Mark Zieg
October 24, 1988
Dr. Baxter

A Satire of Modern Political Debates

If this isn't familiar to you, cf Shakespeare's Julius Caeser (act III, scene ii), the famous "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears..." bit.
[Enter George BUSH, his AIDES, a camera crew, and COMMENTATORS]

BUSH.   Friends, voters, countrymen, lend me your ears;
        I come to bury Reagan's mistakes, not to condone them.
        The precedents that men set live after them;
        But the good is oft deleted from the histories.
        So let it be with Reagan.  The noble Dukakis
        Hath told you Reagan was wasteful.
        If it were so, it were a grievous fault,
        And grievously hath America answer'd it.
        Here, under leave of Dukakis and the networks
        (For Dukakis is a tolerant man;
        So are the all, all tolerant men),
        Come I to speak in Reagan's behalf.
        He was my friend, dutiful and just to all;
        But Dukakis said he was wasteful,
        And Dukakis is a tolerant man.
        He hath brought many refugees home to our shores,
        Whose jobs did raise up our industrial base.
        Did this in Reagan seem wasteful?
        When that the poor have hungrily cried, Reagan hath 
            only wept;
        Squanderers should be made of more munificent stuff.
        Yet Dukakis says he as wasteful;
        And Dukakis is a tolerant man.
        You all did see that by Colonel North
        He was thrice accused of trading arms for hostages,
        Of which he did thrice refuse knowledge.
        Was he in this wasteful?
        Yet Dukakis says he was wasteful;
        And sure he is a tolerant man.
        I speak not to disprove what Dukakis spoke,
        But here I am to speak what I do know.
        You all did elect him twice, not without cause.
        What cause withholds you then to trust in him?
        O electorates, thou art conquered by liberal swine,
        And men have lost their fortune!  Bear with me.
        My heart is in the Office there with Reagan,
        And I must pause till it come back to me.
        (Or better, I to it.)
(The four COMMENTATORS are seated in a press box not far from
the podium.)

DAN.    Methinks there is much confusion in his ravings.
TOM.    Nay, if thou consider rightly of the matter, Reagan has
            done much good.
PETE.   Has he not, masters?  I fear there will a worse come  in
            his place.
BARB.   Mark'd ye his words?  He did no know of the scandal;
        therefore 'tis certain he was not wasteful.
DAN.    Had he not known, he was proved the greater scoundrel.
TOM.    And look! his aides' eyes are red as fire with weeping.
PETE.   (aside) There's not a harder job in Washington than
            leashing Bush.
BARB.   Now mark him.  He begins again to speak.

(They all return hurriedly to their notes)

BUSH.   But yesterday the word of Reagan might
        Have stood against the world.  Now sits he in his office,
        And none so poor as t give him local coverage.
        O masters!  If I were dispos'd to stir
        Your hearts and minds to Reaganomics and Defense,
        I should do Dukakis wrong, and Bentsen wrong,
        Who, you all know, are tolerant men.
        I will not do them wrong.  I rather choose
        To wrong the deposed, to wrong myself and you,
        Than I will wrong such tolerant men.
        But here's a document carrying the Presidential seal.
        He has left it for his successor; his legacy to you all.
        Let but the Houses hear this proposal,
        Which (pardon me) I do no mean to read,
        And they would go and forgive all Reagan's transgressions
        And pledge their support to his leadership;
        Yea, repeal the 22nd Amendment for his sake,
        And refute their earlier accusations,
        Avowing him to be their Chief Executive
        Unto their districts.
BARB.   We'll hear the bill!  Read it, Vice-President.
ALL.    The bill, the bill!  We will hear Reagan's bill!
BUSH.   Have patience, gentle friends; I must not read it.
        It is not meet to so publicly discuss national secrets.
        You are not Italians, you are no Africans, but
(at this point one AIDE faints)
        And being Americans, hearing the bill of Reagan,
        It will inflame you, it will fill you with vision.
        'Tis good you know not America's secret strength;
        For if you should, O, what would come of it?
BARB.   Read the bill!  We'll hear it, Mr. Vice-President!
        You shall read us the bill, Reagan's bill!
BUSH.   Will you be patient?  Will you stay awhile?
        I have o'er shot myself to tell you of it.
        I fear I wrong the tolerant men
        Whose false propaganda have soiled our leader,
            I dearly fear it.
BARB.   Foul politicians!  Tolerant men!
TOM.    (aside to bush) Don't take it personally, George.
        (aloud) The bill!  Read the bill!
(In fact, BUSH does look a bit pale at this point; he quails at
the sight of his red-faced speechwriter)

ALL.    The bill! the testament!
BUSH.   You will compel me then to read the bill?
        Then, masters, take your pen in hand
        and let me show you him that made the bill.
        Shall I describe it?
ALL.    Go ahead.
TOM.    Describe.
PETE.   You have our attention.

