Dennis Dale's daughter purchased the right for him to post on Slog for a week through our annual holiday auction Strangercrombie, which this year benefited neglected children and the homeless. More info about our charity auction here. The views expressed in Dale's editorials on Slog are his alone and have not been edited based on ideology.
The Internet is too fast for me, and I rue the fact that once a news story demanding satire comes along I can be sure by the time I see it all the obvious angles have already been exploited, along with a few not-so-obvious. It's so bad you can never be sure someone else hasn't gotten there first, no matter how novel your take may be.
Dick Cheney's present Tin-man conundrum comes to mind; maybe on day one or two I might have been able to peck out the obvious gag about surgeons opening him up to find a black void (or, as the forensic scientist opening up the cranium of an alien in the under-appreciated Tim Burton satire Mars Attacks, nothing but green slime).
A friend last night suggested if he was to get into a car accident anywhere near Cheney's hospital, he would plead to be taken anywhere else or left to fend for himself on the road. Probably a good thing to put off even routine procedures until the coast is clear.
"I'm afraid you're terminal, Mr. Dale."
"What? I came to have a boil lanced."
"It's very unfortunate. We need to talk about end of life planning."
"No, we don't."
"We're very enlightened here; we offer euthanasia services to spare you a long, painful decline. Death with dignity. But we don't have much time. Let's get some formalities out of the way now. You wouldn't happen to be an organ donor, would you?"
"What? What's the hurry? You said long decline. I feel fine."
"Oh dear; he's already experiencing dementia. Guys, would you restrain Mr. Dale?"
"Please, God, aaagggh!"
I'm already over the limit for film references, but picture Rock Hudson thrashing away in terror at the end of Seconds.
Below the fold is a similar piece from back in those simpler, if no less scarier, days of 2008. A somewhat bowdlerized version appeared in The American Conservative at the time. Please to enjoy.
In the Bunker with Barney, Laura, and Me.
"I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me."
George W. Bush
The following diary fragments were found by rebel forces of the breakaway American states near the ruins of President George W. Bush’s secret bunker at the close of the Second Civil War in May of 2008. The author is unknown, signing only his initials, “D.D.”
Various explanations abound for D.D.’s identity; all of them entirely speculative, some wildly fanciful, such as the legend that he was an obscure “blogger” (a phrase for dilettante as well as professional writers, political activists, exhibitionists, and others who used the Internet for self-publishing before the Consolidation and Control Act of 2020 solidified the Second Republic's absolute control over the media, ushering in the Long Repression of the mid-21st Century).
According to this legend, after abandoning his early opposition to the Administration D.D. became a fervent supporter in its last days and somehow, with the zeal and determination of a convert, managed to insinuate himself into the upper echelons of the Administration just as it descended into confusion and madness.
Whoever he was, all indications are that his role was that of a domestic servant. The diary entries make obvious that the other residents of the bunker considered him an insignificant dullard. This likely explains why they were unguarded in his presence, allowing him to witness and record this invaluable insider’s view of the bizarre death throes of the Bush Regime.
I think the stress is starting to take its toll on the president. Earlier today I went to clean his quarters; I was surprised to find him standing before a full length mirror, practicing his oratorical hand gestures and muttering under his breath.
I should have got out of there immediately, but I was so shocked I just stood there watching him for a moment. Hearing the sound of a muffled cough, I looked to see the first lady sitting across the room watching, sullenly taking long drags from a cigarette. She smashed her cigarette out violently in an over-full ashtray with disgust and, turning to withdraw another, caught sight of me. As she turned that glare on me a chill went up my spine, as it always does. Pretending that I’d just walked in I said:
"Mr. President? I found that copy of Rebel in Chief we've been looking for."
He didn't seem to hear, but when he caught sight of me in the mirror he said:
"How long you been in the service, son?"
Before I could reply he returned to his muttering, delivering a one-liner and mustering a sickly version of his familiar chuckle. It was frightening, seeing him like that. I hurried out, feeling the first lady's eyes on the back of my neck. I’m beginning to suspect that things aren’t going as well as the President says.
