Greet the Press: A Radio Play

By Terry Bisson

HOST
Welcome, sir, to Greet the Press, radio’s answer to – well, whatever. Before we start rolling, perhaps we could go over the Q&A, so there won’t be any surprises.
 
GUEST
Of course. Always best to be prepared.

HOST
I hope you are prepared, as the Administration’s chief spokesperson, to answer some tough questions.

GUEST
You bet. Golly, the President is dealing with tough times, which call for tough policies. If that means tough questions, I’m ready to endure a little “stress and duress” from the press, ha ha. That’s what democracy’s all about, isn’t it? But aren’t Newsweek and the New York Times supposed to be here?

HOST
We formed a pool, so the wrong questions wouldn’t be asked. We realize that the War on Terrorism requires a heightened sensitivity to security.

GUEST
Admirable. Let me say, since I can speak for him, that the President appreciates your spirit of responsibility. But I know I can count on you to ask the proper questions. And you can count on me not to answer any that might impede our national security efforts.

HOST
You never know. We have some new interview techniques, and you might find yourself answering questions you didn’t intend to. And the pool format gives us a certain institutional deniability, which keeps our options open.

GUEST
Since when does the press need deniability? And where’s the studio audience? Isn’t this supposed to be a live program?

HOST
That was before 9/11. We changed our format in the interest of security. We have a responsibility to the sensitivities of the public.

GUEST
Well, if you insist. I guess all that comes under Freedom of the Press. So let’s get on with it.

HOST
We intend to. First of all, we intend to ask about the use of torture in interrogation. In a recent Washington Post article …

GUEST
Whoa! We agreed that there wouldn’t be any questions on that subject. That was off limits by agreement, remember?

HOST
Well, yeah, but we would have agreed to anything to get you on this show. Surely you can understand that special circumstances call for special measures.

GUEST
Whatever. Say, can I get a glass of water? I notice they didn’t bring me any.

HOST
There’ll be water later on. Now, about the 600 men being held in Guantánamo. Are the provisions of the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war being violated there?

GUEST
Damn it, you know I can’t answer that. And can I get another chair? This thing is digging into my back.

HOST
I’ll see what I can do. But first, tell us about the conditions of detention at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

GUEST
They’re rough. What do you expect? This is not a tea party, and those men are not prisoners of war. They are combatants in a war of terror.

HOST
Aren’t we all, these days. Certainly as the chief spokesperson for our Commander-in-Chief, you yourself would come under the designation of combatant.

GUEST
There’s a distinction between lawful and unlawful combatants. And in the meantime, this chair is extremely uncomfortable. It’s cutting off the circulation in my legs.

HOST
I guess the distinctions are getting a little blurry. And I’m sorry about the chair. We can fix you up with something better if you will be a little more cooperative. We have no interest in making you uncomfortable.

GUEST
What do you mean, cooperative? Let me remind you that I am here as your guest.

DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES

HOST
Oh, we’re very conscious of that. The two gentlemen behind you, who just came into the studio, are here to make sure that you remain here as our guest.

FOOTSTEPS

GUEST
Hey! Let go of me. Who are these guys? Why are they duct-taping me to the chair!? Why are they taking off my pants?

CHAIR SCRAPING; PEELING OF TAPE

HOST
It’s just a precaution, so that you don’t harm yourself. Or wet your pants. Now let me ask, since people are wondering, are there any legal or ethical restraints on your methods of interrogation?

GUEST
Of course not! Let me go! I protest!

HOST
That’s certainly your right. And we will let you go as soon as you answer a few questions. Would you like a glass of water?

GUEST
Yes, please, for God’s sake. And this tape is too tight.

HOST
It’s hard to adjust tape. But I’ll have some water brought in. You know, you’re just making it harder on yourself by squirming like that.

GUEST
You are asking about highly confidential matters. This is a violation of… Ow! That hurts!

SCUFFLING SOUNDS

HOST
These guys can get a little rough. They’re Army Reservists, you know. They lack a certain subtlety, but they’re pretty good at not leaving marks.

GUEST
What the heck is that thing? Ow!

ZAPPING SOUND

HOST
Some kind of electrical gizmo. Got it from the Iraelis. They have all sorts of high tech ways of stimulating conversation. But surely there’s no need for that. All we want is a candid conversation about a matter of interest to all civilized people.

RATTLING OF PAPER BAG

GUEST
What do you know about civilized people, you savage! This interview is officially over. This … Ow!(muffled) Take that bag off my head. I can’t breathe!

HOST
Don’t panic, sir, that just makes it worse. Try breathing more slowly.

GUEST
(muffled)
This is an outrage! You know I can’t tell you anything. It would cost me my job.

HOST
I understand. You have your principles – and we respect that. But are you sure there isn’t something you can tell us before the Pakistanis get here?

GUEST
(muffled)
The Pakistanis? How did they get involved in this?

HOST
They’re part of the Coalition of the Willing. We had to include them, which is a problem, because they sometimes do leave marks. But they give us the operational flexibility we need.

GUEST
(muffled)
I’m an American citizen. My God, you can’t show this on TV.

HOST
This is radio, remember. We can edit around things. Of course, it gets more difficult after the Pakistanis get started.

LABORED BREATHING THROUGH BAG

GUEST
(muffled)
Please, let me go! Let me breathe! I’ll tell you what you want to know.

HOST
We can talk? Lift the bag a little, guys, so we can talk. I feel like Joan Rivers, ha ha. I think we are ready to go live at last. Are we rolling? Good. Welcome, sir, to Greet the Press. You said you were ready for some tough questions, so here goes: is it true that you are torturing prisoners for information?

HEAVY BREATHING, OUT OF BAG

GUEST
(gasping)
Only in the interest of national security. We have determined that certain persuasive techniques are necessary.

HOST
Such as the ones described in the Washington Post article?

GUEST
Yes. Yes, those, and others we don’t want to know about. Some of our allies are not so squeamish.

HOST
Squeamish. I like that word. I’ll bet there’s no place for the squeamish in Guantánamo? Or Abu Ghraib?

GUEST
No! Certainly not. Now let me go, damn it!

HOST
One more question, just to prove we’re on the up-and-up. Are you sharing this information with the American people of your own free will?

RATTLING OF PAPER BAG

GUEST
Yes, no, whatever! Just get that damn bag away from me. Please!

HOST
You wanted to get the facts out, so the American people could have a full and open debate about the use of torture. Right?

GUEST
Right. Yes, whatever you say.

HOST
Thank you, sir! That’s a wrap, guys. We’re off the air.

GUEST
That’s it? That’s the show?

HOST
It’s a start. Now, how about that glass of water. Do you take ice? Get our guest some ice, you guys.

TINKLE OF ICE CUBES

GUEST
Forget the damn ice, just let me go!

HOST
Of course, we will, soon enough. We’re just going to have to hold you for a few days in an undisclosed location in case we have some follow-up questions to ask. You know how we journalists are about follow-up questions. Do you prefer a cage or a box?

SOUND OF CHAINS RATTLING

GUEST
I answered your questions, now let me go! Take these chains off my legs!

HOST
The boxes are warmer, and we have several sizes, including one that’s almost big enough to stand up in. Are you ready for some good news? Since you’ve been so cooperative, you’re next in line for a full-size five by five. Sure you don’t want that water?

HOLLOW ECHO OF METAL BOX SLAMMING SHUT

The End

This entry was posted in 40, Volume 20, No. 1. Bookmark the permalink.