(Happy New Year to all you Joooz out there! May it bring health, happiness and the strength to make it through the tough times ahead.)
SCENE I: The Oval Office. GEORGE W. BUSH is sitting behind his desk, staring at the ceiling, bored. There are two chairs on either side of his desk; one is a wing chair, and one is a chair that swivels. The back of that chair is facing the audience; light snoring issues forth from it, but we cannot see who occupies it.
BUSH is waiting for HENRY PAULSON, his Secretary of the Treasury, to come in and tell him what to do about the credit crisis. He amuses himself by spinning in circles in his leather executive chair.
A knock is heard at the door.
BUSH: Come in, Paulie! (continues spinning around in his chair)
PAULSON (entering with a smile): Mr. President!
BUSH (stopping the spinning to look at PAULSON): Geez, Paulie, am I glad to see you! (Tries to get up from the chair to shake PAULSON’s hand, staggers and puts his hand on the desk to recover)
PAULSON (indulgently): Now, George, I’ve warned you about spinning in that chair – it always makes you dizzy!
BUSH (petulantly): Then they shouldn’t make it so much fun! (refocusing, gesturing for PAULSON to sit down) Anyway, Paulie, what’s goin’ on in this here economy?
PAULSON (sitting in the wing chair beside BUSH’s desk): Mr. President, we’re in a heckuva mess, I tell you. The credit market is completely frozen. No one will lend businesses money so that they can continue, well, doing business. It’s all because of that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae stuff. They went a little crazy with those subprime mortgages.
BUSH: Jeez, was that what McCain was babbling about in 2006? I thought he was havin’ a senior moment!
(PAULSON and BUSH chuckle manfully)
BUSH: Anywho, what should we do about it?
PAULSON: Well, some are calling it a crisis, but I call it an opportunity. This is the chance we were waiting for – the chance to give your friends one last big check before you leave office and take refuge in, um, I mean, retire to Paraguay!
BUSH: Yeah. Say, did I tell about how great that place is? So much prettier than that goddamn dusty ranch in Texas. We’re talkin’ green, green mountains and -
PAULSON (interrupting): Yes, Mr. President, and it sounds absolutely wonderful! But if we could focus on this great opportunity now?
BUSH (magnanimously): Sure, sure. Tell me more, Paulie.
PAULSON (getting up and pacing): Mr. President, when you got Congress to pass the AUMF, the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act; when you got them to approve retroactive immunity for your warrantless wiretapping program; when you were able to keep the war budget off the books each and every year; what did all those things have in common?
BUSH (smiling): I kicked some ass, Texas-style! I punished the evildoers and killed the man who tried to kill my daddy! And, of course, I made those idiot Democrats look like a bunch of wusses.
PAULSON: Absolutely true, Mr. President! But what else?
CHENEY (turning around in the swivel chair, where he has been napping) We expanded executive power and made our friends very, very rich.
PAULSON (surprised): Mr. Vice President! I didn’t know you were here. Great to see you! (strides over to shake CHENEY’s hand)
PAULSON (sotto voce to BUSH at the desk): I didn’t see his translator on your desk – I assumed he wasn’t coming to this meeting!
BUSH (sotto voce): Yeah, well, that thing kept malfunctioning. So, we had the inventors make it smaller and install it with his latest Pacemaker. Works like a charm! Heh-heh.
PAULSON (back in his wing chair): Yes, well, Mr. Vice President, you are exactly right. And I figure, you scared the Congress into doing what you want all those other times – why not do it again?
CHENEY (snarl-grinning): I like the way you think, young man. Please continue.
PAULSON (with confidence): Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to panic the American people and Wall Street. The stock market will go crazy! Then, we’ll tell Congress their ONLY ALTERNATIVE is to buy out those bad mortgages from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And, we’ll also tell them that they have to do it NOW because otherwise, the entire economy will be destroyed!
BUSH: Heh. So, we’ll scare ‘em and rush ‘em. I love it! But when’s the part where me and all my friends get richer and more powerful?
CHENEY: Henry means to tell Congress to entrust him, and him alone, with this bailout. No oversight, all the power he needs to, shall we say, “fix” the mess? And of course, all of our friends will keep their hard-earned golden parachutes and comfortable lifestyles. Isn’t that right, Henry? (looks impishly at PAULSON)
PAULSON (admiringly): Got it in one, Mr. Vice-President! My proposal is only three pages long. It’s got more holes than your Van Halen t-shirt from 1985! If we get this passed through Congress, there won’t be any penalties whatsoever for all the folks who drove their companies into the ground with predatory lending practices and loan bundlings. It will be awesome – we’ll get the taxpayers to bail out the people who tricked them into buying mortgages they couldn’t afford!
(ALL sit in stunned, happy silence at the brilliance of PAULSON’s scheme. BUSH grins and walks over to PAULSON, who stands.)
BUSH (clapping PAULSON on the shoulder): Well, Paulie, you’ve really outdone yourself this time. Congratulations. I say, go for it! Go talk to Congress and see if we can get this thing through. What do you think, Dick?
(CHENEY has fallen asleep and is snoring again.)
BUSH: Well, heh-heh, anywho, go to it and report back to me when you’re done.
PAULSON (happily): Yessir, Mr. President, sir!
(LIGHTS OUT. END OF SCENE)
SCENE TWO: The Oval Office, the next day. BUSH is spinning in his chair, and CHENEY is snoring in his swivel chair.
A knock is heard at the door.
BUSH (stops spinning): Come in, Paulie!
(PAULSON enters, looking stunned.)
BUSH: What’s the matter, Paulie? They didn’t go for it?
PAULSON: Um, I’d say that’s an understatement, Mr. President. The Republicans hated it. The Democrats threw a bunch of crap in there, then still voted against it. And Americans, well, they don’t know what to think.
BUSH: Well, SHIT. What do we do now?
PAULSON: Mr. President, I have no idea.
CHENEY (waking briefly): Oh, for Pete’s sake, you morons! Just take a couple of days off for the Jewish holidays, then come back with the same plan. The Democrats will cave eventually. They always do.
PAULSON (in awe): Wow, Mr. Vice President, you are absolutely right! Don’t you think, Mr. President?
BUSH: Well, hell yes! Dick, you’ve done it again. They are just putting on a show. As soon as they know we’re serious, they’ll fold like a cheap tent. It’s what they do.
CHENEY: And kickin’ ass is what we do. Right, gentlemen?
(ALL THREE chuckle manfully.)