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Feature Story July 26, 2001
OVAL OFFICE! The Nuking Of Sweden in one act
Page 4 of 4
GRAYBURN: Yes, Mr. President.

MR. PRESIDENT: What is that, a hat?

GRAYBURN: No, Mr. President. It's a neck brace.

MR. PRESIDENT: Oh. (sitting down) Well, what's on the today agenda?

ADMUNSON: A rather alarming foreign policy situation, sir.

MR. PRESIDENT: Alarming, huh? (lowering voice) I mean, alarming, huh. What's the problem?

ADMUNSON: Well, sir, I'll explain. (hits intercom on table in front of sofa). Mary, send them in.

MARY: Yes, Mrs. Admunson.

(Enter six startlingly dressed individuals: a MAN IN A BEAR SUIT, a CHINESE MAN wearing a giant dragon costume -- complete with tail -- of the sort used in Chinese New Year parades; and a FAMILY OF FOUR, a mother, father, and pre-teen son and daughter. The FATHER is clutching a credit card in his hand, the MOTHER a shopping bag.)

MAN IN BEAR SUIT: (removing his mask and shaking the president's hand.) Mr. President.

MR. PRESIDENT: Good to have you.

CHINESE MAN: (removing dragon mask, which rattles as he does so; extends hand, speaks in perfect American English) Mr. President. It's an honor.

MR. PRESIDENT: Good to have you. (steps forward, hurrying, shakes hand of FATHER.) Good to have you. (Kisses mother on cheek) Good to have you. (Rapidly now, leans down to little boy, shakes his hand). Quite a grip, soldier. (Kisses little girl, yawning). You'll be breaking hearts someday. (to everyone, clapping hands) Okay, shall we get started, everyone?

(CONLEY, ADMUNSON, and GRAYBURN all take a seat on a sofa in the center of the office, which is situated perpendicular to the stage. The President sits in the sofa directly across from them. The other six all position themselves in front of the fireplace in the space behind the sofas, as though they are on a sort of stage. The MAN IN BEAR SUIT and the CHINESE MAN put their masks back on; the MAN IN THE BEAR SUIT lies down on the floor, putting his hands under his head, as though sleeping, while the CHINESE MAN stands over him, crouching, as though ready to strike. Meanwhile, the FAMILY OF FOUR stands off in a group to the side, standing at attention.)

ADMUNSON: (opening a folder) Okay, Mr. President, the situation is as follows. Late last evening we received word that the Chinese had massed troops on their northeastern border with Russia (waves a hand; the CHINESE MAN begins dancing, his tassels rattling in parade fashion, over the sleeping bear). When the Russians detected the troop movement, they quickly ordered their own mobilization (the MAN IN BEAR SUIT gets up, stands to his full height next to the CHINESE MAN, and raises his arms in a threatening gesture). The Russians sent cables to the Chinese demanding an explanation...

MAN IN BEAR SUIT: (shrugging, to CHINESE MAN) What gives?

ADMUNSON: ... but the Chinese didn't answer.

(The CHINESE MAN turns away from the MAN IN BEAR SUIT and begins dancing gleefully, facing in the direction of the PRESIDENT, CONLEY and ADMUNSON.)

Mr. President, we at State fear that if these reports are true, this situation could lead to more aggressive postures on the part of the Russians.

ADMUNSON: Mr. President, we at State fear that if these reports are true, this situation could lead to more aggressive postures on the part of the Russians. (MAN IN BEAR SUIT raises his arms and growls loudly, does series of Judo-style moves), leading to still more countermeasures by the Chinese (CHINESE MAN dances in circles around the MAN IN BEAR SUIT) and, ultimately, to an overall destabilization of the security situation in the entire Pan-Asian region (the MAN IN BEAR SUIT and CHINESE MAN begin stumbling around the "stage" as though they have lost their balance). We feel that it is necessary for the United States to enter into high-level diplomatic contact with both sides immediately...

(Enter a MAN IN PRESIDENT KOOST MASK. He walks into the room, waving his hands in all directions, steps onto the stage, and throws an arm around the shoulders of both the MAN IN BEAR SUIT and the CHINESE MAN.)

ADMUNSON: ...and take a lead role in negotiations between the two states, shooting -- er, aiming, in the end, for a peaceful resolution of the situation.

(The MAN IN BEAR SUIT, the CHINESE MAN and the MAN IN PRESIDENT KOOST MASK all shake hands and hug. The FAMILY OF FOUR cheers and waves little American flags.)

(ADMUNSON then makes a gesture and the MAN IN PRESIDENT KOOST MASK exits the room. )

ADMUNSON: That's the situation as we see it, sir.

MR. PRESIDENT: I see. (scratching chin). Lillian...

ADMUNSON: Yes, Mr. President?

MR. PRESIDENT: You mentioned "negotiations between the two states" before. When you say "states", don't you really mean "countries"? (smiles)

ADMUNSON: Yes, Mr. President, I do. Russia and China are countries, sir. That's correct.

MR. PRESIDENT: I thought so. Don, what's your take on all of this?

CONLEY: About 20% of every transaction, Mr. President.

(Everyone laughs hysterically, including the two little children.)

CONLEY: No, but seriously, Mr. President. My opinion on this matter -- and it is one shared by the boys at Langley and by the joint chiefs -- is that this whole troop movement business is a red herring.

MR. PRESIDENT: (searching the stage) What kind of herring?