Today Rove caught me, again, as I tried sneaking past his quarters.
“D____. Would you come here for a moment please?” He said in that unctuous voice he uses when he wants something. I braced myself and went in; I was appalled to find that awful green silk bath robe—all he’s worn for days now—was left open, revealing what had to be a thong. He was covered in oil and reddened from lying in his tanning bed.
“I wonder if you might help me; I need to apply this lotion and I can’t quite reach…”
“I have to feed Barney.” I stammered. "Mrs. Bush—I mean the first lady—will kill me if I don’t—"
“Women.” He said, shaking his head, advancing on me. “Why do we bother? Well, the dog can wait. Barney I mean, not Laura." He gave that creepy little laugh he uses when he thinks he's said something clever. "You won’t tell that I said that, will you? Our little secret?” He said the last part in a low, conspiratorial tone. As he came near I backed away, bumping into the wall; I slid sideways until I fell out the open door.
“Gotta feed the dog.” I said nervously over my shoulder as I hustled away. “Gotta feed Barney.”
“Okay then, maybe later.” He said casually, pretending not to notice my obvious discomfort. Damn that guy’s persistent.
As I was passing the conference room this morning the president called me in.
“D____. C’mere. Check this out.” He said, sounding surprisingly upbeat. I allowed myself the hope that he was going to say we'd be leaving the bunker soon. “Have I shown you this?”
He had been leaning over a scale model of a city. He stepped back and smiled proudly, spreading his arms in presentation.
“What is it sir?” I said, dutifully disguising my disappointment. The room was a shambles; it appeared as if everything had been hastily tossed to the walls to make room for the model, which occupied a place of well-lit preeminence in the center of the squalor.
“It’s Baghdad.” He said, delighted.
“Oh, of course.” I said, still feigning enthusiasm.
“See, here’s the airport; here’s the road to the airport; see the cars? Everything’s safe and secure. See the people? They’re voting.”
“What’s that sir?” I was sorry the moment I asked, but the futuristic structure on the outskirts of the city was clearly out of place, clumsily cobbled together with what appeared to be the modified parts of a child’s toy.
“That’s the Bush Freedom and Liberty Mosque.” He said, his enthusiasm quickening. “It's going to be open to Muslims and Shiites alike. Let me show you—“
“George!” The First Lady called sharply from behind me. The look of a chastened boy came over the President’s face. I instinctively came to attention. I shifted to the side and, careful not to make eye contact, excused myself with a mumble.
I hurried down the hallway before stopping in my tracks. Rove’s door was open; a muted, down-tempo R&B beat and the scent of marijuana emanated from his room. I turned about on my heel. Too late.
“D____!” It was the Vice President. “Get in here.” He motioned at me from the other end of the hallway.
I had to pass Rove’s open door to reach the V.P.'s quarters. I studiously avoided looking, but out of the corner of my eye I could see him leering tauntingly at me through the dim resolution of the black-light. Worse; I thought I saw Bolton’s white moustache glowing in the darkened recess behind him, over a constellation of glinting studs that would have to be one of his leather-get ups. This was bad. They would be at it all night. I would have to spend the night hiding in the pantry again.
“C’mon. Double-time!” The V.P. barked impatiently, going back inside.
When I came in I saw General Pace and General Casey standing at attention before a folding table covered in maps.
“See this idiot?” The Vice President said, pulling me into the room with what felt like a claw. The two stared straight ahead. “Look at him!” He thundered. The two sheepishly complied. There was an awkward, embarrassing moment as we stared dumbly at one another. The room felt even colder than it usually does. For a moment I thought I saw steam coming from Casey’s breath.
“This moron can do a better job than you two!” He gave me a rough shake. “In fact, he’s about to replace you incompetent bozos! What do you think of that?” Pace began to speak, and then thought better of it.
“Go ahead, Miss, let’s hear what you have to say.” The V.P. growled.
“I—we’ll try harder sir; we just need another six months to turn this thing around.” Pace’s voice quavered on the verge of one of his legendary crying jags.
“Get the hell out of here.” The Vice President said without looking at me, shoving me back out the door.
