When W. calls, you’d better answer.
December 25, 2002
When I got home from work on the Friday before the Senate runoff, there were three messages on my answering machine. They all reminded me to get out and rock the vote, and they all plugged their political candidate of choice.
That evening, I drove my wife to a restaurant where she was meeting some friends for dinner. When I got home, there was another message on my machine, from President George W. Bush. He reminded me that the American thing to do was to vote, and I would be even more American if I voted for Suzanne Haik Terrell. I thought about it for maybe half a second, and I thought maybe the truly American thing to do was to return the president’s phone call.
I mean, who would have thought it? The President of the United States of America, the Big Kahuna, the Head Cheese Himself, called lil’ ole me, Joe Six Pack, John Q. Public, and I had missed his call.
I checked my phone’s caller ID and saw that the president had called me from the 225 area code. I called the number back. It was the main line for Terrell’s campaign headquarters.
While the phone rang, I thought about all the things I could discuss with the president. There are several things about how he’s running this country, or not running this country, that I wanted to talk to him about. But I realized that he’s the president, and he probably wouldn’t have a lot of time to chew the fat with me.
“Mr. President, there’s lots of things I’d like to talk with you about, but I realize you’re a busy man, planning a war and all, trying to finish what your father started. So I’ll try to be brief.
“First off, I’m glad you’re not paying any attention to the naysayers, that bunch of filthy, patchouli-wearing, peace-loving hippies. Pay those people no mind. The media haven’t been paying attention to them, so why should you? Your approval ratings are looking pretty good, and if you can keep this whole war machine chugging along into 2004, you’ll be a shoo-in when it comes time for re-election.
“And don’t listen to those boobs whining about the economy. I’m so sick of hearing, ‘I need a job! Boo-hoo.’ Or even worse, ‘The corporation I worked for went belly up and took my life savings with it.’ Give me a break. This is America. You don’t get something for nothing, unless of course you’re legally protected as a corporation.
“Don’t your critics know that war is good for the economy? War involves killing people with weapons. Where do they think those weapons come from? Do they think there’s a weapons tree? That Santa’s merry little elves are making rifles and smart bombs? They’re made right here in America. Made in the USA. That means jobs. That means food on the table. So what if we have to kill a few strangers to get it?
“There’s one thing I’ve been going over, though, that I can’t quite figure out. This whole thing started out as a war on terrorism. After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, you declared war on terrorism and we were told that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks. I haven’t heard much about that bin Laden fella lately. Do we still want him dead or alive? Did we capture him? Did we disband his network of terrorists? Wasn’t that the original rallying cry? Have we achieved that victory already and moved on to other evil leaders?
“I’m just wondering, too, if this war on terrorism is going to be like the war on drugs or the war on crime or the war on poverty. We’re still fighting those wars, and it doesn’t appear as if we’re winning them. A friend of mine once remarked that it seems like every time we start a war with a noun, we end up getting our asses whipped.
“But I’m confident you’ll finish what your father started, that we’ll be able to eradicate all evil-doers from the face of the earth and live happily ever after.”
On the other end of the line, the ringing finally stopped. A recorded message told me I had reached Terrell’s headquarters. My heart sank. I had blown my only opportunity to jaw with the leader of the free world. Then I had a rare flash of genius. I would just leave a message for the president and maybe he could get back in touch with me when he had some free time. But just as I was about to leave my message, another recorded voice told me that the mailbox was full – that there wasn’t room for my voice.