The Truth, Mainly - 09/30/2002

Preemption for preschoolers: a new fairy tale
by Leon Satterfield

Once upon a not-too-distant time, in a not-too-distant land, there lived a President who believed he knew what was going to happen before it actually happened.

He believed this foreknowledge came from his digestive tract and he told his friends this:

"When I feel way down deep in my gut that a thing is about to happen, that thing always happens."

And that is why the President decided to change his country's foreign policy from one based on deterrence to one based on preemption.

Deterrence, boys and girls, means that bad people are afraid to hurt you because they know you’ll hurt them back.

Preemption means that because you know they are about to hurt you, you hurt them first—so bad they can't hurt you.

Some people in the land did not believe that the President knew what was going to happen before it happened. These people were called Democrats. They could not understand preemption, even when the President explained it.

"It's like—you know—" the President said, "what we did to the Japanese when we made our preemptive strike on them at Pearl Harbor in 1941."

When a Democrat asked if it wasn't the Japanese who made the preemptive strike at Pearl Harbor, the President said this:


So even though Democrats didn't understand how the President could know what was going to happen before it happened, they pretended to understand. They said this:


And one July morning, the President told one of his very best friends, Mr. Rumsfeld, that "I have a gut feeling that Canada is going to attack us a week from Wednesday. Take care of that, will you?"

Canada was the land just north of the President's land. Many people there talk funny. They call it French.

So Mr. Rumsfeld, on a week from Tuesday, launched a preemptive strike during the seventh inning stretch of the Montreal Expos-L.A. Dodgers baseball game in Olympic Stadium. Baseball belonged to the President's land, but he let Canadians play it too, even if they did talk funny.

Mr. Rumsfeld's preemptive strike landed in the left-field bleachers. Most of the players were not hurt, but some of the people talking funny in the bleachers had to have the doctor come see them.

The President said he was sorry they'd been hurt, but he knew now that preemption worked because Canada didn't attack his country on Wednesday. When a newspaper writer asked the President how he knew the Canadians were going to attack in the first place, he said this:

"I had a feeling way down deep in my gut and I always believe what the feelings way down deep in my gut tell me."

Other people in the land wanted their own personal preemption policies so they could hurt people they knew were about to hurt them. Some of them bonked others on the head with a brick because they thought they were about to be bonked themselves.

So more and more people became Democrats as the time drew near for the next election.

Another of the President's very good friends, Mr. Ashcroft, said the President should make a preemptive strike on the Democrats before they voted against him. Mr. Ashcroft said this:

"How about I just make a list of everybody who's going to vote against us, then lock them up in protective custody until after the election?"

The President said that was a swell idea, but another of his very good friends, Mr. Rove, said it lacked subtlety. He suggested that all the Democrat polling places be moved to Florida.

"Neato-jet," the President said. "I'll call Jeb."

Jeb was the President's brother. Jeb lived in Florida and knew how to do things.

So the President was re-elected and the Democrats rioted. But the riots ended after a few weeks because Mr. Ashcroft put everyone in jail who looked as though they might be angry. Mr. Ashcroft called it preemptive law enforcement.

After his second inauguration, the President said this to the First Lady:

"Isn't it a wonderful thing that I know what's going to happen before it happens?"

"Um," she said.

"I knew you were going to say that," he said.

And because it was the 538th time he'd said that to the First Lady, she bonked him on the head with a cast-iron skillet.

The President's doctor had to come. After he made the President's head all better, he said that tests showed the President had a very acidic digestive tract, and that if he'd take three Tums every day, those feelings way down deep in his gut would go away.

So the President took his Tums, and sure enough the feelings in his gut went away. He no longer knew what was going to happen before it happened so he renounced his preemption policy, and they all lived happily ever after.

Except, of course, Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Ashcroft.


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

©Copyright Lincoln Journal Star