Facing a lame-duck presidency and a belligerent Democratic Congress, a desperate President Bush hired a medium to summon the only spirit who could understand him: Rodney Dangerfield.
"Here’s the problem," said Dangerfield, as he loosened his tie and twisted his neck from side to side. "You got no respect, Mr. President, no respect at all."
"But Pelosi and Reid gave me gifts after my State of the Union Address."
"Pelosi and Reid are trying to soak you, Mr. President. They gave you toys to play with while you’re soaking — a toaster and a radio."
"But I presented ideas that we could address in a bipartisan manner, Rodney."
"Like your health-care ideas? Sure, common-sense market incentives would broaden coverage and drive down costs. But your ideas are already dead on arrival. Democrats are out to get you, Mr. President. If you went to a prize fight, a session of Congress would break out."
"What about my energy plan, Rodney? I called for a 20 percent reduction in gasoline usage by 2017. We could achieve that by shifting to ethanol and other alternative fuels."
"But ethanol is made from corn, Mr. President. The amount you’re talking about would require 30 million acres of farmland. You really think the Democratic left will allow that much soil erosion and pesticide use? Mr. President, if the Surgeon General were a Democrat, he’d tell you to smoke!"
"Well, how about spending, Rodney? I submitted a budget plan that goes into surplus after five years. I called on Congress to cut legislative earmarks — the line items of pork Congress slips into bills at the last minute — in half."
Rodney laughed so hard, his bulging eyes nearly popped out of his head.
"Sorry, Mr. President, but I can’t imagine Democrats giving up the goodies now that they’ve finally got their mitts on the spending levers. The Democratic pork trough will be so full, it’ll have stretch marks. And the only way Democrats will play with you is if a hunk of tenderloin is dangling around your neck."
"But the Democrats said they’d work with me. Nancy Pelosi has been downright flirtatious with me."
"But Mr. President, she called you the other night and told you to come over, that nobody was home. You went over to see her and nobody was home."
"But the Democrats need to show legislative accomplishments if they hope to retain control of Congress in 2008. Surely they’ll compromise somewhere."
"Like the war in Iraq, Mr. President? Most Democrats voted to authorize it in 2002 when it was popular, then they beat the war horse back to power when it became unpopular. You think they’re going to stop riding that horse now? Mr. President, if you swallowed a bottle of aspirin, Democrats would offer you cocktails and encourage you to get some rest."
"But so much is at stake, Rodney. We can’t play politics with the war in Iraq. We need to resolve it now — or face far more severe consequences later. And there are other daunting problems here at home — Social Security, Medicare — that will only get worse the longer we wait to solve them."
"Mr. President, what’s best for the country is not as enticing to Democrats as what is bad for you. If your tie was on fire, Democrats would put it out with an axe."
"What can I do to win back the people’s respect so that Congress will listen to me?"
"How should I know, Mr. President? I’m a comedian. And there’s nothing funny about your presidency. Gallup says your approval rating is at 36 percent. Your Republican colleagues, worried about 2008, are jumping ship. A CBS poll says that 60 percent of the world doesn’t respect you. The fact is, Mr. President, that –"
"I’m getting no respect, no respect at all?"
"Yes, Mr. President, not even from your dog, Barney. The way things are going for you, Barney’s favorite bone is your arm."