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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin and Bush in Shock

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Leaders have been exaggerating their societies' perils and their own virtues since the first cave politician ran for tribal rock gatherer on a Strategic Mammoth Defense platform. Our 21st-century politicos stretch the truth with even less scruple and hesitation than their forebears, as U.S. and Russian officials regularly prove.

Highly placed Americans have told us that the four-year fiasco of "democratizing" Iraq has been a story of continuous progress; that the New Orleans disaster relief head was doing a heckuva job; that memory-challenged Alberto Gonzales was a trustworthy, impartial attorney general; and that U.S. President George W. Bush knows which way is up.

In Moscow, we've been assured that an independent judiciary and free press flourish; that People's Unity Day promotes the people's unity; that foreign observers are welcome to monitor fairly contested parliamentary elections; and that despite President Vladimir Putin's vigilance, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wants to annex Siberia.

These things are clearly not true, yet Americans and Russians have been asked to take them (and much more) at face value, as though our ignorance or credulity were simply boundless. Enough, I say. Citizens of both nations should demand a Truth Summit at which their presidents wear portable polygraph machines with 200-watt falsehood indicators wired to sensitive anatomical extremities. Et voila: veracity-based politics!

Putin: Good morning, George. But that's just my opinion.

Bush: Hi, Vladimir. I'd say I'm happy to see you again, podner, but I'm not.

VP: The feeling's mutual. Who wants to play summit with a lame duck president from a failed administration? But let's try to stay upbeat. I'm glad your relentlessly perky wife isn't joining us.

GB: Uh-huh, and I'm glad your little missus -- my daughters call her "Miss Pudgy" -- won't be chowing down with us today. Also, I'm real pleased I haven't made a bad grammatical mistake yet or mispronounced any simple words.

VP: Wait, are you really as confused and inept as your public appearances make you seem?

GB: Hey, I'm not "confused and inept"-- YOW!! OK, I am. But thanks to what Karl Rove calls the Forrest Gump effect, millions of Americans can admire and even vote for a near-dysfunctional official with a folksy southwestern drawl. Go figure.

VP: Mmm, odd indeed. Well, let's get down to business, George. Your people want us to reconsider our sensible, carefully calibrated Iran policy -- OUCH!! ... oh, all right -- our dangerous, self-serving Iran policy. And my people think you should abandon the pointless missile system you're putting in Eastern Europe just because you can.

GB: Whatever. On the Iranians, I think Condi wants me to insist your policy is real risky, starting with that nuclear plant you're building them at Bushwah.

VP: Ha-ha, it's Bushehr. Well, there's your first knee-slapper. Anyway, yes, the Bushehr project is risky, but it does two things I like: It makes us money and makes you angry.

GB: I understand the money-liking. I was a failed businessman before I became a failed president. But why do you like making me angry? Because I looked into your soul that time without asking?

VP: I meant you in the national sense, swami. Anyway, we enjoy making the United States. angry now because we still peevishly resent the way triumphalist Americans treated us after the Cold War -- like two-bit losers. You even sent "expert advisers" from Harvard who helped loot the country's assets.

GB: I have an advanced degree from Harvard. Pretty surprising, huh?

VP: I'd say miraculous. But then, you didn't have to write a thesis for your advanced degree, as I did -- OUCH!! All right, back to the Euro-missiles. Look, you'll save yourselves big money and embarrassment if you'd just Gonzales this plan forthwith.

GB: Well, our people could go over it again, I guess. But remember, in this administration, I am the decider -- OW-OW-OW!! All right, I'll see if the vice president'll change his mind.

VP: Good. And on Iran, I'll consult with key decision makers in the State Du -- wait, no, I'll ponder it myself while shaving -- whew, that was close -- right after our presidential election -- OUCH!! Damn, I mean after I announce the new surrogate-president guy.

GB: Boy, Vladimir, I haven't enjoyed this Truth Summit very much. My socks are 'bout fried! Anyways, adios, ex-amigo. Let's not keep in touch!

VP: It'll be a pleasure not seeing you again. Say, I wonder how much of the world thinks that about the pair of us ...

Mark H. Teeter teaches English and Russian-American relations in Moscow.