brucekluger.com

    Salon.com, June 29, 2001

    Memo to George #2
    Polls be damned! The public will come around, George,
    but stick to the talking points: The "El Poncho Grande"
    shield and hospital salad bars!

    By Bruce Kluger and David Slavin


    INTEROFFICE MEMO

    Date: June 28, 2001
    To: The President
    From: Andrew H. Card Jr., Chief of Staff
    Re: Looking ahead
    cc: Karl, Karen

    Mr. President:

    Laura tells me you're a bit blue about the recent polls that have you losing ground
    with Joe Six-Pack on specific issues. Well, if that's the way the media wants to play it
    (focusing on B-list stuff like the environment, energy, blah, blah, blah), then we can
    play hardball, too.

    Below is a list of some of the more obvious burrs in our administrative saddle, along
    with new strategies Dick thinks we should implement in order to yank 'em off.

    1. FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Your overseas trip proved you're the Troy Aikman of
    presidential diplomacy (minus the concussions), but in the coming months, party
    poopers like Joe ("Chia Hair") Biden will try to wipe the shine off your boots big time.
    They'll ignore all of your obvious victories in the foreign trenches (Mexico. And
    remember: that includes the Yucatan) and instead focus only on those few boils on
    our collective cheek (China, Korea, Europe). The solution? Do nada. To quote Li'l
    Kim (Dick did!), you're the "Big Momma Thang" of global relations, so you shouldn't
    allow yourself to be distracted by a few crybabies like "Shrek" Chirac and "Ricky"
    Schroeder. (Besides, Dick says we really don't need Germany and France
    anymore.) Just stick with the current battle plana cool, don't-mess-with-me
    detachment (think Lara Croft with cojones) and the steady drumbeat of our missile
    defense plan ("El Poncho Grande")—and we'll come out smelling like that yellow
    Texas rose.

    One minor nit: You may want to cut back on your (always funny) gags when it
    comes to foreigners. Some light-in-the-loafers lefty reporter from the Village Voice
    overheard your latest ("What do you get when you stick a Russian president on top
    of a little round cracker? Putin on the Ritz") then beat you to death with it in his last
    column. For the time being, snip it from your repertoire. (But if it makes you feel any
    better, a straw vote here in the office had eight out of nine of us howling. Two
    guesses who the stick-in-the-mud was. Hint: She's from New Jersey and hugs trees.)

    2. HEALTHCARE: Hate to say it, but this patients' bill of rights thing is going to
    happen. We've got to get on board soon, or the Dems'll say we're in bed with the
    HMOs. (Which reminds me: big Blue Cross/Blue Shield bash next week at Dick's
    place. Chicken-fried steak. Shania Twain. Yowza!) Anyway, the veep himself
    hammered out this ingenious plan that can give the masses their medicine without
    giving away the drugstore. Hospital patients want guaranteed access? They'll get
    guaranteed access—to at least five different in-room movies, a salad bar on each
    ward, and gowns that don't show the moonlight through the back window, if you
    know what I mean. Mark my words: In six months, a trip to the hospital will be as
    much fun as a weekend at Epcot. I'd say Dick out-Dicked himself on this one.

    3. BIG TOBACCO: We're trying to finagle a settlement in the (yawn) tobacco
    lawsuit. Dick thinks we may catch a little flak from the anti-cig radicals who want
    their big, fat court case, so last weekend we met with some Philip Morris and R.J.
    Reynolds execs and worked out the perfect official statement. The tobacco
    companies will say that they're "really, really sorry if they unknowingly did anything
    that might possibly have indirectly hurt someone," and that they'll give—not sell,
    mind you, but givenicotine gum or butane lighters—or both!—to any smoker who
    wants them. Now, if that's not an apology, I'm Eleanor Roosevelt in a jock strap.

    4. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Unfortunately, we've got to head back to the
    drawing board in our search for a national science advisor. Dick volunteered to
    take the job himself, but the nit-picking eggheads insist on a "trained scientist."
    (Talk about "Revenge of the Nerds.") Meanwhile, your suggestion didn't work
    either. Turns out Bill Nye the Science Guy voted for Gore.

    5. CONGRESS: It's been two months and the Senate is still in the hands of the
    Democrats (unbelievable!). Dick and Karl have been trying everything to turn it
    around, even a big-time stroke session with Zell Miller, dangling the possibility of
    another Olympics in Georgia (Macon '08?). Didn't work. I say, let's scrape this
    partisan poop off our shoe and keep on truckin'. So, OK, we're stuck with "Dasch-in-
    the-Pan" Daschle for two more years, but think of the upside to all this: we don't
    have to invite "Vacant" Lott to any more WH screenings. Too bad for him. It's The
    Animal next week.

    6. "DOMESTIC" AFFAIRS: As you know, ever since People devoted its cover to
    "The Olsen Twins," (remember: code names in memos) the girls have turned up in
    every stand-up comic's routine in the country (FYI: Leno's officially off the Xmas
    card list). I think we need to arrange another trip to Crawford for a serious face-to-
    face with "Mary-Kate," just to make sure the message sunk in. What else can we
    do? Obviously, we can't fire her (Karen: can we?), but at the same time, the
    situation demands more than just a wrist-slap. She needs a scolding that will echo
    through the living rooms of Middle America—a spiritual spanking, if you will. This
    matter calls for wisdom, steely discipline and the kind of tough love that only a
    parent can impart. We'll give it to Dick.

    Call me.

    Andy