GRAYBURN: What I think he means, Mr. President... Mr. President?

(the President has gone over to the BOY, knelt down, and placed his hands on the boy's shoulders)

CONLEY: (to ADMUNSON) Hang on a minute. Watch this, this is great.

MR. PRESIDENT: Well, hello there, little boy.

BOY: Hello, Mr. President.

(the PRESIDENT stares at the boy, as though trying to recall what to say. He continues staring at him quizzically for almost a minute)

MR. PRESIDENT: Don, I forget, how does this work?

CONLEY: Basically, Greg, you just have to smile and then show him a trick or something. You know, like pretending to pull a nickel out of his ear. Then you ask him his name and then call him things like "slugger" and "sport". You can ask him who his favorite baseball player is. And what he wants to be when he grows up. And that's basically it.

(the PRESIDENT pauses and considers the boy. Then, suddenly, he begins shaking the boy by the shoulders roughly. It goes on long enough that some of the people present start to get up, as though to intervene)

MR. PRESIDENT: Like that?

CONLEY: Well, no, not exactly... very close, Mr. President.

MR. PRESIDENT: Let me give this another go.

(The PRESIDENT leans back, considers the child again, then, after a long pause, begins shaking the child even harder. CONLEY and ADMUNSON pull him away, with difficulty)

ADMUNSON: (quietly, to actors) I think you can go now.

(actors move to exit)

MR. PRESIDENT: (to BOY) Who's your favorite baseball player!

(exit actors)

GRAYBURN: Mr. President.

MR. PRESIDENT: (pointing at BOY) Where's he going?

GRAYBURN: Mr. President.

MR. PRESIDENT: Yes, Steve, what is it?

GRAYBURN: Mr. President, what do you want to do?

MR. PRESIDENT: What do I want to do? About what?

ADMUNSON: About the foreign policy situation, Mr. President.

MR. PRESIDENT: The foreign policy situation... Well, that's easy. We invade.

ADMUNSON: (after a pause) Whom do you propose to invade, Mr. President?

MR. PRESIDENT: The aggressor!

ADMUNSON: Which aggressor, Mr. President?

MR. PRESIDENT: Damnit, Lillian, do I have to spell it out for you? We have to protect American interests here!

ADMUNSON: American interests where, Mr. President?

MR. PRESIDENT: (sighs, goes over to window, looks out of it, lost in thought) Sweden.

ADMUNSON: Sweden, sir? Why Sweden?

CONLEY: (laughing) Why not Sweden?

(the AIR FORCE OFFICER chuckles)

MR. PRESIDENT: Do you remember, Lillian, that function you people at State threw that I had to go to a few weeks ago? And I met this guy, he was wearing a funny hat of some kind. Some president or something or other. The president of Sweden! Anyway, we were just chatting, and I was telling him about some car I had in college --

GRAYBURN: (aside, to CONLEY) Here it comes again. The GTO he drove around New Hampshire. That thing cost me 6% in the primary, just because my wife happened to drive a Volkswagen. That's what people care about. Not that our children are turning away from God. Not that congress is still blocking the way for faith-based education.

CONLEY: (aside, to GRAYBURN) Shut up, you idiot. (to PRESIDENT) Do you mean that GTO, Mr. President?

MR. PRESIDENT: Exactly, the GTO. A '67. Best car ever made. This thing was fucking cherry. I used to be able to hit 120 on the back roads in it. It was red with white stripes and it had that windy thing on the back --

CONLEY: A spoiler!

MR. PRESIDENT: Yeah. A spoiler. I used to drive that thing all over. It was so cool! The girls used to go crazy for it. Of course, they were all getting paid $300 an hour, so I guess they'd say anything.. You know, sometimes I think that they really loved that car every bit as much as I did. Do you know what I mean, Lillian?

CONLEY: I know what you mean, Mr. President.

MR. PRESIDENT: So anyway, I'm telling all this to this guy in the hat, the president of Sweden, and I start getting this sense that he's not listening. He doesn't care! Then, when I finish the story, he turns to me and says, "Blah blah something or other, quite a story, Mr. Koost."

ADMUNSON: "Blah blah something or other, quite a story?"

MR. PRESIDENT: Exactly! What did he say? He used some word I didn't know. So I ask him to repeat himself, and he does, but I still don't know what he's talking about. Then he looks at me like he's some genius or something, and he says, "Why don't I write it down?" So he takes out a piece of paper and writes it all down for me. There were people all over the place! It was embarrassing. I never forgot that.

ADMUNSON: Sir... I remember the incident... but the individual you refer to, sir, is Akhbar Soros-Soros, Secretary-General of the United Nations, not the Prime Minister of Sweden.

MR. PRESIDENT: Damnit, Lillian, I'm talking about Sweden!

CONLEY: He's talking about Sweden, Lillian.


MR. PRESIDENT: What, am I speaking Spanish here? Help me out here, people.

GRAYBURN: Sir, if I may. Sweden... they call it a democracy, but in fact it's socialist. It is a haven of left-academic socialist thinking. They seek to create an economy that is completely state-controlled. They make all their children drive Volvos! What's more, it has a very long, skinny shape.

MR. PRESIDENT: Long and skinny? Volvos! Jesus Christ! Why wasn't I told about this? Don, we have to do something, don't we?

CONLEY: (pausing, then smiling) Yes, Mr. President, we do.


