Another Perspective

A Washington Nightmare

Alice in Wonderland is politically hot, according to a former Bush-Cheney speechwriter.

By 4.27.09

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I had been feeling unusually anxious and depressed all week, so it was with a real sense of relief that I entered my psychiatrist's office and stretched out on his worn and familiar couch.

"I've having the same nightmare all week, Dr. Freudenthal, and it's driving me crazy," I began.

"Describe your nightmare to me," said Dr. Freudenthal, sympathetically.

"Well, I dream I'm on trial for war crimes, and I'm brought in chains before President Obama, and Obama has this broad grin on his face, and he begins to chant, 'I'll be the judge, I'll be the jury, I'll try the whole case and condemn you to death.'"

"Hold on a second," interrupted Dr. Freudenthal. "Isn't that a direct quote from Alice in Wonderland?"

"It might well be," I conceded. "It's one of my favorite books, you know."

"Please go on," said the good doctor, taking out his pad and pen.

"Well, doctor, you can imagine how upset I'm beginning to get, now that I'm facing the death penalty, so I throw myself on the President's mercy. 'Your Honor,' I cry, 'there's been a terrible mistake! I'm not a war criminal, I've never tortured anybody. I'm just a former Bush-Cheney speechwriter.' But instead of answering me, President Obama slowly vanishes, leaving only his grin."

"Then what happened?" asked Dr. Freudenthal, who was writing everything down now.

"After the President vanished," I continued, "up popped this friendly-looking man who's a dead-ringer for Vice President Biden. 'I quite agree with you,' he said. 'And the moral of that is: Be what you would seem to be -- or, if you'd like to put it more simply -- Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.'"

"And how did that make you feel," asked Dr. Freudenthal, who was now scribbling furiously.

"Biden's words made me feel a bit better, I suppose, but then this very tough-looking fellow stepped forward, and he looked just like Rahm Emanuel, only he was wearing a kimono and his hair was pulled back in a bun, and he pointed his long arm at me and started to sing, 'I've got a little list, I've got a little list, of society's offenders who never would be missed, never would be missed."

"Excuse me," interrupted Dr. Freudenthal, "but isn't that Ko-Ko the Lord High Executioner's song from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado?"

"Is it?" I asked, taken aback. "I thought it was something the Red Queen said in Alice in Wonderland."

"No, no," said Dr. Freudenthal. "I was an English major before I switched to pre-med, and I'm quite sure that's from The Mikado."

"In that case," I shrugged, "I suppose I'll have to edit it out of tomorrow's nightmare. But may I continue, Dr. Freudenthal?"

"Please do."

"At this point," I recalled, "a very serious-looking man, wearing a white wig and a black robe, who looked just like Attorney-General Holder, began to shout, 'Off with his head! Off with his head!' and then another fellow, who reminded me of David Axelrod and who had a giant sword slung over his back, grabbed me by my wrists and dragged me into a large, empty field. I could see that my time is up, and I prepared to surrender my soul to my Maker, but suddenly Axelrod dropped his sword and started running away.'It's the Jabberwock,' he screamed, 'it's the Jabberwock.' And sure enough, the Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, came whiffling through the tulgey wood, and burbled as it came!"

"So what did you do next?" asked Dr. Freudenthal, who was so caught up in my nightmare that he stopped taking notes.

"Well, I quickly picked up Axelrod's sword and charged at the furious Jabberwock, and one two, one to! The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! And I left the Jabberwock dead."

"But that's just wonderful!" cried Dr. Freudenthal. "Why are you so depressed -- you should be proud of yourself."

"I'm afraid, doctor, that you just don't understand," I patiently explained. "I just wiped out an endangered species. I could get twenty years for that!"

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About the Author

Joseph Shattan is the author of Architects of Victory: Six Heroes of the Cold War.