YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Bush Scenario: Oh, If Only Lee Were Here!

February 09, 1992|Christopher Buckley | Christopher Buckley, the editor of Forbes FYI, a supplement to Forbes magazine, served as a speech writer for then-Vice President George Bush. His most recent novel is "Wet Work" (Knopf)

WASHINGTON — S cene: The Oval Office.

Situation: Following his 40-point plunge in the polls and his recent unfortunate campaign events, President George Bush and his election advisers are holding a seance, trying desperately to contact the ghost of the late Lee Atwater, the political Svengali who masterminded Bush's '88 campaign.

The lights are turned down. Together, they chant, "Lee . . . Lee . . . Lee . . . we need to speak to you. . . . Come in, Leeee."

Bush: Jeez, I--this seems sort of, I don't know, silly.

Suddenly, a smell of barbecued ribs suffuses the Oval Office. Then the sound of some hot rhythm-and-blues guitar licks.

A voice is heard: "How many Kennedys does it take to change a light bulb?"

A shudder runs through the President and his advisers.

"Three. One to hold the light bulb, two to drink til the room spins!"

Bush: Lee!

Atwater: In the flesh. Not! Whut's up?

Bush: Could use some advice. I can't seem to get airborne here. Sort of stuck on the runway. Things aren't--things aren't flying.

Atwater: You're telling me. Who's dumbass idea was that photo op at the supermarket check-out counter? You got to stop with this man-o-the-people crap. People don't want a man-o-the-people for President. They want a leader. You were doin' great with Desert Storm. But why didn't you send Schwarzkopf into Baghdad and hang that sumbitch's ass from the tallest minaret?

Bush: The kinder, gentler thing.

Atwater: Mr. President, can I speak frankly? Don't see why not, I'm dead: You ain't gonna win this thing with more damn Me-Too Republicanism. "I want health care, too; I want bettah schools, too; I wanna rebuild the infrastructure, too; I want more money for Head Start, too--only I can do it cheapuh than the Democrats."

Look, you got to stop being for things. It's elemental. A leader is a god, gods don't tell you whut to do, they tell yuh whut not to do. Look at '88. Why'd we win in '88? We won by being against things--good ol' Willie Horton, flag-burnin', taxes. Speaking of which, you really oughta fire Darman's ass--but nevah mind: Your whole problem right now is you're running against yourself!

Bush: Whoa, hold those horsies. I did declare war on Congress.

Atwater: Fuhget Congress. You ain gonna win by declarin' wah on Congress. First, they's 535 of them and one o you. Second, who you think elected Congress? We need an enemy we can sink our teeth into, a you-know-what in the woodpile.

Bush: OK, like who?

Atwater: Clinton. Start saying some of your Episcopalian prayuhs that Clinton wins New Hampshire. It ain't every day you get to run against a draft-dodging wife-cheater. Here's your line: "I will be faithful to you!" When you hit that line in the speech, you turn and look at Barbara. Yuh deliver it first to a woman's group. They'll go wild, I guarantee. Women are all het up, right now. The Thomas hearings, the Willie Smith thang, the Mike Tyson thang.

Then you say, when it came your time to serve your country in wah, you didn't start cutting deals to keep yourself out, you put on your sneakers and ran down to the recruitin' station. Course, we got to be a little careful not to singe Danny, but we can finesse that. By the way, that's the one smart thing y'all done, sending Danny out there saying Mario's gonna come into the race after all, goadin' him into issuin' a Shuhmanesque statement.

But speaking of wah, you got a golden oppuhtunity to stick it to em, got to say, "Look heah, the Democrats want a trade wah with Japan. And the only casualties in that wah is gonna be you, and you, and you, and me--you want to do a man-o-the-people number, that's how you do it--since we gonna end up paying $40,000 for a $15,000 Toyota and $5,000 for a VCR. Here's your line: "I already fought one war with Japan, and lemme tell yuh, ain't no damn fun! Keep me in office and I will keep us out of wah with Japan."

Bush: But everyone's TO'd at Japan. The, the, the lazy thing, the illiterate thing.

Atwater: Price of VCRs quadruples, it ain't Japan they gonna be TO'd at. It's the Protectionists they gonna wanna hang. And it's a two-fer. You can deck Buchanan with it, too, though he ain't gonna be a problem fuh too much longer.

Listen, I gotta blow outta heah. They don't like it we spend too much time seancin'.

Bush: Is there anything else we should be doing?

Atwater: Country's in a mood. Everyone's convinced it's all downhill from heah. You got to do whut Reagan did: Tell them gravy days lie ahead, the fyucha is brayt.

Bush: Sorry?

Atwater: The fyuture is bright.

Bush: Got it. But crime, drugs, unemployment, health care, Oliver Stone movies. No jobs, jobs, jobs.

Atwater: Remembah what JFK did right after Bay o Pigs?

Bush: The Moon thing?

Atwater: You got it. Wiped the slate clean. Said, "We goin' to the moon!" People jus love going to the moon.

Bush: But we've done the moon.

Atwater: Do Mahs. Hell, do--what's the furthest thing out theah? Pluto. Go to Pluto. "I am announcing a manned mission to Pluto." Pluto. Don't quite sound right, does it? Jupituh . . . Saturn . . . I got it. Venus. The women'll love it. Venus, ain't it the Love Planet? Go to Venus. Gotta blow.

Bush: We miss you, Lee.

Los Angeles Times Articles