CONLEY: (still grinning) Trust me, Lillian, this is a winner. I think there's a way we can get away with invading Sweden.

ADMUNSON: There is?

CONLEY: We can probably get NATO involved...maybe even get UN approval. (laughs quietly, as though amazed by life's quirks)


CONLEY: Sure. We'll just say... We'll say they're providing a safe haven for international terrorism. Really play it up. (eyes widening with excitement) We leak a few news reports, say today, from (holds fingers up as though they are quotation marks) "highly placed intelligence sources." We explain that we've been working hard "behind the scenes" with the Swedish government for months to resolve this terrorism thing. But there's been no result, and now we don't know what to think. (shrugs as though bewildered). A delegation of (holds fingers up as though they are quotation marks, sneers with glee at the words) "political analysts" from the Heritage foundation is stopped at the airport in Stockholm and sent back. A naked act of defiance! We try to hush it up, but -- it gets out somehow. Before you know it, it's in Newsweek: "Sweden's Bold Gambit." The Times and the Post follow up with ambiguous editorials that (holds fingers up as though they are quotation marks) "show both sides of the issue". By then we're already on our way. Then we start concentrating on those dangerous international terrorists. We've got to get them out.

ADMUNSON: What international terrorists?

CONLEY: (snorting) What international terrorists! (picks up phone) Get me Buford Brock at Langley. (to ADMUNSON) Guys with beards. CNN footage: chanting, guys pumping fists. Riot police in Seoul with tear gas cannons. Crowds running in terror. Rubble. Why Seoul? They were there, that's why.

(into phone) Buford! Conley here. Yeah. What've you got on terrorists hiding in Sweden? Yeah. Okay, I'll hold. (to ADMUNSON) We build a coalition. The Brits will go for it with no questions asked. The Germans, too. France won't, but that's okay. When the French refuse to get involved, the American public will know we're doing the right thing.

We go in and it's a wipeout. After that it's all gravy. Defense sector contracts we'd be ashamed to propose today. Stock options, parades, pussy! Europe bitterly divided. Niggers running the streets in Berlin. Greece a world power again. Landslide reelection, and then... four years later... four years later... (clutches chest) oh, my heart!

MR. PRESIDENT: Four years later what?

ADMUNSON: Don? Are you okay?

CONLEY: Congestion... my arm...

MR. PRESIDENT: Four years later what? What happens after four years?

GRAYBURN: Mr. Vice President!

CONLEY: I'm okay. I'm okay. I'm going to live forever! (recovering himself, gripping phone) Unh... Yes, Buford! Yes! What've you got? Uh-huh. I see. I see. None of those... I see. And what about those other guys, the ones from ... I see. I see. So it's like that. Yes, I know the one. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Well, thank you, Buford. Let us know if anything turns up. (hangs up)


CONLEY: Well, they don't have any terrorists of any stature living in Sweden.

ALL: (disappointed) They don't?

CONLEY: But, er -- they do have one thing.


CONLEY: Do you remember that guy from the Infiniti commercials?

MR. PRESIDENT: That queer in the black suit? Who does the back flip?

CONLEY: That's him. He's an actor -- his name's Jonathan Pryce.

MR. PRESIDENT: Sure I remember him. I can't stand that guy.

CONLEY: Well, he's living in Sweden. He's British, but he lives in Stockholm now. Moved there four months ago. He's living in some loft. Buford says it's one of those deals where it's supposed to look like he's living in a bad neighborhood. But inside, it's pretty nice. High ceilings. Black leather furniture. Real nice hi-fi.

GRAYBURN: Good enough for me.

MR. PRESIDENT: (getting up) I'll go call the Pentagon.

ADMUNSON: Mr. President, aren't you forgetting something? We have to ask congress before we go to war.

MR. PRESIDENT: Ask them what?

ADMUNSON: For permission.

MR. PRESIDENT: (picking up bust of Lincoln on his desk) Oh, they'll give us permission. (talking into Lincoln bust as though it's a phone) Get me the Chief Joints once at! Brrr! The right Chiefs Joint away! Arrr-the Joint Chiefs at... (taps stapler over and over with his index finger, as though it's the phone line) Hello? Hello?

(The PRESIDENT looks down, realizes he is speaking into a bronze bust, and tries to toss the bust on the floor and reach for the actual telephone. But his hand does not let go of the bust on time, and the weight of it pulls him face first to the floor.)

CONLEY, GRAYBURN, ADMUNSON: (in unison, leaping from their chairs) Mr. President!

(The PRESIDENT tries to get up and hits his head on the underside of a table)


(trying to help, CONLEY and ADMUNSON move the table back, so that the PRESIDENT will not hit his head. But the PRESIDENT has now reached for the table end with his hand for support in getting up, and, not finding it there, his hand waves and misses and he again falls on his face)


(enter, from side door, JENNY KOOST, the PRESIDENT's teenage daughter, dripping wet and wearing a bikini. The instant she enters, GRAYBURN whips his neck around to look at her and screams)

GRAYBURN: (grabbing neck and dropping the PRESIDENT's head) Ow!


JENNY: Daddy! Daddy! You'll never guess what? This place has a pool!

MR. PRESIDENT: (getting up, looking in direction away from JENNY, groggily) I know, sugarplum, I found it today myself.

JENNY: Well, let's go for a swim. I brought you some trunks.

MR. PRESIDENT: (looking for JENNY, not seeing her) I'd love to! But I don't have any trunks!

