By: Greg Mitchell
In the days since Oprah Winfrey sliced and diced writer James Frey on her TV show for misleading the public with lies in his bestselling memoir, many liberal commentators have expressed a single wish: to watch Oprah have the opportunity to do the same with President George W. Bush concerning the alleged lies that got the U.S. into Iraq (2200 lost American lives ago).
Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post columnist, observed on Tuesday, “If there were justice in the world, George W. Bush would have to give his State of the Union address from Oprah’s couch….Bush should have to face the wrathful, Old Testament Oprah who subjected author James Frey to that awful public smiting the other day.”
Syndicated columnist Norman Solomon cited the Winfrey/Frey tussle, then charged, “Yet the journalists who interview Bush aren’t willing to question him in similar terms.” On “The Daily Show” Monday, Jon Stewart contrasted Oprah’s tough questioning of Frey with obsequious TV news treatment of President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and others. Maureen Dowd compared “disgraced author” Frey with “a commander in chief who keeps writing chapter after chapter of fictionalized propaganda.”
So I have taken the liberty of pushing all this dreaming one step beyond, imagining an Oprah sitdown with the president–based almost word-for-word on the transcript of her latest session with Frey, with just a few phrases obviously changed here and there.
Here it is, without commercial interruption, or claps and boos from the audience. It even has a happy ending.
Oprah: President Bush is here and I have to say it is difficult for me to talk to you because I feel really duped. But more importantly, I feel that you betrayed millions of citizens in your statements about WMD in Iraq and Saddam?s connection to Al Qaeda. I think it’s such a gift to have millions of people to believe in you and your office and that bothers me greatly. So now, as I sit here today I don’t know what is true and I don’t know what isn’t. So first of all, I wanted to start with The Huffington Post report titled, “The Man Who Conned Oprah” and I want to know?were they right?
Bush: I think most of what they wrote was pretty accurate. Absolutely.
Bush: I think they did a good job detailing some of the discrepancies between some of the actual facts of the events.
Oprah: Was your description of how Saddam Hussein was about to get nuclear weapons true?
Bush: He was about to get nuclear weapons, yes.
Oprah: About to?
Bush: I mean, that was one of the details I altered about him.
Oprah: Okay. And why?
Bush: Because all the way through the run up to the war I altered details about every single one of the WMD possibilities to render them unidentifiable.
Oprah: Nuclear weapons are more dramatic than conventional weapons?
Bush: I don’t think either is more dramatic than the other.
Oprah: But why did you lie? Why did you do that?
Bush: I think one of the coping mechanisms I developed was sort of this image of myself that was greater, probably, than?not probably?that was greater than what I actually was. In order to get through the experience, I thought of myself as being tougher than I was and badder than I was?and it helped me cope. When I was selling the war ? instead of being as introspective as I should have been, I clung to that image.
Oprah: And did you cling to that image because that’s how you wanted to see yourself? Or did you cling to that image because that would make a better sell job?
Bush: Probably both.
Oprah: How much of your statements on WMD and Saddam?s connections to Al Qaeda were fabricated?
Bush: Not very much. I mean, all the people are real.
Oprah: But I acted in defense of you and as I said, my judgment was clouded because so many people seemed to have gotten so much out of it. But now I feel that you conned us all. Do you?
Bush: I don’t feel like I conned everyone.
Oprah: You don’t.
Bush: Because I still think the war is about WMD and Al Qaeda and nobody’s disputing that I was a addicted…to fighting Saddam. And it’s a battle to overcome that.
Oprah: Your charges about WMD, you said that that was true then. Would you say that today?
Bush: I?I…I had documents that supported it. About nine months after the war, I was speaking to somebody from State. They said that they doubted it happened that way, but that there was a chance that it did?that cases like that are reviewed on an individual basis.
Oprah: This is what I don’t get. Because when you were here before, you said that there were about 400 pages of documents..That there were documents and reports. Because I said, “How can you remember such detail? And that’s how you explained it to me.
Oprah: Do you now wish you had added a disclaimer?
Bush: I don’t know if I wish I had offered a disclaimer or if I had just talked about certain events in a different way. I think that would have been the more appropriate thing to do than putting in a disclaimer.
Oprah: I appreciate you being here because I believe the truth can set you free. I realize this has been a difficult time for you ? maybe this is the beginning of another kind of truth for you.
Bush: I think you’re absolutely right. I mean, I think this is obvious– this hasn’t been a great day for me. It certainly hasn’t been a great couple weeks for me. But I think I come out of it better. I mean, I feel like I came here and I have been honest with you. I have, you know, essentially admitted to?to…[sigh]…to lying.
Oprah: Which is not an easy thing to do.
Bush: No, it’s not an easy thing to do in front of an audience full of people and a lot of others watching on TV. I mean, if I come out of this experience with anything, it’s being a better person and learning from my mistakes and making sure that I don’t repeat them.