Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bizarro President

Shrub's latest gaffe - defying his own party's leadership by defending the sale of some U.S. port operations to a company with Arab owners, gave the Mandarin a nostalgia attack. Especially when the Mandarin read that Shrub wasn't even told of the potentially controversial decision at the time it was made and only learned about it later, from press reports.

Back in the early 1980s, boys and girls, there was a Middle Eastern dictator with billions of dollars of oil money to spend who was an avowed enemy of the U.S., sponsored terrorism and was seeking weapons of mass destruction. The Mandarin isn't talking about Saddam Hussein - he was one of our best allies in the region back then. We were worried about that Michael Jackson of the Middle East - Muammar al Qadhafi.

On August 19, 1981, during military exercises in the Gulf of Sidra, two U.S. Navy F-14s entered an area considered by the U.S. to be international waters, but claimed by Libya as within their coastal territorial limit. Two Libyan Su-22 fighters scrambled to challenge the F-14s and were promptly shot down. Amid fears that the incident might escalate to open warfare between the U.S. and Libya, our forces went on high alert and a crisis team worked through the night in Washington. In the end, Libya backed down from its threats to retaliate for the provocation and relations returned to a lower, more usual level of tension.

The enduring, some way bizarre, image of the event for Americans (well maybe not so enduring after all if the Mandarin has to provide this turgid footnote) was the White House crisis team's decision not to wake President Reagan up to tell him what was happening. He learned about it bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the next morning over his breakfast, just like the rest of us.

A few weeks later, "Saturday Night Live" ran one of its all-time funniest sketches, based on the Superman comic book character Bizarro Superman. On Bizarro World, everything is backwards. The sketch was set in the Trapezoidal Office of the Black House, residence of Bizarro President Reagan. An excerpt:

Black House Aide #2: Where am the Bizarro President?

Black House Aide #1: His job in Washington, so of course he in California.

Black House Aide #2: That don't make Bizarro sense.

Black House Aide #2: Hello. Ah-ha! Phone did not ring, so me answer it. [answers phone] Goodbye! Oh, no! Oh, no! There's a crisis! There's a crisis! Quick, Bizarro President! Go to sleep!

[Bizarro President drops his head onto his desk and falls asleep]

Black House Aide #1: Phew! That was quick Presidential action. What a leader!

Black House Aide #2: Him am incredible! Bizarro Americans all love him!

Black House Aide #1: Of course.

Bizarro President: [waking up] Me right-to-lifer, so me support the death penalty!

Black House Aide #1: It's that kind of statement that has made him the darling of the Bizarro empire.

As Bizarro George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot learn from Bizarro history are condemned to repeat it."

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