JENNY: That's okay. I brought you some!

MR. PRESIDENT: Hey. Those look like my trunks. Gentlemen! I'll be back!



ADMUNSON: (after a silence) What do we really know about this Pryce person?

GRAYBURN: He's actually perfect. He represents everything the rest of the world is trying to replace us with.

CONLEY: Effete people with diction.

GRAYBURN: Don, I don't know what you mean by effete, but he is another vision of the world, not our vision, that's for sure. Lillian, the American people will understand. In those Infiniti commercials, he deliberately spoke with an accent.

CONLEY: The CIA is still trying to figure out what that back flip means. It's not something that came from us, we know that for sure. (into intercom) Mary! Can you punch up that videotape of those Infiniti commercials, where the guy does a back flip?

MARY: Yes, Mr. Vice President. The one with that pansy actor?

CONLEY: That's the one. (to others) Ready for war, Grayburn? Airborne Pie Division?

GRAYBURN: I don't deserve that. I served my country and was even wounded.

CONLEY: In the nose, Steve. A bullet grazed your nose. You left Saigon in a Band-Aid.

GRAYBURN: You laugh, but that injury affected my sense of taste. A Big Mac... is nothing to me now.

CONLEY: What a shame.

ADMUNSON: Wait, here it is.

(ALL look in the direction of a large television screen on one side of the room. It shows the infamous Infiniti commercial, with Pryce doing his infamous back flip.)

GRAYBURN: Jesus. They might as well have just burned an American flag at the end of it.

Move over, bin Laden!

CONLEY: He's perfect. People will take one look at that suit and see America in flames. Move over, bin Laden!

ADMUNSON: God, I wish I were that flexible.

(CONLEY and GRAYBURN stare at her with displeasure)

CONLEY: Well, I think it's pretty clear we've found our man. I'll contact the chiefs. And one of you should go contact congress.


ADMUNSON: Well, I'm in heels.

CONLEY: I know. I noticed that, I always notice how you dress.


CONLEY: (viciously) No. But you're right, Grayburn ought to go. We need you here to start contacting our allies. Grayburn?

GRAYBURN: Anything to serve my country. The only thing is...

CONLEY: What is it, Steven?

GRAYBURN: How do I get there? I don't even know where it is.

CONLEY: Well, that's easy. It's... (stumped)

ADMUNSON: Isn't there a bus that goes there?

CONLEY: Yeah, but what bus?

GRAYBURN: I think it's like the 19 or something.

CONLEY: We'd better make damn sure where we're going.

(all three move toward the window)

ADMUNSON: I think that's the one.

GRAYBURN: The big tall pointy thing?

CONLEY: Yeah... no, wait, that's something else. That's where we sent all those Negroes for their march.

CONLEY AND GRAYBURN: (in unison) I have a dream... (laugh)

CONLEY: I have a dream, that one day I will get a job, and not fuck up the first thing they ask me to do, and not get fired before noon, and then go driving around highways in Oldsmobiles with open beer cans and crack pipes on the passenger seat, and unregistered weapons in the glove box...

GRAYBURN: I have a dream that one day, I won't beat my wife just because I didn't learn a skill in jail. And that KFC will bring back that $3.99 20-piece bucket deal...


ADMUNSON: Isn't it possible that that thing where the march was is also congress? I mean if you were going to march, wouldn't you march on congress?

CONLEY: Oh, it's congress, all right. Why else would they come so far? (laughing) To stand around in some park?

GRAYBURN: (Standing up) I'd guess I'd better go.

CONLEY: Okay. Call us when you've made contact. In the meantime, I'm going to bring the chiefs in here.

ADMUNSON: And I'll get the allies on board.

End of Scene 1


(again in the Oval Office. There is now a giant map in the center of the room full of models of ships and carriers. Five or six men in military uniforms are pushing the little models across the board.

In the foreground, PRESIDENT KOOST, dressed in bathing trunks with wet hair, and a life preserver in the form of a duck around his waist, and with little mini-preservers on his arms, is carefully watching a television screen. Beside him is ADMUNSON, CONLEY, and CHAIRMAN of the JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF GENERAL LLOYD JACKSON, a tallish, light-skinned black man with a hyper-serious demeanor. Next to him is BUFORD BROCK, director of the CIA, a fat white-haired man who appears a bit dazed.

All five tilt their heads back and down again in unison as they follow the action on the screen)

MR. PRESIDENT: I can't make it out. What is it supposed to be an ad for?

BROCK: Honestly we're not really sure. But there are a number of problems with the commercial. We've been focusing on the back flip.

JACKSON: Our intelligence indicates it may be a new form of sophisticated military technology.

MR. PRESIDENT: Sophisticated military technology? In Sweden?

JACKSON: It's just a guess, sir. Really, no one has the slightest idea.

MR. PRESIDENT: Offensive or defensive?

JACKSON: Again, we don't know, sir. But if I had to guess, I'd say... offensive.

MR. PRESIDENT: Well, whatever it is, I don't like it. It's like they're laughing at us or something. Clearly, we have to hit them -- but how?

JACKSON: Sir, we've located Pryce's loft in Stockholm. The chiefs think we can take it out with minimal collateral damage, but...

MR. PRESIDENT: (flipping through Sports Illustrated) Go on, General.

JACKSON: Sir, as a military man, I think that such a limited action could lead to a real quagmire. We had better prepare to go in in force.

