Honest Abe? Not on the Lincoln

BY CHRIS GIOVINAZZO

A strange controversy needs to be cleared up, and I’m happy to help. On May 1, as you may recall, President Bush piloted a fighter onto the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. President Bush congratulated a cheering throng of sailors and declared the end to major combat operations in Iraq.

As luck would have it, many photos of President Bush that day also captured a very large banner behind him which read, “Mission Accomplished.” Some critics say the sign implied premature overconfidence. The critics seem to believe that Bush actually endorsed the idea that the “Mission” in Iraq had been “Accomplished,” based on the fact that he was standing in front of a very large banner to that effect.

President Bush recently corrected this unfair attribution. Said the President, “the ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign, of course, was put up by the members of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff – they weren’t that ingenious, by the way.” Press Secretary Scott McClellan clarified that “it was the Navy, the people on board the ship who had the idea of this banner and made the suggestion… they asked – they asked if we could help take care of the production of the banner.”

Can you believe the nerve of those critics? They expect us to buy into their absurd notion that the President impliedly endorses the slogan printed on the large banner that happens to be behind him when he gives a speech. What will the liberal media think of next?

* * *

In order to really shed light on the controversy, I’ve investigated and transcribed what really happened with the banner. I’ve done this in screenplay format. After the outrageously unfair portrayal of Ronald Reagan in CBS’s recently aborted mini-series, I figured I’d do my part to create an accurate presidential docudrama for a change. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

FADE IN: The deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.

NAVAL COMMANDER CHUN: Sailor, I’ve got great news. The President himself is going to land on our ship and give us a hell of a welcome home.

SAILOR: (Pause). Okay.

CHUN: What’s the matter Sailor? The Commander-in-Chief is going to be here tomorrow!

SAILOR: Yes, sir. It’s just that… aw, forget it.

CHUN: Sailor, I order you to speak your mind.

SAILOR: Well, it’s nice that the President is coming. I just think it would be so much better if when he gives his speech, there could be a large banner behind him that says, “Mission Accomplished.”

CHUN: You know, you’re right. Having the President visit our ship, with a cool banner – that’s what we really want.

SAILOR: Yes sir. There’s just one problem.

CHUN: What’s that, son?

SAILOR: We don’t have any graphic design or printing capabilities on board.

CHUN: I’ll call the White House immediately.

CUT TO: The Oval Office.

WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DEPUTY SCOTT SFORZA: Mr. President, your visit to the Lincoln is all set.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Great.

SFORZA: One thing. The sailors on the Lincoln want us to produce and hang a giant banner that says “Mission Accomplished.” Even though I’m a high ranking media specialist, I hadn’t previously considered the backdrop for your speech.

BUSH: Huh. Me neither. Just thought landing on an aircraft carrier was the right thing to do.

SFORZA: I’m concerned that if you give your speech in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner, it might imply to the nation that you believe that the country’s mission in Iraq has been accomplished, thereby misconstruing your more nuanced understanding of the persistent challenges we face in Iraq.

(CAMERA CLOSING IN ON BUSH)

BUSH: Sforza, maybe you’re right. Maybe the nation won’t understand. God knows, our mission in Iraq is far from accomplished. I foresee a rampage of looting and car bombs, and it may take years to find Saddam Hussein or even the slightest trace of weapons of mass destruction. But these sailors deserve the very best. They are heroes. I don’t care what the press thinks, and I don’t care about photo opportunities. If those men want me to stand in front of a slogan, even one which misstates our administration’s current view of the status in Iraq, then I say let’s do it. This trip to the Lincoln isn’t about political showmanship, Sforza. It’s about freedom.

Not only would this be riveting to watch, it’s also, I think, just about exactly how it happened.

Chris Giovinazzo’s column appears biweekly.

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