husband calls from the living room, “your favorite anchor has already started.” Trying to make peace. He shouldn’t feel guilty though, it hasn’t been his fault.

However, Betty Bartholomeo isn’t exactly her favorite anchor. Betty had been his favorite anchor until he got these bees into his head. She picks up the tea things — let’s hope he’s going to stay dry, at least, — and crosses into the living room, where Doubya is already installed on the slouch chair. She checks; the gun on the side table is gone. What happened to the gun? Why is it gone? She doesn’t want to ask. Should she leave a magnetic question on the fridge?

“In a related development,” Betty Bartholomeo cheers with queer intensity, “the Spanish investigative magistrate Eloy Velasco formally requested the USA whether they were going to conduct a US inquiry against six members of the former Bush administration, among whom Alberto Gonzales, the former Attorney General, and John Yoo of the Office of Legal Counsel at the White House. Spain thinks that they, in supporting the enhanced interrogation techniques applied to Al Quaida terrorists, could have violated international law against torture.”

“It’s about us,” Doubya encourages her, “sit down.” Laura sits down and distributes tea cups. The TV screen splits, and a new LYNX face appears next to Bartholomeo, a very handsome face, more lover than reporter, blithe in anticipation of its first appearance on America’s noisiest network. “Fernando Yglesias is our new correspondent in Madrid,” Betty explains. “Fernando, you are looking great tonight. Fernando has the latest.”
-“Good evening, Betty,” Fernando replies willingly.
-“Fernando, is there any chance that Gonzales could be tried by the Spanish authorities, or is there any chance you could reveal the address of your beauty parlor — just curious,” Betty continues. (Unbeknownst to Laura, Lynx is experimenting with the surprise factor, and Betty is fully scripted; the green surprise line would, in fact, jump, and the fat white graph of receptiveness would get a kick; the effects were short-lived, however.)
-“Well, it depends,” Fernando replies with a heavy Spanish accent, but then his perfect teeth brake into a wild, Latin grin, and it takes his face some time to look fair and balanced again. Precious seconds are lost, or gained.
-“Spain could indict them if the US refuses to prosecute them,” he says.
-“So the ball is now in Obama’s court; what would be the charges?”
-“Here in Spain, torture constitutes a crime against humanity,” Fernando answers.
-“That sounds fairly serious,” Betty cheers, “I mean, ridiculous. What would be the sentence if they are convicted?”
-“Here in Spain, they could be sentenced to life in prison.”
-“But not in America?”
-“In America, they could be sentenced to death.”
“But that’s not going to happen,” Betty interrupts.
-“Well, the Spains are not friends of capital punishment. The Texans, they are friends of capital punishment.”
-“Fernando, I think we have to leave it there,” Betty cuts him off. The Latin looker disappears, and a risqué soda commercial with untested allusions to non-standard sex hitches the screen.

-“Obama executing Gonzales,” what a show, Laura says, trying to laugh.
-“I had Fredo on the line; he’s not his former self,” Bush replies. “He can’t find a job, he’s scared, actually.”
-“He’s not going to spill the beans, I hope,” Laura says.
-“Well, I said to him, look Fredo, you always told me that everything was legal, that Yoo had it all figured out. So why are you scared now?”
-“And what did he say?”
-“He said he does not trust Obama.”
-“Come to think of it,” Laura observes.
-“Obama might refuse to take the case, and provide an excuse for the Spains to ask for an extradition.”
-“Obama would never dare. Texas would secede from the Union. Civil war.”
-“Obama has a Lincoln complex, he may go for it … Well, you know, Fredo did fuck up. This whole torture thing, the suicides.”
-“We had thousands of legal suits working for us.”
-“If I have to presume that the man with the wild eyes and the turban is innocent, how can I treat him worse than a Caucasian suit in a suit?”
-“We kept America safe, we were busy.”
-“Well, the buck stopped with me.”
-“The buck stops with what, you? Truman said that, right?”
-“NineEleven happened on my watch, you know. We did not keep America safe.”
-“Well, we did our best, and we are not responsible for it.” Laura’s nerves pound like a bad tooth. She has no choice, she has to say it: “And you just, you just said Spains. It isn’t Spains, it’s Spanish, Spanish.
-“Well,” Doubya defends himself, “This Fernando reporter said ‘Spains,’ and that was on your Lynx channel.”
-“This isn’t my Lynx channel. This is your Lynx channel. And you just shut up.” She knows she is ridiculous.
-“Spanish, Spanish. Expletive deleted.”
-“Why can’t you just say ‘fuck’,” Doubya asks.
-“Fuck,” she says, “fuck.”
-“Okay, it’s our Lynx channel,” Bush says, and switches the channel.