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
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
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, John—hope it's in Mt. Etna.)
Now the bad news. Put on your flak jacket, boss—we'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 is—code-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 office—ight next door. Think
of us as Mr. Roper to Clinton's Jack Tripper, only crankier. (We've already ordered
a dozen boom-boxes—extra 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 panic—that'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-boy—this is one battle you've
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.