"Bush Snubs Gore Film on Global Warming," AP, May 22, 2006
Drawing on a partial transcript from a National Security Agency wiretap, journalists were able to reconstruct an ensuing phone call between the two men. After passing on the movie invitation, Bush then declined to "catch tomorrow's Nationals game" with Gore, as he had scheduled a "date" with the First Lady. When he also turned down a spare box seat at next week's U2 concert because he had to host an "ambassador from out of town," the star of An Inconvenient Truth grew irate, accusing the President of ignoring his calls on his cell phone. "You think I don't know what's going on when it only rings twice before the message?" the erstwhile Senator said. "Sometimes I can't tell if we're even friends anymore."
The President reassured Gore that, yes, they were still friends, and blamed his taxing work schedule, characterizing it as "just really crazy lately." The environmentally minded Tennessean countered that Bush seemed to have plenty of free time, citing the recent White House Correspondents Dinner. "I guess my Evite got redirected to the bulk folder," he added sarcastically, referring to the party-invitation website and anti-spam email function he claims to have invented in the 1990s.
Bush explained that he had accidentally typed in Mr. Gore's defunct "email@example.com" email address. "Besides," the President continued, "when you hang out with my friends, you tend to become" "I tend to become what?" Gore interrupted. "That," Bush said. "What you just did. Like in the debates." After loudly sighing, the author of Earth in the Balance accused Bush of "hanging out with yes-menyou're ensconced in this impenetrable inner clique."
Bush defended intimates such as Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, repeatedly emphasizing that they foster a sense of "security and freedom" lacking in his relationship with Gore. Overall, the transcript reveals 48 distinct uses by Bush of the word "freedom," including 19 instances alone when, apropos of nothing, he sang the complete lyrics to George Michael's six-and-a-half-minute pop anthem "Freedom '90."
As Bush segued into Michael's 1987 hit "Faith," Gore indicated he was hurt when the President failed to congratulate him on the glowing review his film received on NPR. Bush reminded him that he does not read the newspapers. "And another thing," complained Gore. "We always go to your place, and I'm always initiating everythingit's totally unilateral. If I didn't call, I'd never hear a peep from you. Except for news conferences and State of the Union addresses."
"Look, I'm holed up in the Oval Office four, five hours a day," Bush complained. "At three in the afternoon, the last thing I want to do is deal with people."
"I didn't realize you considered me someone you had to 'deal with,'" Gore sniffed.
"I misspoke," Bush admitted. "I should never have included in my previous sentence those 16 words. But make no mistake: If I had to say it all over again, I would recommend exactly the same course of general sentiment."
"I'm busy, too, you knowlike with my lecture circuit you won't attend," Gore said, alphabetically ticking off some of the thousand-plus places where he had recently shown slides of melting icebergs, eroding coastlines, and flooded New Orleans streets. When he hit Geneva, Switzerland, Bush interjected.
"Come on, you ever had to watch other people's vacation slides?" Bush said. "It's absolute torture. I simply won't condone it."
Bush then muffled the speaker and conferred privately with an aide. A few snatches of conversation were audible: "burnish your image," "approval ratings at an all-time nadir," and, from Bush, "But didn't that seat-belt guy help us win in Florida?"
Returning to Gore, Bush proposed flying down on Air Force One to his ranch. "Got a new shipment of duckswe can find them and hunt them down, one by one. And bring them to justice, or whatever." The transcript notes that Bush's voice suddenly took on a more pronounced Texan twang. "Whaddya thinkjust a couple of average Joes from the South, kickin' back on the weekend," said the New Haven-born, Andover-schooled Yalie.
"Do you really want to spend time with me," tentatively asked the Senator's son and Harvard man, "or is this a pragmatic, focus-grouped concession? Because if it's the latter, I completely understand."
"No, I don't believe in focus groups," Bush said. "Or in concessions. They're fattening."
The leader of the free world then received a call-waiting beep, to which he responded with a high-pitched shriek of "Terrorists!" and what the transcript describes as "the sound of a skull bumping the underside of a desk." Added Bush, "Ouch."
"That was Dick," he said after he calmed down a few minutes later. "We're way over budget on Air Force Onefor some inexplicable reason, jet fuel costs six times what it used to."
After Gore offered a road trip in his Prius, Bush said he could not afford the time off. "Anyway," he said, "it's about 102 degrees in Crawford now, which is weird, because it's normally quite mild this time of year."
Gore initially refused to accept the disinvitation and demanded a reestimate of gas prices and the Texas forecast. But after Bush conference-called the Supreme Court and the justices supported his decision by a 5-4 margin, with Justice Scalia citing the precedent of Richie v. Hilton (2005), the former presidential hopeful meekly conceded.
Teddy Wayne lives in New York City and St. Louis. He is working on a novel and a humor collection.
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