-Canadian PM Calls White House, Gets no Answer
March 20, 2003
Jean reaches out but touches no one
By GARY DUNFORD -- Toronto Sun
COURTESY CALL: "Allo Georges!" cries the prime minister, as soon as the Ottawa-Washington phone link clicks thru. "I want you be first to know what I tell my peoples! Are you dare?"
"Your call is important to us," says an unfamiliar automated voice. "Touch one for Operation Iraq Freedom. Touch two for Operation Liberty Defence. Touch three for War on Terror. Touch four to surrender. Please make your selection now."
Jean Chretien stares into the hotline receiver.
"Allo?" he repeats. "Georges?"
"If you need assistance," the voice instructs, "please stay on the line. Or touch zero to speak to an operator."
The prime minister touches zero and hears march music. Is it Sousa? Yes! He begins to hum. Be kind to your web-footed friends. For a duck may be some-body's mo-ther. They live in the deep of the swamp. Where the weather is ve-ry damp ...
"White House operator," a woman's voice interrupts.
"Allo, operator," says the PM. "This is Canada. I call President Bushie."
"Are you returning the president's call?" she asks. "Let me get my callback list of ... The Willing."
"No, I make call myself," Chretien explains. "Courtesy call to tell my fren Bush what I tell my peoples. We sit dis one out. Everybuddy cheer. I try call two days ago but Aline knock phone out of my hand. Don't know what get into her sometime."
"Your name?" asks the operator. "Canada, you said?"
"Chretien," he says. "C-H-R-E-T-I-E-N. Dis is my courtesy call."
"It doesn't seem to be here," the Operator says. "Would it be listed some other way in the directory?"
"Check President Crayon," the PM chuckles. "Or Crate -- sometime President Bush call me dat. His good fren. Nordern buddy from Canader. He like pull my chain."
"You don't seem to be on his list of The Willing," she muses.
"Well dat because I yam Un-Willing!" he laughs. "Dat is why I call. I need him be first to know. Could you check udder list? List of da Un-Willing?"
"I'm sorry, President Crayon," she says. "You'll have to forgive me, things are a little hectic around here today. Can you hold, please? Hello, London? Go ahead, he's on the line. Sorry about that, sir. Can I take a message?"
"I want to tell president we not fight in Iraq," the PM says. "But if he see it on CNN first, not to take personal. It not because he is bastard or moron."
"I beg your pardon?"
"No, no forget dat," says Chretien. "Here is da message: Bushie be my guest when Celine Dion open in Vegas. She do special Medley for Troops. All Can-Con. Lonely Boy. You Needed Me. Put Your Hand in Da Hand of Somebody Else. Everybody love Celine. You know what $350 US a ticket is in loonies? Plus I send him Canadian Bacon. Peameal. Okay?"
"I'm sorry, sir," says the operator. "I don't have time to write that down. Hello, Qatar? Go ahead. Mr. Crayon, can I put you thru to the residence?"
"Is Bush eating breakfast?" the PM asks. Music. Again with the Sousa.
"Wazzup?" asks a male voice.
"Allo Georges!" the PM hails. "Canada here! Jean Chretien! I want you be first to know what I tell my peoples. Saddam is bad man, but we cannot help you invade Iraq. Not widdout UN. When I say dat, everybody cheer. Georges? Are you dare?"
"It's Darwin, the White House dogsitter," the voice says. "Were you calling me?"
"Where is Bush?"
"He's really busy," says Darwin. "Sometimes, when the calls back up, they put 'em over here to the residence. Spot! Leave Barney alone! Stop that!"
"You are dogsitter?"
"Yeah," says the kid. "Spot the English Springer Spaniel and Barney Bush, the Scottish terrier. Didn't you see 'em on TV the other night? Chasin' each other around the White House lawn? Man, the president loves his dogs. He ain't here. Did you want to leave a message?"
"Does President Bushie have voice-mail?" exclaims the PM. "I call to make nice. It is personal. Not for dogsitter. Usually call go right thru."
"I'm afraid his voice-mail's only for The Willing," says the kid. "You know, East Yabidor. Nerfland. The Republic of Cinzano. The kickass coalition that knows right from wrong."
"Okay," says Chretien. "Write this down ..."
"Let me get a pencil," says the kid. "Hold on." He goes to find one.
"During an Orange Alert," says an ominous recorded voice, "your call may be monitored so we can serve you better. In the event of Red Alert or a real emergency, this line will be disconnected."
Darwin never came back to the phone. Jean Chretien put the hotline back in its cradle. Maybe a note would be better anyway ...