GENERAL Buchanan, having lost every battle, demanded that the victorious General Bush meet him at the White House.
"But the White House is my house," said General Bush to his Chief of Confused Staff.
"Shouldn't General Buchanan ask my permission if he wants to use my house for meeting me there?"
The Chief of Confused Staff conferred with the staff's full confused membership before replying.
"While the White House is your house all right, we think the wise course is to humor General Buchanan," he advised. "That way we can keep his Armies of the Night well disposed toward us instead of disbanding into guerrilla units and poisoning wells all over the countryside."
"You mean his Armies of the Right, not Armies of the Night," said General Bush.
"Right," said the Chief. "Not Night, it's Right. Armies of the Right. Not for nothing did you make me Chief of Confused Staff."
"All night," said General Bush. "I'll let him summon me to my house."
"You mean 'All right,' General Bush. Not 'all night,'" said the Chief. "If you meet all night with General Buchanan there's no telling what you'll give away."
General Buchanan was seated in General Bush's favorite recliner in the Blue Room when word arrived that General Bush, flush with victory in every battle, had entered the White House grounds and craved an audience.
"Send him in," said General Buchanan.
Outside on the front steps General Bush consulted the Chief of Confused Staff:
"Do you think it would make the defeated Armies of the Right feel kinder and gentler about my victories if I walked in on my knees?"
The Chief was loath to advise on such a delicate matter without consulting his staff. The resulting delay outraged General Buchanan, who was quieted only after his lieutenants persuaded him to use the delay by searching the White House library for pornographic literature and film showing naked homosexuals, preferably black.
Finally General Bush's Chief of Confused Staff suggested they ask General Buchanan if General Bush should enter walking on feet or knees.
General Buchanan said it was all right for General Bush to enter upright provided he first get to his knees on the White House steps and write 100 times, "I am sorry I betrayed Generalissimo Reagan by approving some new taxes."
As General Bush paused to recover from writer's cramp after his 79th inscription of "Generalissimo," he asked his entire Confused Staff to come up with some quick ideas for neutralizing the embittered Armies of the Right after General Buchanan's surrender. Ideas came thin and slow.
"Give General Buchanan a brand new set of golf clubs autographed by First Lieutenant Quayle."
"Tell General Buchanan he can fire any 100 members of the victorious Bush army and replace them with officers of the Armies of the Right."
"Agree to move out of the Oval Office and let General Buchanan use it to set up his home woodworking shop."
"Offer to abolish taxes and the State Department."
The dithering was interrupted by General Buchanan's herald announcing that his principal was waxing impatient and fain would fly down.
"Fly down to where?" asked General Bush.
"Fly down to Florida, there to wage another triumphant losing battle," quoth the herald, directing General Bush into the presence of his vanquished foe.
"We'll make this short and sweet," said the vanquished master of the Armies of the Right as he stretched luxuriantly on General Bush's favorite recliner.
"It will soon be spring," he continued in his customary terse but eloquent journalistic diction. "Since you will want to put in a crop I shall let you keep the White House press corps for the spring plowing."
With that General Buchanan strode from the White House, paused a moment on the front steps, then issued a command to his staff: "Have that recliner moved into my headquarters."
Russell Baker writes a syndicated column for the New York Times.