The most honest promise a president could make


January 25, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

Glaring at President Clinton on the TV screen, Slats Grobnik said: "He blew his big chance."

How can you say that? While it wasn't a great inauguration speech, he kept it short and to the point.

"Nah, he blew it. Look, there ain't one person in this bar cheerin' or weepin'. He should have used the speech I wrote for him."

You wrote an inauguration speech for Clinton?

"Yeah, and I mailed it to him and said he could have it free. I thought for sure he'd use it. Not to brag, but it was terrific."

I'd like to read it.

"Hey, I still got it memorized. You wanna hear it?"

I'd be honored.

"OK, here goes. My fellow Merkins."

Your fellow what?

"That's the way Southern guys talk. LBJ always called us his fellow Merkins, so I figured Clinton would like it. Then I start out right in the beginning."

Always a good place to start. What do you say?

"My fellow Merkins, I ain't gonna give you no con job. I can't make no miracles."

Isn't that a bit negative?

"Nah, that's what I call honest."

True. Go on.

"OK. Now, as your president, I got a problem. You want me to make your lives better. You want a lot of this and a lot of that. But a lot of this and a lot of that costs money. So if I give you a lot of this and a lot of that, we go deeper in hock. And we're already up to our ears. If this country was a guy in hock to a loan shark, by now we'd all have broken kneecaps.

"So you want goodies from the government, but you also want me to get us out of hock. The only way I can do that is to hit you up for some of the scratch. Come on, don't look surprised. I never told you to read my lips.

"Being a Democrat, I'll start off by going after the rich. That's easy because they're too embarrassed for being successful to beef. But the truth is, even if I took every penny they got, it wouldn't be enough. Lenin and Stalin tried that years ago, and look where it got 'em. So you're gonna have to kick in. I'll try to slip it to you as painlessly as I can. Maybe a tax on your gas. Hey, try joggin' instead of driving.

"Now, let's talk about what you want me to do for you. Health care, right? I'll do what I can, but with this goofy Congress, don't expect things to change overnight. So my advice is, lose weight, quit smoking, don't booze, floss your teeth, exercise and don't do kinky sex with strangers. See, no medical plan is going to help if you are a self-destructive goof.

"Then there's crime. You want me to level? OK, as your president, I can't do much about street crime. A lot of it is because of drugs. You want to get rid of the drug problem? Easiest way is to legalize and tax drugs like we do with booze. But you don't want that. So we're stuck with the drug problem. I'll do what I can, but it won't be much.

"This country is a shooting gallery. The way to stop that is to outlaw handguns, automatic weapons -- any gats except for hunting. But you really don't want that. If you did, it would have been done by now. This country loves its guns. So I'll try to get a gun law passed that will make liberals happy, but it won't make a real difference, and we can keep shooting each other.

"Let's talk jobs, which is what got me elected. Sure, I can create some jobs by spending your money on big projects. But that's a quick fix.

"What I'm counting on is that the Japanese workers want to goof off like normal people. See, they've been working their butts off for years and all they got to show for it is teeny houses and big-screen TV. Now they're getting like we were a few years ago. They want to work less and still live the good life. So now we're scared and hyped, and they're burned out and looking to go to a Club Med. Hey, it could be the magic formula, so buy an American car, stupid.

"What else is on your shopping list? Oh, yes, better education. As you know, I'm going to send my kid to a private school. I've never admitted this before, but I'd really like to put in a voucher system that would help you send your kids to private schools. But I can't say that. Remember, I'm a politician and the education lobby has me by the short hairs. But nag your congressmen about it. Remember, I can't do anything without those yahoos.

"Let me conclude by saying that I'm sure many of you have watched the inauguration festivities with a deep sense of disgust. All those show biz egos strutting around the stage, fawning over me and Hillary and Albert and Tipper. All those millions of dollars from corporate brown-nosers being spent on glitzy parties. And me, sitting there and beaming like Elvis' bookworm brother.

"Yeah, the blowout was kind of obscene. But look at it this way: Starting right now, every chronic loser in America will blame me for his problems. Every Pulitzer-hunting reporter in Washington will see me as a trophy. Every week, the McGoofy Group is going to peek into my laundry hamper and yell, 'Eek!'

"So don't begrudge me my party. Just take a look at me four years from now. I'll look 20 years older.

"In the meantime, I'll try not to screw things up too bad. And that, if you ain't a historian, is the most honest promise any president has ever made."

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