Look who's coming!

Russell Baker

December 14, 1990|By Russell Baker

FOLLOWING is a copy of the memo prepared for President Bush on the eve of one of his infrequent appearances in Washington:

I. Airport arrival: The customary red carpet from Air Force One to the president's local transportation vehicle will be dispensed with at the instance of Richard Darman, budget director, citing the following justifications:

1. Since the RussellBakerpresident will be arriving on native soil it would seem unpatriotic, hence politically unwise, to allow carpeting of any color whatever to be placed between his feet and the American earth or its modern equivalents such as asphalt, concrete, oil slicks, cigarette butts, discarded beer cans and so forth.

2. The president will be arriving in a country that has great trouble paying its bills. By avoiding the expense of red carpeting, the president can, without preaching, illustrate his belief that the destitute should never lavish their last penny on frills, especially if the penny be borrowed.

3. Because carpeting is historically associated with Islamic culture, using it for the president's arrival in a capital with unique problems in the Middle East would be diplomatically unsound, since (a) Arab states might take offense at having this cultural symbol trod underfoot in a place like Washington, and (b) Israel might interpret purchase of the necessary carpeting as a sly scheme for subsidizing its Arab enemies.

Two other customary airport ceremonies will be abandoned for this visit at the direction of John Sununu, White House adviser in charge of being photographed looking over the president's shoulder all over the world:

1. The playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" followed by the host nation's anthem will be dropped since the host country's anthem in this case is also "The Star-Spangled Banner." Consecutive renditions of this anthem ("even longer than it sounds," Mark Twain said of it) would not be "sound-bite friendly," and might renew the television industry's agitation for a new national anthem that can be played from start to finish in 10 seconds.

2. The customary greeting of the president by the host country's head of state will be dispensed with, since this would require the president to talk to himself in public, which might be politically unsound. The idea that the president be greeted by John Sununu was dismissed after Sununu noted that it would be impossible for him to be photographed looking over the president's shoulder if he had to come around front to do the greeting.

II. Arrival in Washington: Helicopter transport will carry the president from airport to White House. During this trip he will cross the infamous Beltway. Despite the altitude, he could recognize that he had passed inside the Beltway if he were to glance down and see the hordes of unreal people swarming below.

This bleak mass of unreality always depresses the president. ("How nice it is to be out where the real people are -- outside of Washington, D.C.," he said recently on a visit to Nebraska.) To help the president avoid the sight, curtains will be drawn across the windows before intra-Beltway incursion takes place.

During this blackout period he will be briefed on the time zone he has entered (Eastern standard), the name of the country (the United States of America), its numerical status (still Number One), the identity of its leader (George Bush of Yale, CIA, Skull and Bones, and U.S. Naval Aviation), the names of everyone important whom he should recognize (James Baker) and photographs of same to help him do so.

III. Situational briefing: Immediately upon entering the White House, the president will go to the Situational Briefing Room to be briefed on the status of all pertinent situations as they have developed since his last visit to Washington. Situations to be briefed upon are as follows:

Collapse of the domestic coalition behind his Persian Gulf policy; onset of a nationwide economic recession; the unchecked reign of murder and drug abuse; the rise in illegitimate births, homelessness and AIDS; deepening of the racial divide between whites and blacks; continuing rise of the budget deficit despite new taxes; a fresh budget nightmare created by adding the new multibillion-dollar military bill for Persian Gulf policy to staggering savings and loan bailout costs; the Japanese purchase of Hollywood. . . .

IV. Medical: At bedtime the president will suggest that another trip outside Washington may be just what the doctor would like to order, eh, Doc?

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