CONLEY: Show me the tape again.

(The PRESIDENT picks up his remote control, accidentally ejects the tape, tries to put it back in, fails, becomes frustrated, forcing JACKSON to help; as JACKSON puts the tape back in, the PRESIDENT, frustrated, gets up and goes to look out the window)

CONLEY: Mr. President, it's on again.

MR. PRESIDENT: We need to repaint that fence. It should be white, too, like the house.

CONLEY: Sir, the commercial?

MR. PRESIDENT: It's on again?


MR. PRESIDENT: Good. Good work.

(the tape rolls)

VOICE FROM TELEVISION: "Was it worth it..."

CONLEY: Here it comes...

(all five again roll their heads as they watch the flip.)

MR. PRESIDENT: No, I don't like it at all. What's he trying to prove? So, you're saying, we go in in force?

JACKSON: I'm saying, let's prepare to go in in force. We have to prepare for war.

MR. PRESIDENT: War. (gets up, walks over to window, a President deep in thought). War. It's that big thing with all the interviews. The whole country putting things on trees. Giant ships crashing through the waves. How do they float? They're made of steel. I once put a fork in the sink full of water and it went straight to the bottom. All that stuff on Discovery Channel. Those Nazis had cool uniforms, but you're not supposed to say that out loud. And you can watch it for hours and hours. I once saw this thing that spent a whole hour about this giant gun the Germans built which was supposed to hit London from France. Then it ended and there was a long commercial by this guy who had this plan to help make your life better. He was probably forty-five, but he looked thirty. I ordered his tapes, but I can't seem to find them. The thing that really struck me were his teeth. I wish I had teeth like that. We should get his dentist in here. (turning around to all) We all of us in this country... need better dentists.

JACKSON: So I should proceed with the plan, sir?

MR. PRESIDENT: Of course. In moments like these we cannot hesitate to afford.

CONLEY: (on cell phone) Steve? Is that you? (to all) It's Grayburn! (into phone) Yes... yes...Oh, I see... Well, I'll ask him. (to President) Mr. President, Grayburn was unable to locate congress. He looked all through that tall building. Now's he at the top level, and... (into phone) What? (laughs) Okay, I'll tell him.

MR. PRESIDENT: What is it?

CONLEY: He can see your house from there.

MR. PRESIDENT: Where is he? I want to see!

(All five repair to the window)

CONLEY: He's up there.

MR. PRESIDENT: Tell him to wave.

CONLEY: (into phone) He says to wave.

MR. PRESIDENT: (squinting) I don't think I see him.

BROCK: Maybe that one to the left?

MR. PRESIDENT: No, that looks like a woman. Tell him to jump up and down.

CONLEY: He says to jump up and down. (listening into phone) What? No, wait, they're moving him out of the observation area. (into phone) So, Steven, any word on where you might find congress? Uh-huh. Uh-huh. I see. Well, why don't you come back here, we'll figure something out.


CONLEY: It appears, sir, that we are unable to locate congress.

MR. PRESIDENT: Congress... I think I saw it once. It looked like a big juicer.

ADMUNSON: I thought it was over near the Schlotsky's.

CONLEY: Yeah, yeah.

JACKSON: Sir, if I may interrupt. We can locate congress for you.


JACKSON: Yes, sir. We have a new satellite tracking system which can target the location of any building in the world. We have a computer link-up here that could find it for us in a jiffy.

MR. PRESIDENT: Make it so. (laughs)

(Jackson salutes and disappears to rear of the room, stands over a junior officer who is sitting at a computer)

ADMUNSON: Sir, if I may, I think this might be a good time to start working on an address to the nation.

MR. PRESIDENT: Good idea. Who's writing it?

ADMUNSON: Well, sir, Greenstein's the best we have.

MR. PRESIDENT: Well, bring him in here then. This has to be the most important speech of my life. Listen, Lillian --

ADMUNSON: (to MARY, who is standing in the door) Get Greenstein in here right away.

MARY: Ma'am, the ambassador to Sweden is here.

ADMUNSON: Tell him to wait. What is it, Mr. President?

MR. PRESIDENT: Come closer.

ADMUNSON: Yes, sir?

MR. PRESIDENT: No, closer.

ADMUNSON: Is this close enough? (whispering) What is it, Mr. President?

MR. PRESIDENT: (whispering) No, closer!

ADMUNSON: (whispering even more softly) Is this close enough, Mr. President?

MR. PRESIDENT: Yes! Does it ever bother you, being that ugly? (giggles)

ADMUNSON: I don't think of myself as ugly, sir. I think of myself as a certain kind of extremely powerful and attractive figure for whom sex must always be a devastating humiliation for both partners.


ADMUNSON: I think of myself as a kind of extremely powerful and attractive figure for whom sex must always be a devastating humiliation for both partners.

MR. PRESIDENT: (recoiling, frightened) What? What did you say?

ADMUNSON: I was commenting on the weather, sir.

MR. PRESIDENT: (relieved) Oh, okay. Very good, Lillian. I'm, uh, glad we have you on our team. (goes to pat her on the shoulder, reconsiders)

ADMUNSON: Thank you, sir.

(Suddenly an enormous explosion is heard off stage. The windows glow orange. The inhabitants of the room stumble for cover.)

JACKSON: Found it!

CONLEY: Found what?

JACKSON: Congress!

CONLEY: You blew up congress?

