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