Sunday, October 16, 2005

Billmon is a God

One of my favorite bloggers, Billmon, has a hilarious take on Bush's fake teleconference with soldiers in Iraq:

I am reproducing it below in case you take too long and it disappears.

A Chorus Line
If he gives us a question that's not something that we've scripted, Captain Kennedy, you're gonna have that mic and that's your chance to impress us all.”

Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Allison Barber
Rehearsal for presidential teleconference with the troops
October 13, 2005

Scene: A soundstage somewhere on the outskirts of Baghdad. In front of the stage, a camera crew is adjusting their equipment, while other technicians fiddle with the lights. On the stage, a dance company is warming up – doing stretches, practicing their kicks, twirls, etc. We see they are in military uniform, or rather, military costume – camouflage tights and khaki leg warmers, olive drab tank tops with screaming eagle logos on the front, red-white-and-blue headbands, etc. Most are the dancers are men, lean and hard bodied, but one is a woman, looking a little confused and awkward. She tries a few leg kicks and we can tell right away she isn’t a real combat dancer. An Army captain and a tough, hard-faced drill sergeant stand by the side of the stage.

A middle-aged woman in civilian clothes – pants suit, blouse and scarf, with the suit jacket draped over her shoulders and a pair of designer sunglasses pushed up on her forehead -- strides on stage, clapping her hands to get everyone’s attention. This is deputy assistant defense secretary Allison Barber. Her assistant -- a short, stout little man in a polo shirt – trails behind, holding a clip board. The dancers quickly line up and snap to attention.

Barber: (in a loud, raspy voice) OK, listen up people. We’ve only got an hour until air time and we still haven’t run through the opening number. Captain Kennedy, are your people ready?

Kennedy: Yes, SIR . . . uh, mam. All teams in place and ready to execute Operation Chorus Line on your orders. (he salutes crisply)

Barber: (scowling) Where’s Rasheed? Don’t tell me he’s gone AWOL again. (whirls on her assistant) Goddamit Jimmy, can’t you find me one fucking Iraqi soldier who knows how to take direction?

Jimmy: I’m sorry, Ms. Barber. But the Secret Service guys didn’t like the way he read his lines this morning. They said he sounded, ah, insincere.

(Offstage we hear an electrical sizzle, and the sound of a man screaming in agony.)

Jimmy: I think the dialogue coach is, um, working with him now.

Barber: There better not be any screw ups when we go live, Jimmy. The president expects to be loved by his faithful Iraqi subjects and Goddammit he is going to be loved. Got it?

Jimmy: Yes, Mam. I’ll make sure the car battery is hooked up.

Barber: (turns back to Captain Kennedy, suddenly all sweetness and light) OK, sugar, show me what your baby dolls can do. (shouts) Cue soundtrack.

(A technician pushes a button and we hear music – the opening bars of “I Hope I Get It,” from A Chorus Line. Captain Kennedy nods to the sergeant, who pivots sharply to face the line of dancers.)

Sergeant: OK you maggots, and . . . DANCE.

(The dancers swing into their routine, prancing and whirling around the stage.)

Sergeant: (screaming) On time, dammit! ON TIME, you sorry ass sons of bitches! ONE, two, three, and KICK, and step step, KICK.

(Barber, watching intently, notices the female dancer is stumbling and falling behind.)

Barber: Cut, cut. I said CUT!

(The music stops. The dancers fall in line, sweaty and panting. Barber walks slowly over to the female dancer, who snaps to attention.)

Barber: (looking her over critically) Honey, where the hell did you get the idea you could dance?

Female dancer: (panting) I’m not really a dancer, mam, I’m a public information officer. I was told to report here for presidential photo op duty. (sullenly) Nobody said anything about high kicking.

(Barber’s assistant, Jimmy, hurries over.)

Jimmy: It was Mr. Card’s idea, Ms. Barber. He didn’t think the cast was gender diverse enough.

Barber: Well why couldn’t we find a girl with talent? Someone who’s qualified for the job?

Jimmy: Mr. Card said it didn’t matter. He just told us to find a female candidate who loves the president more than life itself and will tell him exactly what he wants to hear.

Barber: (eyes the female dancer) Does that sound like you?

