I had some questions for George W. Bush, but the ex-president is more elusive than Kanye West. I just couldn't figure out how to get a hold of him. What follows is my fake conversation with the son of the forty-first President of the United States of America. Which is to say, he actually said these things once. Just not to me.
LM: Mr. President! Just the person I've been looking for. I've been meaning to talk to you about this number kicking around mainstream media lately. I mean, I guess it's more of a proportion. A percentage, really. But a percentage just shows how two numbers relate to each other. So we'll stick with "number." You've heard of the word, right?
LM: Well regardless. 1 in 5 Americans thinks Barack Obama is Muslim. And the funny thing about numbers, the thing which you may not know, is that they lie.
[GWB takes phone call. From his Android.]
LM: I know you know what lying is. So, yeah, numbers don't tell the whole story. The 20% of Americans thinking BO is Muslim, for instance. We're meant to assume that every member of that group also hates that the President is Muslim. But it doesn't account for the people who think Barack is Muslim, but who are totally fine with that. That 20%? It's a half-truth for the Whole Foods set. Heh.
LM: Which brings me to why I've been wanting to talk to you. You're one of those people, right? You think Barack Obama is Muslim, but I feel like you're cool with that. Yes?
GWB: Here in the United States our Muslim citizens are making many contributions in business, science and law, medicine and education, and in other fields. Muslim members of our Armed Forces and of my administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction, upholding our nation's ideals of liberty and justice in a world at peace.
LM: Uh. Mr. President, you understand that Barack Obama is President now. He isn't a member of your administration. And yes, while he is Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, I don't think it's correct to think about him as a member per se. It's more like he's in charge of the military. But yeah, I hear you. Muslim citizens are everywhere. Even in the White House. Your point is well taken.
GWB: Islam brings hope and comfort to millions of people in my country, and to more than a billion people worldwide. Ramadan is also an occasion to remember that Islam gave birth to a rich civilization of learning that has benefited mankind.
LM: Yeah my college roommate is Muslim. He's been fasting. I feel bad for him because it's been so hot this August. Did you know they can't even drink water during the day? It's not like Catholic fasting. Or born-again Christian fasting. That's what you are, right? A born-again Christian?
LM: Anyway, it's interesting you bring up Ramadan. Is it just because it's just ending? Or are you trying to say something else? Are you saying you think President Obama's been fasting? Do you think it's affected his job performance?
GWB: Over the past month, Muslims have fasted, taking no food or water during daylight hours, in order to refocus their minds on faith and redirect their hearts to charity.
LM: So he's lost? He's lost his mojo? You've been reading Maureen Dowd, I see. Weird.
GWB: Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans. Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others. Ours is a country based upon tolerance and we welcome people of all faiths in America.
LM: No, I understand. You're not saying he's lost his mojo because he's Muslim. That'd be insane. You're just saying that his listlessness has nothing to do with his faith. And Ramadan is a time for the President, to use your expression, to refocus his mind. It's sort of good timing then that it is happening now. Am I getting that right?
GWB: Islam is a faith that brings comfort to people. It inspires them to lead lives based on honesty, and justice, and compassion.
LM: I just think it's so cool that even though you really believe Barack Obama is Muslim, you don't mind at all. I've been to Whole Foods before: it's very easy for me to just assume that people who think the President is Muslim have some other agenda. And you just turn that upside down. Half-truth for Whole Foods. Get it?
GWB: Americans understand we fight not a religion; ours is not a campaign against the Muslim faith. Ours is a campaign against evil.
LM: That's so neat to hear you say that.
GWB: Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn't follow the great traditions of Islam. They've hijacked a great religion.
LM: Do you mean how the Taliban has bastardized Islam? How their actions are actually mocking their own faith? Is that what you mean? Because in a weird way, your words could also be construed to be referring to right wingers here at home. Your old base, I guess. They don't respect Islam or honor its traditions. Who is the evil you're referring to?
GWB: Because this great nation of many religions understands, our war is not against Islam, or against faith practiced by the Muslim people. Our war is a war against evil. This is clearly a case of good versus evil, and make no mistake about it — good will prevail.
LM: Right, right. So the fear mongering and the etc. and etc. is evil? Is that what you're saying?
GWB: Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?
LM: Well I know. But this is an interview about how you think Barack Obama is Muslim. And you're changing the subject just as we get to the juicy part. I'm trying to ask if you think all the fear mongering is evil.
GWB: I care what 51 percent of the people think about me.
LM: Geez, we know that. Your administration was a divisive one. And I know midterms are approaching, so I get why you don't want to sell your base out. I get that. But we were just getting to the part where you tell Sarah Palin to knock it off and pose in Playboy already. I think.
[LM stares. So does GWB.]
LM: I'll tell you what. If you think the fear mongering is evil, just blink, or nod.
[GWB tears up.]
GWB: They misunderestimated me.
LM: I know. And I'm sorry.
[LM blinks, possibly tears up.]
LM: Wait a second. No. They didn't underestimate you. We. We didn't misunderestimate you, that is. I mean, I guess in some ways we did, but I don't think we did in the way that you mean. You guys did a lot of fucked up stuff. But I am sorry. And I'm sorry for putting words into your mouth about Sarah Palin.
[GWB plays with Android.]
LM: Fine. I'll ask the question that is rarely asked: is our children learning?
GWB: I must say, I'm a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you… in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks.
LM: Are you thanking me for my unemployment?
[LM tears up.]
LM: I can't believe we're both crying. This is insane. Is this how your other interviews go?
[LM can't believe he's crying.]
LM: OK OK. Let's wrap this up. You've been out of office for a few years now. Do you have any thoughts about your legacy as you see it? Anything nagging you want to clear the air about?
GWB: Well, you know, I think the American people are sacrificing now. I think they're waiting in airport lines longer than they've ever had before.
LM: Ha. I guess that's all anyone can really say these days. Can I see your Android?