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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

A Ruble's Worth of Private Conversation

September 02, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton began their Moscow summit on Tuesday by having a private conversation. But they should know by now--there is no such thing as a private conversation.

Here is a transcript, leaked to us by unreliable sources:

*

Yeltsin: A ruble for your thoughts.

Clinton: You don't HAVE a ruble.

Yeltsin: Is sad but true.

Clinton: What's a ruble worth today?

Yeltsin: Half a ruble.

Clinton: Your economy's in big trouble, Mr. President.

Yeltsin: And yours is not?

Clinton: Well . . .

Yeltsin: The way your stock market is falling, soon you won't have money to take a young lady to dinner.

*

Clinton: I thought you were leaving office. American TV reported that you had already signed your resignation.

Yeltsin: You believe American TV?

Clinton: Good point.

Yeltsin: American TV is very bad. American TV makes jokes about Russian president being drunk. It is not nice to make jokes about Russian president being drunk.

Clinton: No, it isn't.

Yeltsin: I have not had a drink since . . . (he looks at wristwatch). See, I make jokes myself.

Clinton: I know how you feel.

Yeltsin: It is bad time for you, yes?

Clinton: A real bad time, yes.

Yeltsin: This romance with young woman . . . Lewinsky, Lewinsky . . . she is from Poland?

Clinton: Brentwood.

Yeltsin: I always mix up those two. Ha, I make another joke.

Clinton: Now listen, Boris . . .

Yeltsin: Where did you meet her? The new Spago?

Clinton: Let's talk about somethin' else.

Yeltsin: Very well. How is your wife?

Clinton: Let's talk about somethin' ELSE.

Yeltsin: You really are having a bad few weeks, my friend.

Clinton: So tell me. Why didn't your legislators confirm Viktor Chernomyrdin for prime minister? I know he was your personal choice.

Yeltsin: He was.

Clinton: Who will you nominate next?

Yeltsin: Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Clinton: And if he loses again?

Yeltsin: Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Clinton: But suppose . . .

Yeltsin: Viktor Chernomyrdin!

Clinton: Did you nearly resign from office yourself after Russia devalued the ruble?

Yeltsin: Yes.

Clinton: What stopped you?

Yeltsin: Well, I did call for my own resignation, but then I refused to accept it.

Clinton: Very interesting.

Yeltsin: And you? You face, perhaps, impeachment?

Clinton: I kinda doubt it.

Yeltsin: You are sure?

Clinton: Well, I'm 99% sure.

Yeltsin: Perhaps I should invite Mr. Gore to join us tonight, just in case?

Clinton: Now that's not necessary.

Yeltsin: Your bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan, I did not approve of that, Bill.

Clinton: Couldn't be helped.

Yeltsin: You did this for military purposes? Or just to improve your popularity with the American people?

Clinton: I swear, I . . .

Yeltsin: Come on, just between us.

Clinton: Well.

(He whispers into Yeltsin's ear.)

Yeltsin: That is what I thought.

*

Clinton: So how can I help you, my friend, during this time of crisis?

Yeltsin: Anything you can spare. Cash. Check. A nice Georgetown fund-raiser?

Clinton: You got it.

Yeltsin: Every little bit helps.

Clinton: Let me see how my real estate holdings do. And I think my wife's still got some cattle interests.

Yeltsin: And how may I be of help to you?

Clinton: You just hang in there, Boris.

Yeltsin: I will, Bill.

Clinton: I need every friend I can get.

Yeltsin: That makes two of us.

Clinton: Don't you go leaving office now.

Yeltsin: I won't if you won't.

Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, or phone (213) 237-7366.

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