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THE JAUNDICED EYE

More Calls From Al

March 16, 1997|Bruce McCall | Bruce McCall is a regular contributor to the New Yorker

NEW YORK — 'I have a collect call for the chairman of the Central Committee, from--"

"Al! Just call me Al!"

"From Al. Will you accept the charges?"

"This is Al of Washington, D.C.? Calling from inside White House?"

"No, this time from outside. From a phone booth, outside the White House."

"Oh, we cannot accept collect overseas calls from outside White House."

"But it's me, Al! We ate Chinese together two, three, maybe five times! I sent your kids those Nikes!"

"Al has lost job inside White House?"

"Naw, just some silly rule changes! I now have to make all fund-raising calls outside the White House, you see."

"To foil counter-revolutionary plotters and henchmen!"

"Something like that, yes!"

"This is the operator. Will you accept the charges?"

"We accept!"

"Go ahead."

"Thank you! Now, Mr. Chairman, this is awkward, but on behalf of the president I'm calling to ask for a little advance, if we could, against the Year 2000 campaign contribution . . ."

"This is the famous American political 'shakedown?' "

"Gosh almighty, no way! Unexpected major expenses is all. It's what you might call the Year of the Rat here in Washington. We need money, fast, to keep certain people from ratting."

"Aha! U.S. public outraged to find we secretly pay you big money to keep junketing congressmen and senators from making endless so-called fact-finding trips here, taking up all our time touring boiler factories, patting panda bears and eating free 20-course banquets in Great Hall?"

"Correct, sir. The president's had to stay up way past bedtime, getting the State Department to cook up reasons for congressmen and senators to go to other places instead, where the golf's good and there are enough cars for motorcades."

"Aha! So no Tibet, Albania, Burkina Fasso."

"Naw. Finding facts about Miami Beach night-life, inspecting worker safety at Las Vegas stage shows. And of course, we use the money on strictly nonpolitical public improvements on behalf of all the people of America. Waterbeds for the Lincoln bedroom, stuff like that."

"So everybody win!"

"Everybody wins! Ooops, somebody wants to use this phone booth. Guess I've tied it up long enough. Goodbye and . . . Oh, hello, Newt! Matter of fact, got him on the line right now!"

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