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Featured Column
Week of 9.4.2006
The challenge
          Everyone thought the President was crazy to accept the challenge offered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to engage in a televised debate.
           Vice President Cheney was direct when he spoke to President Bush after hearing that he might be considering the offer, “Mr. President, you have to excuse me, but you’d have to be off your rocker to go on television with that nut case. He’s like a loose cannon. He could wind up making you look very bad.”
          President Bush thought for a few seconds, engaged his familiar smirk and replied, “Yeah, yeah, I know, you’re probably right, but I can’t let this jerk make me look like I’m afraid of him. I’ll bet I can kick his ass.”
          “Mr. President, I’m sure you can, but that isn’t the point. This guy is dangerous, he can…” Just then the President interrupted his Vice President and said, “Look, Dick, Nobody is going to talk about me the way he does and get away with it, I’m going to kick his ass.”
          “Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was standing beside Dick Cheney, took a step forward, jutted his chin slightly forward and told the President, “Mr. President, I’m all for you kickin’ this guy’s ass, but why don’t we just send a dozen of our bombers over Tehran and level the joint.”
          The President walked towards, his Defense Secretary, put his arm around his shoulders and told him, “Rummy, you know I trust your judgment, but this is something I just gotta do. We can always bomb this guy, let me try this debate thing first.”
          With that, the President turned towards two of his aides and said, “Give that bastard’s men a call and set this damn thing up. Anytime, anyplace.”
          Two months later the stage was set for the first authentic televised debate between two heads of state. The famous Opera House in Milan, Italy was selected as the site for the debate. Television and radio networks from around the world were represented with their top anchor persons. The debate would be live, uncensored and moderated by an unbiased news commentator from Iceland, Ragnar Halldor, who was approved by representatives from both Tehran and Washington.
            The world watched as Ragnar Halldor made his introductory remarks. “Ladies and gentlemen of the world, welcome to the debate between the honorable President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the President of the United States of America, George W. Bush. Tonight’s debate will consist of 2 minute introductory remarks by each president, followed by a series of questions supplied by the world’s leading network anchors. The debate will end with 2 minute final remarks by each President.” President Ahmadinejad won the toss and has chosen to start the evening with his remarks. Mr. President.”
          “Thank you Mr. Halldor. I would like to start by saying that I am glad that President Bush has agreed to this debate. I really didn’t think he would go for this. I am glad that finally the American people will be able to listen to what we say and there should be no restricting the American people from hearing the truth. People around the world look at America as an aggressor nation that would bomb innocent women and children in its attempt to rule Islamic nations of the Middle East. All this bombing and killing of innocents is because the American President wants to control the flow of oil from the region. The people of the Middle East want peace and the right to live their lives as they wish. The people of Iran want peace. We have seen the terrible toll that war has taken in Iraq and lately what the war started by the Zionists has done to the poor people of Lebanon. The Americans and the Zionists have combined to bring war to the peace loving people of the Middle East. It is time for the Americans and the Zionists to withdraw to their own boundaries and let the Islamic people live in peace. I am sure that America has enough problems of its own without creating death and destruction for the Islamic people in our area. Thank you.”
           Mild, polite applause rippled through the famous Opera House as the Iranian President walked behind his podium and sipped water from a waiting glass.
           The Icelander, a tall, handsome man in his mid 50’s, rose from his chair and said, “And now, the President of the United States of America, George W. Bush will speak.”
           The American president walked to the center podium, adjusted the microphone a few inches higher than where it was for the shorter man. President Bush gave an adjustment to his red tie, glanced at his adversary, nodded sternly towards him, cleared his throat and said, “Thank you Mr. Halldor.           President Ahmadinejad, I heard your initial comments and I’m glad you brought them up. Let me begin by saying that the world is a safer place because America went to Iraq and removed the mass killer, Saddam Hussein, from his palaces. We found him, hiding in a hole in the ground like a common rat. We have brought democracy to a country that was ruled by a vicious killer who murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people. The people of Iraq are on their way towards having a democratic state, ruled by law instead of fear. We have brought democracy to Iraq and we look forward to the time when the Iraqi people will live in total peace, without fear. I would now call on the President of Iran to immediately stop his country’s march towards building a stockpile of nuclear weapons. The world community, the United Nations and people of good faith call upon Iran to stop building nuclear weapons and preparing for war. It is also important that the President of Iran stop supplying weapons, money and support for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran’s support of terrorist activities in the region and around the world bring nothing but death and hardship to the people of Islam and the world.”          
          President Ahmadinejad carried an obvious smirk during the length of President Bushes’ presentation. Thinking that the American President was finished with his remarks, the Iranian stepped out from behind his podium and took a step towards the middle podium.
          “I’m not done,” said the American President, looking directly in the eyes of the Iranian.
          “I know what you are, Mr. Ahmadinejad, I know what you are trying to do in the Middle East. I know what your goals are. Your lies about your country creating nuclear energy for peaceful purposes don’t fool us. You are a dictator, just like Saddam Hussein. You hate America and Americans because we live in freedom and because we have the highest living standard in the history of the world. You don’t know about America, Americans and freedom. So, now, in front of the whole world, I am inviting you, the President of Iran, to come to America and see what democracy and freedom are all about. I am sure that when you see America and its people you will understand the importance we place on freedom for the individual. If you really care about peace for your people and people of the world you will come to America and see first hand what freedom can bring.”
          The President of the United States turned around, faced the Iranian President, pointed a finger at him and said, “When you meet the men and women of America you will see the strength and character of our nation. You will feel the enduring belief that what matters most to all of us is freedom.”
          The Opera House debate raged on for 2 hours. At the end the two Presidents inched towards the middle of the stage and each other. They cautiously shook the other’s hand.
          The American President leaned towards the shorter man’s left ear and softly said, “I mean it, come to America. I will be your escort.”
          President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looked at the American and said, “I might. I might".
          The American Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, sitting in the front row of the Milan Opera House, tried to conceal a slight smile.
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
     
Ron Cruger