JACKSON: Yes. (listening in on a radio) We even got the stuff underneath. Titanium-enriched bombs. They penetrate anything.

( a long, heavy silence, interrupted by the sounds of sirens)

MR. PRESIDENT: This is bad, right? We're going to take a hit?

ADMUNSON: Mr. President? Don't you realize how serious this thing is? We just blew up our legislative branch!

MR. PRESIDENT: I think I'd like to go for a walk.

ADMUNSON: No, sir, I think now you should stay.

MR. PRESIDENT: In that case I think I'll put on some music. (puts the Eagles song "Life in the fast lane" on on his tape deck, starts cleaning up his desk) Just let me know when I can leave.

CONLEY: Who says we did it?


CONLEY: Who says we bombed congress? It seems to me this could be a pre-emptive strike by the Swedes.

MR. PRESIDENT: (singing along) "And she was terminally pretty..."

CONLEY: Congress in flames. Defensive troop movements by a foreign power leading up to a strike -- I'm right about those defensive troop movements, right?

JACKSON: They sent a boat out to one of our destroyers full of sausages and flat bread.

CONLEY: See! A diversion. They were planning this all along.

BROCK: I think I have a backdated memo arguing that we were vulnerable to such a thing. Any problems with me releasing it?

MR. PRESIDENT: "Life in the fast lane... everything, all the time.."

CONLEY: No, you might as well. You'll just have to owe us.

INTERCOM: Mr. President? The Swedish ambassador is insisting on an audience.

MR. PRESIDENT: He's what?

INTERCOM: He'd like to see you, sir.


INTERCOM: (after a pause) Something about troop movements threatening his country with utter extinction, sir.

MR. PRESIDENT: Send him in.

(enter the SWEDISH AMBASSADOR, a proper-looking European in careful dress and glasses)

AMBASSADOR: Mr. President.

MR. PRESIDENT: Mr. Ambassador.

(they struggle for minutes to shake hands successfully, the PRESIDENT'S attempt each time too vigorous)

AMBASSADOR: We have been receiving alarming reports about naval movements by your forces along our shores. Some of the ships appear to be troop carriers. Guns aimed at our cattle...

MR. PRESIDENT: So? We're invading Sweden, that's all. You live in America, don't you? What do you care?

AMBASSADOR: Yes, of course, sir, you're right, why should I worry? I've got a great deal here. It's just, you know, the folks back home are a little concerned...

MR. PRESIDENT: Listen, your people just -- (snapping fingers) -- line!

CONLEY: Sir, as a diplomatic representative, we must show you every courtesy. But your country's hostile aggression against the United States, in particular this recent attack against congress, makes normal diplomatic relations with you impossible at this time. I suggest you return to your embassy to await further communications.

AMBASSADOR: (snapping fingers) Oh, I get it. We attacked congress!

JACKSON: And you did a great job. You even got to the parts underneath.

AMBASSADOR: That's good to know. I wouldn't have thought us capable.

ADMUNSON: Well, now you know. Now go back to your embassy. Don't call us, we'll call you.

AMBASSADOR: (smiling) I get it. We don't call you, you'll call us!

CONLEY: Right. Now, the Swedish embassy -- he takes the green line, right?

ADMUNSON: Yes, but he changes at Union Station.

JACKSON: You're thinking of the Polish embassy.

AMBASSADOR: (interrupting) Oh, I think I can find it. Just one thing -- is there anything else I can maybe tell my people in the meantime before we are invaded?

GRAYBURN: Tell your people we'll talk when they explain that back flip. They'll know what you're talking about.

AMBASSADOR: (writing in pad) The back flip. Of course.

CONLEY: Tell them to stock up on canned foods and bottled water and to stay away from any windows. (laughs)

AMBASSADOR: Bottled water and windows! Very amusing, Mr. Vice President! (exits)

MR. PRESIDENT: Queer. (makes "queer" gesture with dangled hand)

CONLEY: No doubt about it. Homosexual.

(enter GREENSTEIN. His shoes have no laces and his pants are falling down. He is in handcuffs, with an SS escort)

MR. PRESIDENT: Greenstein! You look like shit! What happened to you?

GREENSTEIN: You had me arrested, sir. Don't you remember?

MR. PRESIDENT: Of course I do. But why are your pants falling down?

GREENSTEIN: They took my belt and shoelaces away, sir. They were afraid I might kill myself.

MR. PRESIDENT: I don't see what that has to do with your belt and shoelaces. This is the Oval Office here. Maybe this kind of thing went on under Clinton, but not now. (into intercom) Mary, bring in a belt and a pair of shoelaces for Greenstein. And make sure the colors match.

GREENSTEIN: Thank you, sir. Your respect for the dignity of your office is a tribute to your administration.

MR. PRESIDENT: (to all, smiling) Hey, is this guy a Jew or what?

GREENSTEIN: Thank you, sir.

CONLEY: Greenstein, enough of the niceties. We brought you back here for an extremely important mission. We're going to war and we need you to write the President's address to the nation.


CONLEY: War, son. And we're going to use nuclear weapons.

GREENSTEIN: Good God! Against who?


GREENSTEIN: Sweden? But they're our allies!

ADMUNSON: Not any more. You have to write a speech.

GREENSTEIN: What kind of speech?

MR. PRESIDENT: (leading GREENSTEIN over to the window) Do you see that? That's congress, in flames.

GREENSTEIN: The Swedes did that?