Female dancer: Oh yes, mam! (her eyes glaze over) I think President Bush is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known.(snaps out of it) And he and Laura are both super cool!

Barber: (shrugs) Well, if it’s good enough for his Supreme Court, I guess it’s good enough for his chorus line. (she glances at her watch) OK, boys and, uh, girl, we’ll take it again from the top in a minute. But first I’ve got some last-minute script edits I need to go over with you.

(Jimmy hands her the clip board.)

Barber: (flips through a few pages) OK, which one of you is “freckle faced Midwestern farm boy”?

(One of the dancers raises his hand.)

Barber Right. When the president says: “We are fighting for the freedom of all free people yearning to live freely in freedom,” you answer: “Mr. President, we would all gladly lay down our lives to make your bold vision of peace and democracy come true in Iraq.” And don’t forget to put the quiver in your voice at the end. But you can leave out the part where you swear your own personal loyalty to the Bush family. The lawyers decided that was a little over the top.

Dancer: Do I still kneel in prayer after I’m finished?

Barber: Yeah, but skip the sign of the cross. Karen Hughes says we have to keep this non-denominational. (looks at clipboard) OK, who’s “Pedro, the sassy Latino guy.”

Dancer: Yo.

Barber: Here’s the deal, Pedro. When the president asks: “It’s a long way from east LA to west Baghdad, isn’t it, amigo?” you start to answer him in broken English – just like we talked about at rehearsal yesterday. But here’s the change: You pause in mid-sentence, and then finish what you were saying in Spanish. Then the president will say something back to you in Spanish. And then you act like you’re really impressed. Can you do that?

Dancer: (rolls his eyes) Yeah, I guess I can handle it.

Barber: Good. And remember to emote. (looks at clipboard) “Military lawyer”?

Dancer: That would be me, mam.

Barber: OK this one’s really important. The White House has added some lines to your dialogue. After the president compares Iraq's ayatollahs to the founding fathers, he’ll make a few remarks about article 47 of the Iraqi constitution and explain how it resembles our own 10th Amendment. Your cue is the line that ends “and that’s the beauty of federalism.” Then you say: “Gosh Mr. President, did you go to law school and business school?” And he’ll chuckle and say: “No, my Supreme Court nominee explained it to me.” And then you say: “Boy, it sounds like that lady sure knows her stuff!”

Dancer: You’re kidding, right?

Barber: (suspiciously) You do support the president, don’t you? (looks at clipboard) Your background clearance says you’re a member of the Federalist Society.

Dancer: Well yes, but I still don’t think Ms. Miers has the right kind of . . .

Barber: (cuts him off) Maybe you’d like to take it up with the dialogue coach?

(Again we hear an electric sizzle and the sound of a man screaming.)

Dancer: (loudly) Boy, it sounds like that lady sure knows her stuff.

Barber: (smiles sweetly) I knew you’d come around. (glances at her watch) Oh Jeez, look at the time. OK listen up, everybody. If you’re not sure when it’s your cue or you forget a line, just look to the right of the camera – the far right – and you’ll see the teleprompter. And don’t worry if the president flubs his lines. They’ll edit that out later on the White House end. And remember: act natural! Now let’s run through the opening number again. I wanna make sure you got that kick-salute-kick routine down. Captain?

(Captain Kennedy nods to the drill sergeant, who twirls and faces the line of dancers.)

Sergeant: OK ladies, you heard the lady. Let’s see some DANCING, goddammit.

Barber: Cue soundtrack.

(As the opening bars of “I Hope I Get It” fill the soundstage, we can see the sergeant striding down the line of kicking, whirling dancers.)

Sergeant: SHAKE those booties, you miserable maggots. And . . . Step, kick, kick, SALUTE, kick, SALUTE. Again! . . . and SING.

Dancers: God, I hope I get it. I hope I get it. How many people does he need?

Sergeant: I can’t HEAR you!


(The dancers whirl and kick, the sergeant shouting in their faces. The stage lights dim and an outside scene – a stone terrace, with an Iraqi city in the background – appears on a projection screen behind the stage. Barber stands chatting with the captain while the technicians scurry around making last-minute preparations. The dancers twist and kick.)

Fade to black.


Posted by billmon on October 15, 2005

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