iPhone photo by Marta Evry

At a Hollywood bar last night, Rep. Alan Grayson and President George W. Bush* squared off in an entertaining and sometimes exhausting debate about the economy, war and the state of the nation. I moderated the debate, as you can see in the slightly fuzzy photo to the right.

President Bush took to the stage and immediately had a spitball hurled at him, which I reminded him was better than a shoe. He responded to a question about the Great Recession and what we can do to get people back to work by defending his record. “I sent everybody a check for $600,” he said. “You burned through it, that’s not my fault.” He added that he “tipped well.” Rep. Grayson, the first-term Congressman from Florida, said that we faced a great crisis in the last 24 months, where we learned a lot about ourselves, and that we need to do more for one another. “We had an enormous failure in the economy that none of you caused. It has something to do with the gentleman to my left.”

“Oops,” President Bush responded, waving to the audience.

Grayson continued that the nation lost $12 trillion dollars in accumulated wealth in the last 18 months, and that nobody was held responsible. “The market economy is based on the idea that winners win and losers lose, but we haven’t had that. We’ve seen the losers win.”

President Bush replied that “you can’t eat an omelette without breaking some eggs,” and that “you have to spend money to take money.”

I asked the President about the Tea Party movement and what he thought of it. “I stand by the Tea Party, I stand on it. The thing about extremists is, they’re on the extreme.” He also questioned his successor, Barack Obama, for “never being born.” I reminded him that the controversy was about Obama’s birth certificate. He looked puzzled.

Grayson responded to the Tea Party question by saying that it’s hard to take people seriously when they don’t bathe or shower, or know how to spell. The President replied that there are a lot of people in the world who can’t spell English.

The pair took some questions from the audience. Grayson was asked what he took from Huey Long, the populist of the 1930s. He said he internalized the idea that “you have to put some of the jam on the bottom shelf, where the people can reach it.” President Bush said he admired Huey, along with his two cartoon duck brothers.

On Afghanistan, Grayson said that we should have gotten out a long time ago, that we’re spending on an annual basis more than the cost of the health care bill for one year and that it would be cheaper by a factor of ten to hire everyone in Afghanistan and ask them not to fight one another.

President Bush responded by asserting that “hindsight is 50/50” and that we went to Afghanistan because “that’s where the war was.” He said he remained “commitful to freedom” and we could get out of Afghanistan “like they do in Risk, invading our way through the adjacent countries.”

* – President Bush was played by comedian James Adomian.

David Dayen

David Dayen