President Bush suffered second-degree burns to the inner ear yesterday, prior to a rehearsal for his upcoming debate with Senator Kerry, the Democratic challenger in next month's Presidential elections and immediately sparked a controversy as to the cause of the incident.
White House Press Secretary Scott McLennan, speaking to the White House press corps, explained that "while the President was riding his mountain bicycle last month in Texas, a pebble flew up and lodged itself in his ear, unknown to President Bush. Yesterday, it was determined that the pebble was still present, and was causing memory loss, an inability to deal with reality, aphasia [the inability to pronounce words properly, and to use language correctly] and sustained rapid blinking." Undeterred by the guffaws erupting from the foreign press section, McClennan continued with his explanation. "The decision was therefore made to extract the pebble using a prototype of the Strategic Missile Defense laser system. However, the pebble exploded when exposed to the laser beam, thereby inflicting severe burns on the President's inner ear. Nonetheless, exhibiting the strength and single-mindedness that have characterized this Administration, the President will take part in tomorrow's debate, as planned." At this point, Mr. McClennan's words became difficult to understand over the massed laughter of the reporters in the White House Press Room. Visibly annoyed at the reaction, Mr. McClennan struggled to retain his composure as he stood at the lectern for further questions.
When taxed by the BBC correspondent with the charge that there had been a malfunction in a secret earpiece worn by the president, which had allowed him in the first debate to repeat on stage the words secretly fed to him by his staff members, but was not permitted under the rules of the debate, McClennan swiftly riposted "Nonsense," before making strange swatting motions towards his own ear, as if batting away an invisible insect. "Let me finish," he added, in an eerie echo of the President's own words in the first debate, even though no-one was talking at the time. "The President's in-ear prompter is the finest in all-American technology, and would never malfunction in the way suggested." When it was pointed out that this implied that Mr. Bush had indeed used an illegal earpiece, McClennan swept off the podium with a curt "No comment".
When questioned about the contents of the press briefing, Senator Kerry's campaign spokesman replied. "I'm not surprised. We've seen this president cheat on everything, including the lives of tens of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I think it might only be fair to Mr. Bush to warn him that if he tries to cheat in this way in further debates, we have some very interesting technology ready for the next debates that may come as a further shock to him."