Message 213: I swat ’em like flies

Near the end of “2+2=5” on Hail to the Theif, the lyrics read:

I swat ’em like flies but like flies the buggers keep coming back

This line echoes Condoleezza Rice’s quotation of President Bush in her prepared statement delivered to the 9/11 Commission on April 8, 2004:

We also moved to develop a new and comprehensive strategy to eliminate the al-Qaida terrorist network. President Bush understood the threat, and he understood its importance. He made clear to us that he did not want to respond to al-Qaida one attack at a time. He told me he was “tired of swatting flies.”

After her prepared statement, Rice was interviewed by the commission. Bob Kerrey asked as follows (from the transcript):

MR. KERREY: Did — you’ve used the phrase a number of times, and I’m hoping with my question to disabuse you of using it in the future. You said the President was tired of swatting flies. Can you tell me one example where the President swatted a fly when it came to al Qaeda prior to 9/11?

MS. RICE: I think what the President was speaking to was —

MR. KERREY: No, no, what fly had he swatted?

MS. RICE: Well, the disruptions abroad was what he was really focusing on.

MR. KERREY: No, no —

MS. RICE: When the CIA would go after Abu Sayyaf, go after this guy, and — that was what was meant.

MR. KERREY: Dr. Rice, we didn’t — we only swatted a fly once, on the 20th of August, 1998. We didn’t swat any flies afterwards. How the hell could he be tired?

MS. RICE: We swatted at — I think he felt that what the agency was doing was going after individual terrorists here and there, and that’s what he meant by swatting flies. It was simply a figure of speech.

MR. KERREY: Well, I think it’s an unfortunate figure of speech…

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