I'm starting to wonder what I've gotten myself into.
When I went to clean the conference room today I found Ledeen bent over the Baghdad model; using one of Goldberg's Star Trek toys he was pretending to strafe and bomb the city, spraying the besieged streets with spittle as he made explosion and gunfire noises, interspersed with the anguished cries of his imaginary victims. I managed to slip back out before he saw me.
I sneaked out into the garden today, against the V.P.’s orders, just to escape the relentless drone of the ventilation system. It was shrouded in silence and a cool mist; an incredibly peaceful contrast to what was going on inside. It was so still there that for a moment I actually believed that the war wasn’t real.
The impulse to desert came over me with such a sudden severity that I was sure I wouldn’t be able to resist. Then I heard something: barely perceptible, but clearly the sound of a hushed, urgent voice. I followed it, my accelerated heartbeat sending a hot pulse through my temples. I thought the enemy had found us; I half-expected to find a commando whispering into a headset, setting up a raid.
Then I heard a phrase I recognized. Following the voice I came upon the president, bundled against the chill and reclining in a lounge chair. He was facing away, revealing his profile. He was speaking just above his breath, reciting the programmed phrases that had been the boilerplate of his speeches to the nation, in a maniacal, urgent tone. He spat the words out as if to purge himself of them. Occasionally he would punctuate a sentence with an exaggeration of one of his stock facial expressions; now gross caricatures. Like before, I couldn’t help watching; it was only then I realized how lost we were. I turned to go.
“Not exactly what you signed on for, is it?” He said.
It was a voice that I didn’t recognize; it was relaxed, unguarded, natural. I turned back to face him. He was looking at me over his shoulder. He looked different, wearing an expression I’d never seen before. The mask that was the man I thought I knew was now revealed in its absence. It wasn’t that he was no longer himself, but that he had finally returned to himself. I was only now meeting the man. He had the look of a penitent wearied of resistance and peacefully, even gratefully, resigned to a dire fate. I came closer so I wouldn’t have to speak up.
“No, I don’t think any of us signed on for this, sir.”
He smiled appreciatively.
“Well, sorry anyway.” He turned away. Just as I was about to leave he said, “You know, I was almost baseball commissioner once.”
“I know.” I hesitated a moment. “You would’ve made a good commissioner, Mr. President.”
He faced me, grinning a wan thanks, before looking down into his lap, lost in thought. He broke off suddenly, as if catching himself, then looked up and said with jesting bravado:
“No, I would’ve made a hell of a commissioner, D____.”
I straightened up and nodded, forcing a grin.
Turning around I was confronted by the First Lady, very nearly walking right into her; I stiffened and started to excuse myself. She silenced me with a light hand on my shoulder and brought her face before my lowered gaze. Her look had softened. She had been listening to our exchange.
“Thank you, D____. For everything.”
It was the first time she addressed me by name.
“Yes ma’am.” I said, embarrassed. “I better get back inside.”
“Be careful.” She said. “Dick is chewing out the guys from The Weekly Standard. You might want to steer clear of the conference room. Or, if you want a glimpse of something you don’t see every day, I think Kristol is about to throw himself at the Vice President’s feet.”
"I'll pass," I said, "I saw that last time he was here."
Everyone is gathered in the conference room. It’s the V.P.’s birthday. I can hear them singing a forced and shrill Happy Birthday right now. I know exactly what the V.P. looks like at this moment: his thin, mirthless grin as he revels in the fear betrayed by their voices; I can see his beady eyes as they furtively scan back and forth with reptilian satisfaction, obscured behind the reflection in his glasses of the terrified, contorted faces of the false revelers.
Well, this is it. Now's my chance; I’m leaving the bunker. Barney has come in; he looks miserable, wagging his tail plaintively. He seems to understand. No, I'm sure he does.
"I gotta go, pal. Take care of yourself." I tell him, surprised to hear my voice cracking with emotion as I pat him on the head. "Don't worry."
The grim, insincere singing; the dog's helpless, imploring eyes: I have no choice.
"Oh alright." I say. "Come on boy, let's go home."