MR. PRESIDENT: (laughing) No, no, no. We did that.

GREENSTEIN: We did that?

JACKSON: Who else could?

CONLEY: Exactly. But the real problem is that back flip.

GREENSTEIN: What back flip?

CONLEY: I thought you were supposed to be a policy expert, Greenstein.

GREENSTEIN: I am -- Georgetown undergraduate, Kennedy School...

CONLEY: So listen to us when we're talking to you. We're talking about the back flip.

GREENSTEIN: The back flip.

CONLEY: It's never been explained. And now we find out that Jonathan Pryce is living in Stockholm.

GREENSTEIN: You mean the actor? From "Brazil"?

CONLEY: No, Sweden. What's worse, he's living in a loft in a sort of bad neighborhood, one of those deals where it's supposed to look run-down on the outside, but inside...

MR. PRESIDENT: Inside -- phew, boy.

CONLEY: Do you understand what we're talking about?

GREENSTEIN: Mr. Vice President, I do not. I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

CONLEY: Stated for the record. Just hurry up and write a speech for the chief here announcing our reasonable, necessary, nuclear strike against Sweden. He's got to go on in about ten minutes.


CONLEY: Just do it. Time is of the essence.

MR. PRESIDENT: (taking GREENSTEIN by the arm) Don't worry, kid. I'll take care of this one mostly by myself. You just fix the ol' grammar, ok?


End of SCENE 2

(THE OVAL OFFICE again. A dozen cameras are trained around the President's desk. ADMUNSON, CONLEY, JACKSON, and GRAYBURN who has returned carrying a Washington monument souvenir, are standing in the background. There are several TECHNICIANS and JOURNALISTS in the room, including FAMOUS TELEVISION JOURNALIST SAM DONALDSON. The SWEDISH AMBASSADOR is also present, standing next to ADMUNSON. All the early conversations in the scene are asides.)

(Several makeup technicians are fixing the wig of FAMOUS TELEVISION JOURNALIST SAM DONALDSON, who is holding forth in front of some junior reporters)

FAMOUS TELEVISION JOURNALIST SAM DONALDSON: So Havel says to me, "Donaldson, I know you've got a reputation for being a tough customer. But I want a fair shake." And I said to him, "Mr. President, you'll get one. Just make sure you take your hand off my knee."

JUNIOR REPORTER #1: He had his hand on your knee?

FAMOUS TELEVISION JOURNALIST SAM DONALDSON: He had his hand on my knee. And I -- - wait, is it slipping down here?

MAKEUP ARTIST: I'll just give it a tug.

FAMOUS TELEVISION JOURNALIST SAM DONALDSON: Better. (to all again) Then there was the time I had to do this thing with Sting...

(in another corner of the room, two other journalists are talking heatedly)

JOURNALIST #1: Stanley, are you still going to insist on ignoring what happened?

JOURNALIST #2: Michael, this is not the right time for this discussion.

JOURNALIST #1: It's never the right time for you!

JOURNALIST #2: Look, we were both a little drunk. And no matter what happened, I'm not going to leave my wife and family for some... pool alternate. You know that!

(in another corner of the room, two camera technicians are talking)

TECHNICIAN #1: So this one time we're in Moscow. Some big deal. Gorbachev let some writer go to the opera or something. And we have to do the stand up in Red Square with Rather. But there's no snow!

TECHNICIAN#2: You can't do that stand-up without snow!

TECHNICIAN #1: Exactly! So what I do is shred a whole bunch of paper, dump it in a box, and when Rather goes on, I stand over him with a latter and start dumping paper on his head. It was beautiful. Looked just like snow.

(in another corner of the room, GRAYBURN is speaking with the AIR FORCE OFFICER who is holding the recently-opened nuclear briefcase)

GRAYBURN: That's when I realized that I wasn't alone in the world. I'd had this relationship with Jesus all along and just hadn't known it. But once I became aware, everything became clearer. It was like a great burden had been lifted.

AIR FORCE OFFICER: Sir, I must ask that you remain no closer than five feet.

GRAYBURN: Oh, right, of course.

(in another corner of the room, JACKSON and CONLEY are talking)

CONLEY: So what's this thing you've got coming out in... what is it, Knopf?

JACKSON: Doubleday.

CONLEY: And it's called...?

JACKSON: Uh... "A Hero's Diary."

CONLEY: Good advance?

JACKSON: One-point five million.

CONLEY: Nice. Does it say anything?

JACKSON: Doesn't say shit.

(they both laugh)

(in another corner of the room, the AMBASSADOR and ADMUSON are talking)

AMBASSADOR: (to ADMUNSON) We also offer to drop the funny accents and the rock climbing.

ADMUNSON: And the rock-climbing? Seriously?


ADMUNSON: I'll try.

(Enter the PRESIDENT, still wearing his life preserver and the arm-floatation devices. GREENSTEIN is following right behind, pleading. He is also followed by STOMPERS, his dog, and JENNY, who is still in her bikini)

(STOMPERS is obviously a person in a dog suit. Upon entering the room, he immediately pushes one of the cameras far out of position, then runs over and, standing up like a human, pulls a picture off the wall, throws it across the room, smashing it. Everyone ducks for cover. DONALDSON reaches for his wig to protect it.)

JENNY: Stompers! Bad!

MR. PRESIDENT: (chuckling) Stompers! Not now, boy. Jenny, I don't understand. He was getting better.

