brucekluger.com

    Salon.com, August 3, 2001

    Memo to George #4
    We can't get upstaged anymore by Clinton's uptown
    act. Get Colin and Condi ready: It's time for....
    Operation We Have to Get Black People to Like Us!

    By Bruce Kluger and David Slavin
















    INTEROFFICE MEMO

    Date: August 3, 2001
    To: The President
    From: Andrew H. Card Jr., Chief of Staff
    Re: Trouble on 125th Street
    cc: Karl, Karen

    VIA FAX: CONFIDENTIAL

    Mr. President:

    First the good news. Don't know if you had time to do any extra reading this week
    (Dick says you're plowing through the new Dilbert), but once again we've smacked
    a dinger in the bottom of the ninth. With the August recess upon us, we nailed down
    the energy bill, snagged a killer poll (See? I knew one would come along that we'd
    like) and even struck a compromise on the patients' bill of rights, no thanks to
    McCain, of course. (Have a great vacation, Johnhope it's in Mt. Etna.)

    Now the bad news. Put on your flak jacket, bosswe're going to war. According to
    our in-house radar, we're about to wage one honey of a battle, and I'm not talking
    about Congress or the Balkans or that psycho-sandpit called the West Bank. I'm
    talking about Harlem.

    Even as the media blows hot and cold with us, guess who's gettin' a big ol' wet one
    right on his pale, white, courtesy-of-McDonald's derrière? You bet your blow-dryer:
    Bill "Pardon Me" Clinton. There he was, all over the news, escorted by Chuck "I'm
    One Hip Hebrew" Schumer, struttin' down the rope line, high-fivin' his new
    neighbors, looking for all the world like the Mandela of Manhattan.

    Well, as Duke Ellington pointed out, anybody can take the A train, and if we want to
    shore up our African-American base (Karl: We have one, right?), we need to toss
    some gridlock into Gotham Bill's checkered taxi motorcade. Rummy says we should
    take out the whole city (I'm beginning to think Don should switch to decaf), but Dick
    suggests a subtler strategy. So here she iscode-named "Operation We Have to
    Get Black People to Like Us."

    1. YO, NEIGHBOR!: "Well, we're movin' on up." That's right, even while Bubba
    does Broadway, we're scouting locations for our own officeight next door. Think
    of us as Mr. Roper to Clinton's Jack Tripper, only crankier. (We've already ordered
    a dozen boom-boxesextra loud.) In the meantime, if we want to sound genuine
    with the locals, we need to familiarize you with the jargon of the 'hood. Starting
    today, homespun is out, "homeboy" is in. We'll show Black America that you're as
    hippity-hop as Johnny Mathis; that you can "get jiggy" with the best of 'em (Karl: still
    waiting on a precise translation of "jiggy"). You can start immediately. At your next
    photo op, tell the reporters that the Senate better be "down with" our energy plan or
    you'll "cap 'em" (actually, Dick says you can use "cap" with anybody but the NRA
    guys). If you need some extra pointers, I'll messenger over some Fresh Prince of
    Bel-Air tapes. Will Smith is "the bomb." (Don't panicthat's a good thing.) Yes sir,
    BC may have been America's first black prez, but believe it or not, boss, you're the
    one who's "phat and stoopid." As Ari likes to say, bust a move.

    2. L.L. COL P: I thought someone had laced my latte with funny mushrooms last
    weekend when I opened the papers to see a shot of our esteemed secretary of
    state, Colin "Dove Bar" Powell, singing karaoke to the Japanese foreign minister.
    He's down to his last 9-millimeter marble, I thought to myself. But check out this
    whacked bit of polling: The next day, General Softee's numbers skyrocketed. The
    point? If a Nilla Wafer like Clinton can light a fire under the sistas in Upper
    Manhattan, we can do even better with our genuine five-star, homegrown homey.
    Dick says we order the Warbling Warrior to take his lounge act on the road,
    scheduling stops for him in every urban-based Ramada from Mobile to Motown.
    There's more than one way to whip the inner-city masses into a frenzy, and if Puff
    Colly does the trick, maybe we can even convince Condi to join him on tour! (We
    know she can figure skate and play piano, but can she sing?) You don't have to be
    Berry Gordy to imagine this new-millennium resurrection of Ike and Tina. Proud
    Mary, look out!

    By the way, we're not going to make a performing seal of the guy. I mean, it's not
    like we want to shove him onstage for Amateur Night at the Apollo (Karen: Can
    we?). But I do know that the more time Powell spends wowing the cocktail circuit
    with "I'll Be There" and "Killing Me Softly," the less chance he has of screwing up
    our OPEC interests with the hanky-heads in the Middle East.

    3. J.C. SUPERSTAR: So Clinton's got Harlem, we've got Watts Congressman J.C.
    Watts, that is. OK, so maybe no one can match Slick Willie's oratory on the Baptist
    pulpit, but can he say he QB'd back-to-back national championships at the Orange
    Bowl? These inner-city kids love sports, and J.C. was an honest-to-God superstar
    at Oklahoma! And what sport did Bronco Billy excel in at Yale? The 100-meter
    panty raid through the Chi Omega sorority house, I bet. Furthermore, sports isn't
    the only thing J.C. can trot out to win the hearts of our young people. His work on
    the faith-based initiative, for example, is one sexy bit of urban catnip. I mean, if you
    were a 16-year-old boy from Harlem, how would you rather spend your day: playing
    a dopey little pick-up game with a former president of the United States or sitting
    down with a true Republican hero to discuss the merits of community volunteerism
    and the joys of abstinence? Pack up your sax, Billy-boythis is one battle you've
    already lost.

    4. SECRET WEAPON TIME: If all else fails, we've assembled a little team of
    infiltrators down here who, résumés in hand, are all set to board the northbound
    Metroliner for a little job-hunt expedition in Clinton Country. I don't want to reveal
    more about this secret squad in writing (in-house memos, of late, have been
    leaking like Strom at a keg party), but I'll give you a few hints about this special elite
    force: big hair, wide hips and a weakness for bad boys. 'Nuff said.

    Call me.

    Andy
Photograph by AP/Wide World