Saddam Hussein does not seem to understand American media. I watched his 76-minute videotape address the other night and it was so boring, I thought I was watching The Learning Channel.
There were no cute girls, no singing policemen, no hidden cameras catching people doing stupid things. He just sat there between a flag and a potted plant, looking like the guy who killed Laura Palmer.
What Saddam Hussein needs is to have his image reshaped. He needs to hire some of the media wizards who work in American presidential campaigns.
Because if these guys can sell us Dan Quayle, why couldn't they sell us Saddam? In fact, I'll bet meetings are under way right now in Baghdad:
"Gentlemen, thank you for coming to my presidential palace. I regret that you had to be shipped into Iraq in a crate of Fig Newtons. But I have reviewed the work you did in the last American presidential campaign and I found it to be vicious, dirty and totally unprincipled. You are exactly what I am looking for."
"Flattery will get you everywhere, Your Magnificence. First thing you gotta do, though, is lose the mustache. It makes you look like you're eating a caterpillar. And we'd like to loosen up your image a little. Let the people see you at home with the kids. Tossing a Frisbee. Wearing a Hawaiian shirt maybe. Then we'll get you a profile in People magazine. Maybe a picture of you in the tub with bubble bath."
"You know, taking a bath."
"Taking a bath?"
"Maybe we'll just stick with the Frisbee. But we got a problem with you, and I don't know how to say this diplomatic-like."
"Do not worry."
"Well, we've never worked for an actual madman before."
"This will be a problem?"
"No, but it's gonna cost extra."
"The $3 billion we spoke of is not enough?"
"It's plenty. But there's a line in the contract that kind of bothers me. It's the part where it says we will be paid '. . . $3 billion or its equivalent in chickpeas.' "
"You do not like chickpeas?"
"It's not that."
"They are very healthy."
"I'm sure they are, but . . ."
"And they sweeten the breath."
"I'll take your word for it. But we'd like to be paid in cash. Or barrels of oil, whichever you'd like."
"It shall be done."
"Now, we saw the 76-minute tape you made for American TV and it was a stinkeroo. Terrible. What we would suggest for you is a music video. Maybe get Michael Jackson or Madonna to back you up. We were thinking of calling it "I'm Saddam Glad to Meet Ya!' Can you moonwalk?"
"I do not believe so. I can fieldstrip a bazooka, however."
"Not quite what we had in mind. Do you have any other talents?"
"I have a lilting tenor voice that is said to be able to charm the vultures from the trees."
"Fantastic! We could do a 'Sing Along with Saddam.' By the way, is Saddam your first or last name?"
"I do not really know. Nobody has ever asked before."
"We'll work around it. Next, we need a new image for you."
"You do not like the Butcher of Baghdad?"
"A little too hot-button, if you know what I mean. We need something a little more laid-back. Like when you were in high school, all you ever wanted to be was a surfer. You wanted to go out and catch an endless wave and hang ten."
"I have hung many more than 10."
"Yeah, well. But that's the new image: Surfing Saddam. Now let's move along to your next speech."
"I think you will like it. I begin by saying: 'We will pluck the eyes from the invading Americans and feed their kidneys to the jackals.' "
"See, you want to lighten that up a little. You want to start each speech with a joke. Like: 'Take my wife -- please! She said: 'I want to go somewhere I've never been before!' And I said: 'Try the kitchen!' "
"I do not get it."
"It's not important. It's all in the delivery. The final thing we need is to come up with a reason for your invasion of Kuwait."
"I wished to crush the lying infidel dogs who attempted to thwart my powers."
"We just have to put a different spin on that. Like, maybe, Kuwait was blocking your access to ancient surfing sites, blah, blah, blah. Or maybe you never really meant it at all. You said to your generals: 'No, wait!' And they thought you said: 'Ku-wait!' "
"And people would believe that?"
"Oh my. You should come see an election in America some time. We've found that the people will believe anything."