The genie who gave Bush everything he asked for

MIKE ROYKO

November 04, 1992|By MIKE ROYKO

It happened almost four years ago. Or so the legend goes.

A tall, lanky man walked a lonely beach near Kennebunkport in Maine.

He was deep in thought, head down, hunched into the winter wind.

Then he stopped. Something caught his eye. He bent over and picked up an oddly shaped bottle that had washed ashore.

He looked at it, shook it, then twisted out the cork stopper.

Smoke puffed from the bottle. Startled, the man dropped it and jumped back.

The smoke poured out, became thicker, then whirled and materialized as a human form that yawned and stretched.

"Who in the dickens are you?" the lanky man said.

"I am a genie," the creature said. "I have been trapped in the bottle for ages. You have released me so you are my master."

"Golly, Barbara will never believe this," the man said. "Wish I had my camera."

"Your wish is my command," the genie said, and a camera appeared in the man's hand.

"Jiminy cricket," the man said, "how'd you do that?"

"I am a genie," the genie said. "That is what I do. I can grant you 10 wishes for freeing me. But since you wished for that camera object, you have but nine remaining."

"Wait a minute," the man said, "are you saying you can actually grant wishes and make things come true?"

The genie shrugged and said: "Hey, it's a living."

The lanky man began talking excitedly. "Look, I just was elected to my first term as president. Do you know what that means?"

The genie pursed his lips. "I would guess that it means you are the punjab, the top maharajah, the big fez."

"Well, since Nixon's days we usually call it the big enchilada," the lanky man said, with a piercing laugh. "But I think you have the picture."

"So what do you wish, master?"

"Well, I've been walking this lonely beach, as presidents have done since JFK made it de rigueur, trying to figure out what I'd do the next four years. You see, that's when I have to run again. And I'm already concerned. I might not get lucky and draw a prissy little Greek from Massachusetts."

"I do not understand such matters, master. I merely grant wishes."

"Anything?" the lanky man said.

"Within reason. Nothing kinky. Against the genie rules. Nor can we interfere with the movement of the sun or planets. But routine miracles, you need only ask."

"OK. So tell me this, can you make Soviet communism collapse? Greatest threat to world peace, you know. Kids'll get a good night's sleep with it gone."

"Granted. What else?"

"Golly. There's this wall in Berlin. Symbol. Ugly. Repression. Can you bring it tumbling down?"

"As good as done. Next."

"Wowie. OK, inflation. Don't like it. Give me the lowest inflation rate in umpteen years. And low interest rates, too."

"Your wish is my command. Next?"

"Lemme think. I got it. How about war. Not a big one, but something splashy. Bad guy starts it. Invades helpless neighbor. I move fast. Decisive. Warn 'em. Won't take it. Won't let it stand. Rally the world community. Hit 'em hard, hit 'em fast. Win it. Brilliant strategy. Great victory. Yellow ribbons. Parades. TV ratings way up. Critics way down. How about it?"

"Granted, master. You still have five wishes."

"Right. OK, let's talk polls. Yeah. After I win the war, can I have the highest approval ratings in history?"

"Easier than a wabbit out of a hat, master."

"OK, what's next? Yes, my opponents. Cuomo, makes me nervous. Liberal, but talks good. Can you make him drop out?"

"He will be out, master. What next?"

"All of 'em, the big Democrats. They thought I'd be a sitting ducky-wucky. Give 'em a scare. Make 'em go run and hide. Get rid of them. No real opposition."

"Your wish is my command. They are vanquished."

"But I must have an opponent. Wouldn't look good otherwise. OK, let's find a real patsy. How about a governor nobody heard of. From a tiny state. Arkansas. Nobody's ever been to Arkansas, even the people who live there. That's it. And give him an Elvis haircut, just for laughs. And make him a draft dodger. Can you do that?"

"You have it, master."

"And a scary liberal wife."

"You have it, master. Shall I make her a lawyer, too?"

"Good touch. Look, I hate to impose. But is there any way that almost from the day this fella runs, there's some tall blond bombshell who goes on TV and says they were, you know, significant others? In an illicit kind of way? The scandal thing. The Gary Hart thing."

"It will be done."

"Gee willikers, I love it. Then for my last wish, I want to win in a historic landslide."

"I'm sorry, master, but you have used up your 10 wishes. I cannot give you a historic landslide."

"Y'can't? Well, it won't matter. Communism, collapsed. Berlin Wall, down. War with bully, won. Inflation, scrunched. Top Democrats, hiding. Pathetic opponent, unknown governor of a teeny state. Draft dodger, sex scandal. Golly, with all that going for me, I can't possibly lose, can I, genie?"

"I am only a genie, master, not a pollster. Now I must return to my bottle. Please replace the cork after I'm in and throw me back in the sea."

As the lanky man tossed the bottle into the surf, he shouted: "Thanks to you, genie, my next election will really cinch my place in the history books."

And a faint voice came from the floating bottle: "I think you can count on it."

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