(the cluster about BUSH)

DAN.    A ring!  He leads us in a circus!
BUSH.   Nay, press not so upon me.  Stand far off.
BARB.   Room for Bush, who gives us an exclusive!
ALL.    Stand back!  Room!  Bear back!
BUSH.   If you lack respect for his strategic genius,
        Prepare to lose it now;
        You all do know this proposal.
        I remember the first time ever
        Reagan put it to Congress.
        'Twas a quiet session up till then,
        That day he presented them his dream.
        Now, they fret at the cost.
        They tear at minor flaws, ripping into his vision.
        From subversives the final blow came:
        A false accusation of unreliability was made,
        And left the proposal ridiculed by all,
        As if beating down America's strength
        were a virtue, a desirable sin;
(angrily now)
        For Dukakis, as you know, claimed to support a strong
        Judge, O you citizens, how closely their ideals ran!
        This was the most unkindest cut of all;
        For when the noble Reagan saw him stab,
        Ingratitude, more strong than lobbyists' petitions,
        Quite vanquish'd him.  Then clouded his clear vision;
        And in his failure muffling up his strength,
        Even at the end of a long and successful tenure
        (Which all the while grew in popularity) great Reagan
        O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!
        Then I, and you, ad all of us fell down,
        Whilst bloody liberals flourish'd over us.
        O, now you look troubled, and I perceive you feel
        The dint of pity.  These are gracious laments.
        Thoughtful viewers, what weep you when you but behold
        Our Reagan's grand scheme in collapse?  Look you here!
        Here is his vision, marr'd as you see by rivals.
TOM.    O noble Reagan!
PETE.   O woeful day!
BARB.   O miscreants, villains!
DAN.    O laughable spectacle!
TOM.    We will be reveng'd.
DAN.    (sneering) You will be reviled!
BUSH.   Stay, countrymen.
DAN.    What, ho! he is not yet complete with his senseless
TOM.    We'll hear him, we'll follow him, we'll endorse him!
BUSH.   Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up
        To such a sudden flood of support.
        They that have done this deed are tolerant.
        What private wisdom they have, alas, I know not,
        That made them do it.  They are wise and tolerant,
        And will no doubt with reasons answer you.
        I come not, friends, to steal away your votes.
        I am no orator, as some would fancy me,
        But (as you know me all) a plain blunt man
        That loves my country; and they know full well
        That I have been given time to speak on it.
        For I have neither wit, nor words, nor wealth,
        Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech
        To stir men's blood.  I only speak right on.
        I tell you that which you yourselves do know,
        Show you our beloved Reagans' continuing policies,
        And bid them speak for me.  But were I Dukakis,
        And Dukakis Bush, there were a Bush
        Would ruffle up your spirits, and put a tongue
        To every policy of Reagan that should move
        The people of America to rise and re-elect him.
ALL.    We'll re-elect him!
BARB.   We'll restore Reagan to power.
PETE.   Away then!  Come, seek the President.
BUSH.   Yet hear me, countrymen.  Yet hear me speak.
ALL.    Peace, ho!  Hear Bush, most noble Bush!
BUSH.   Nay, friends, you go to do the unlawful.
        It is not for Reagan to return, but to
        Abdicate to his chosen successor.
(He looks at them pointedly.  After a moment, they return to
their seats, decidedly abashed.)

        Alas, you know not!  I must tell you then.
        You have forgot the bill I told you of.
ALL.    Most true!  The bill!  Let's stay and hear the bill.
BUSH.   Here is the bill, and under Reagan's seal.
        To every American citizen he gives,
        To every several man, a seven-point-five hike in taxes.
DAN.    Most noble Reagan!  We'll impeach him before November!
BUSH.   Hear me with patience.
ALL.    (reluctantly now, with audible mutterings)
        Peace, ho!
BUSH.   In exchange, he has presented a new and improved
        S.D.I., a defense network to shelter your children
        And your children's children; this bill, when
        Passed by Congress, will restore America to its
        Proper position of leadership in the world.
        For only strong borders can ensure a strong economy.
        And who is there to implement such a dream
        But his humble assistant?
TOM.    (their faith restored) Bush, Bush!  A new President for
            a new age!
PETE.   Call the editors!
BARB.   Fetch the pollsters!
DAN.    I think I'm going to be ill.

[Exeunt COMMENTATORS with their articles.]

BUSH.   (with a weak grin at his stunned AIDES) My campaign
            is now truly underway, what?