Spoofs & Satire


The White House has a secret that not even an Acme Ultimatum Dispatcher could eke out.

“It’s bad enough that [McCain] strapped himself to a broken Acme rocket on Iraq and the economy. Now he’s strapping himself on North Korea. People were enamored of his independence, but now he just seems like Bush’s windup toy, the obedient corporal.”—Unnamed Hillary Clinton representative, the New York Times, October 14, 2006

To: Karl Rove
From: Tony Snow

Look, I know I’m the new guy, and it’s my job to take the hits. And I willingly take them. Anything to escape another one of O’Reilly’s sloppy bear hugs back at Fox. Even Helen Thomas’s in-for-the-kill beady eye is better than that.

So I’m not complaining, I’m not, though it has been one thing after another—the NIE, the Woodward book, Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, and Foley, Foley, Foley. I think I’m doing an OK job out there, and I appreciate the help, I do, Karl, especially all those canisters of Acme Smokescreen Bomb you sent over to the press office.

Which I suppose brings me to my point. Because the Acme Corp. thing is going to break soon, I can feel it, and before November, certain. There are too many rumors in the air—my God, there’s already talk about McCain’s little rocket incident—I need some help. And whatever help you give me helps us all, right?

The question is gonna come up: What did President Bush know about his administration buying the entire catalog of the notorious Acme Corporation, and when did he know it? I can already see David Gregory puffing himself up with that one. Help me, Karl. There are whispers that the prez has always been a great fan of Acme, going back to when, well, when he was younger. Do you know where he got the idea that those cartoons are military testing films at secret locations in the desert?

Here’s one idea I have: a side-step answer accentuating the positive, something like, “You’re always bellyaching about Halliburton this, Halliburton that, and here you have a perfect example of an economical use of taxpayer money, because the government purchased the entire Acme catalog for pennies—literally. I mean, talk about discounts.” On the other hand, this is perhaps offering more information that we need to. Let me know what you think.

Oh, I’m sure you don’t want to hear this, but somebody’s been snooping around the Pentagon, and I guarantee that soon I’ll be hearing a lot of questions about exactly how much Acme Blasting Powder, Acme Triple-Strength Steel Armor Plating, Acme Atom Re-Arrangers, Acme Building Disintegrators, and Acme Indestructo Steel Balls have been used in Iraq. You see what I mean? If even I know this stuff, how much longer can the MSM keep their eyes shut about it? And then it’ll only be a matter of time before someone brings up the Acme Rocket-Powered Roller Skates and the Jet-Propelled Pogo Sticks that were supplied to the troops and the reports of head injuries on the ceilings and full-body holes through the middle of walls that the military brushed under the rug. I could say that the generals in the field kept telling Rumsfeld that they couldn’t get enough of the Acme products, and he always listens to his generals. Or I could say that we’re not just winning the war on terror—we’re having fun doing it. Seriously, anything you got, Karl.

I know what you’re going to say, but the Acme Anti-Nightmare Machine has never worked for me. Because there are two related questions that scare me the most. I wake up in the middle of the night, with the vision of a roomful of hands raised, just hands, no bodies, no faces, except that the hands have mouths, and everyone wants to know: When did the government learn the Acme Triple Strength Steel Armor Plating had manufacturing defects? And when did the Acme Strait-Jacket Ejecting Bazooka go horribly wrong at Abu Ghraib? All those talking hands, Karl, it’s enough to make a guy wanna hide under an Acme Artificial Rock. I know what you’re going to say, but the Acme Anti-Nightmare Machine has never worked for me.

Here’s an idea: Tout the success stories. Feed ‘em to Hannity and all the rest. They can fill the airwaves running down a list, that the Acme Portable Hole was the best filing system we ever had for White House emails, at least at first; that Acme Building Disintegrators were a great success and did an excellent job in the city of Fallujah, three separate times; and that Acme Invisible Paint continues to be applied effectively at all our detention centers. Hmmm, maybe scratch that last one.

Or how about limited frankness, instead? Here’s a little speech I’ve worked up: “The State Department acknowledges that the Acme Ultimatum Dispatcher gun was a special disappointment. Whenever Secretary Powell or Secretary Rice pointed the thing at a foreign head of state, like Kim Jung Il of North Korea, or Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, out popped a little flag with the message ‘Surrender or be blown into 17,670,002 micro-cells.’ A powerful message, to be sure, but the way that flag and its amateurish block letters swayed in the breeze never seemed to do the trick. Though, to be fair, until recently it did a heck of a job on the Democrats.” Condi’ll hit the roof, though, if I go with this; could you run some defense for me, Karl? When she starts throwing those shoes and scrunches up her—

Sorry, Karl, I just had to duck. Those damn Acme Boomerangs. How’s it at your wing of the White House—any windows left? I can’t imagine who thought it was a good idea in the first place to throw those things at the liberal bloggers. I mean, not you, I’m sure it wasn’t y—

Damn! Another one, and glass all over my keyboard! But I can’t stop now, you’ve got to help me with this one, because I imagine I’m clutching the podium and my hands turn to wood and then my arms until I have leaves instead of hair and I can’t speak through my wooden lips; I can’t speak but it doesn’t matter because I have nothing to say when they shout, “Is it true the Acme Corporation Baby-Sitting Service was awarded a contract for the Congressional Page Program?” “Who ordered the entire stock of Acme water pistols and Acme whip cream dispensers for the monthly sleepovers?”

I’m grasping at straws here, but what if, as a diversion, we tried to pin Acme Instant Girl on Bill Clinton?

I’d take an Acme Aspirin but, you know.

What’s left for us? The Acme Trick Bone? I know that still works on McCain whenever he gets his dander up, but what else is there to protect us, Karl? There are rumors flying that the prez is spending all his time in the Oval Office with the Acme Junior Explosive Kit that Cheney gave him, rumors about the NSA’s top secret Acme Clue Collector program, and rumors that an Acme Moving Van is parked outside the steps of Congress, and what am I going to say when they ask me those questions, Karl?

Wooden hands, Karl, wooden hands.

Philip Graham is the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, his latest being The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches From Lisbon. He is a co-founder of the literary/arts journal Ninth Letter and currently serves as the nonfiction editor. He teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois and the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and he can also play every musical instrument in the world extremely well in his mind. His seres of short essays on the craft of writing can be read at philipgraham.net. More by Philip Graham