JENNY: I know, Daddy.

(STOMPERS continues running around the room, humping ADMUNSON's leg)

MR. PRESIDENT: Jenny, you should probably take him back to the rec room -- just for a little while.

JENNY: Of course, Daddy. Stompers!

(STOMPERS runs up to JENNY and buries his head squarely between her breasts)

JENNY: Let's go, boy.



JUNIOR JOURNALIST #2: Did you see that new set of downloads I sent you?

TECHNICIAN #1: Okay, places again, everyone!

(ADMUNSON, the AMBASSADOR trailing behind, approaches the President)

ADMUNSON: Mr. President, they're offering to drop the funny accents and the rock-climbing.

MR. PRESIDENT: That's all well and good, Lillian, but we have a crisis here. Greenstein!

GREENSTEIN: Yessir. Mr. President, perhaps you could leave out just a few of those lines. They might be misinterpreted.

MR. PRESIDENT: Too late, sport. It's already in the teleprompter. Are we rolling?

TV TECHNICIAN: On my signal... and, rolling!

MR. PRESIDENT: (pointing at teleprompter) God, I love the way this thing works. You stare at the same spot and new words just keep coming in. It's looks like you're doing it from memory. And I look like I'm doing it from memory more than most. We worked on that, right, Don?

CONLEY: (makes booming gesture and gives thumbs-up sign).

MR. PRESIDENT: My fellow Americans. When I was first elected to this office, my first thought was -- how SWEET is this! Do you know that you don't even have to use money when you're the president? All you have to do is point to something and say, yeah, that one. Now I know it's not like that for everybody in America, but I feel sure of one thing -- we live in the greatest country in the world.

I mean, I don't care if you're a nigger. In this country, everybody has a fair chance. And that's the way it ought to be. It's like at a high school dance. There's always that one pretty girl in the school who everybody wants. Most of the guys in the room might think they can't have her! But they're wrong. Anybody can have her. If you're charming and good-looking enough, you might impress her, and she'll let you walk her home. If you've got money, that works, too. You can take her out after the dance and offer to give her a ride in your GTO. Chicks love GTOs. So you get her in the car and you're driving along and suddenly, the gas runs out.

Just like that, the gas runs out. And she looks at you sort of funny, wondering if maybe you did it on purpose. And you might have. It doesn't matter. You reach under the seat and you've got a fifth of tequila with you. You offer her some and she refuses. So you drink it all yourself.

Now you're feeling pretty good. You reach over and put your arm around her. She's still staring at you, playing hard to get. Then you reach for her bra. She struggles a little bit, but you assure her that that's as far as its going to go, so she puts her hands at her sides. Then you lean over to kiss her, and she doesn't exactly resist. Before you know it, you're really doing it with this girl. I mean, you're going all the way. And you thought you'd be too drunk! She's as surprised as you are, and doesn't seem all that happy. But who cares? When it's all over, you lie back in the driver's seat and you're feeling great. On the other hand, she's hurrying to get her clothes. Before she's even completely dressed, she jumps out of the car and starts running down the highway, crying.

Is it rape? Who knows? She'll certainly never prove it.

What I'm trying to say is that there comes a time when America's national interests have to be protected. As most of you are already aware, our nation's congress was destroyed today in a deliberate attack that had absolutely nothing to with our own armed services accidentally blowing them up in a botched exercise. The aggressors in this incident were anti-American terrorist groups who for years have been plotting and planning against the United States with the full cooperation of the Nation of Sweden. We tried to avert such an incident through intense diplomatic effort, and I won't bullshit you: we failed completely. They were hiding some international figures there we didn't approve of, and they weren't forthright about them. Incidentally, in that regard, if I were to do a full back flip right now, and land in the White House bowling alley, what would you think that meant? You'd have no idea. But you'd probably think that I was up to something. That's what we thought, and so we were forced to act.

We were left with no alternative but to launch a full thermomonuclear attack on targets all across Sweden.

Now, in the wake of this reprehensible incident, we were left with no alternative but to launch a full thermomonuclear attack on targets all across Sweden. (points to map of world behind him, but points more in the direction of Nevada than Sweden. A vaudevilliean hook appears from off-camera to guide his hand toward Sweden; the PRESIDENT shakes the hook away) Whoa! Where'd that thing come from? Sheesh. Sorry about that, folks.

As I read this speech, missiles are flying (makes swoosh noise, pushes outstretched hands though the air, one time with each hand). We have full support in this action from most of our NATO allies, including Great Britain. We expect full destruction of some 96% of the nation's territory. (again points at Nevada and makes a gesture as though crossing it out) With their cooperation, and with the cooperation of the United Nations, we hope in the near future to begin clean-up efforts and to help lay the foundation for free elections which will bring responsible government back to the Swedish people.

On a personal note I would just like to ask: What's a "quagmire?" One of our generals used that word today, and I don't think he needed to. I think that's defeatist language. Had he used a different word we might only be leveling Stockholm today. Well, I promise you that as President, I will get to the bottom of this. Until we do, I assume full responsibility for whatever damage it may have caused. We are a nation of inflammate possibilities. We can do anything, solve anything (life preserver deflates), and -- oops, like at this! Looks like a problem, but I'll fix it -- just watch!

(takes life preserver, and begins inflating it with his mouth).

All it takes (blows into tube) is a little effort.

(continues blowing)
(curtain, to sounds of loud explosions)

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