Lately the Dalai Lama has been much in the news, making world peace or whatever it is that he does. One of the great pyjama-ed luminaries of our time, he is much beloved of liberal types, which automatically confers upon him the status of a very smart guy. Amidst these adventures, some besotted reporters prevailed upon him to sit still for their fawning questions. In the course of which it emerged that he has formed an opinion of President Bush at their numerous meetings.
For a professional writer of comedy, this is a beautiful gift. It’s the work of an instant to plug this info into the Bush-is-dumb matrix that is standard fare in the media, and produce a little sketch, perhaps for Saturday Night Live.
(Scene is Oval Office. President Bush is seated with two impassive Secret Service agents behind him. Enter Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and a tall, thin man with a prominent Adam’s Apple and a dark suit.)
Bush: What have you got for me?
Rice: We’re longing for a briefing, sir. (Chuckles.)
Rumsfeld: That’s the long and the brief of it, sir.
(Rice and Rumsfeld laugh uproariously, while tall man looks fidgety and Bush looks confused.)
Bush: Now you two cut it out with the private jokes. I have a country to run here and then a dog to walk. Let’s get busy.
Rice and Rumsfeld (in unison): Yes, sir.
Bush: And who’s this feller, looks like a rattlesnake who sat on a branding iron?
Rice: H. Thruckleton Grimsby. One of my people, sir.
Bush: One of those Foggy Bottom boys, eh? You know what my grandpappy
Rice: He’s our director of Far East Studies, sir.
Bush: Studying those geishas, eh, Grimsfield? Okay, go ahead, shoot.
(The two agents jump on the President to shield him with their bodies. When
Bush: Sorry about the boys, they get a little overeager. Go on, Grimley.
Bush: Oh, Mama Leone’s little girl. That’s some restaurant. Give them whatever they need. Last thing we need is fast-food guys like Domino taking over.
Bush: And while we’re at it, let’s throw some money at Diego Garcia.
Bush: Never hurts to give him some more. Condi tells me that Diego is Andy Garcia’s brother, and he’s some fine actor. Cuban, too, and Rove says they’re our voters, can’t toss them down the chute.
(Secret Service guys jump. You can’t be too careful.)
Bush: Now, Grimstein, who’s this feller coming in to visit?
Rice (interposing): The Dalai Lama, sir.
Bush: Well, I’m going to play some hardball with that phoney.
Rumsfeld: What’s the thinking behind the policy, sir?
Bush: Look, if this guy won’t play ball, we’ll do some regime change. No shortage of those Lamas up in the hills of
(The Secret Service guys jump again. If you wait around for the last consonant, that split second may spell the difference between life and death, you know.) THE END
Well, how lucky can you be, right? Except it turns out that my gift horse needs a root canal. Because someone forgot to cue this guy to play “Hello, Dalai” opposite Helen Thomas’ “My Unfair Lady.” What he actually said of President Bush was: “I was astonished by his grasp of Buddhism.”
Whuh? You mean this Yale graduate is smart? This Harvard M.B.A. knows his ABCs? This successful Governor of Texas knows which side of the steak gets the barbecue sauce? This two-term President is capable of arriving at a conclusion without taking a long jump?
Then truth dawns. All Presidents are smart. Nobody gets 50 million votes without a full complement of little gray cells. From Andrew Johnson to Warren Harding to Harry S. Truman, Presidents from both parties are very bright and capable individuals. George W. Bush, in particular, is old and smart enough to have admitted that he was once young and stupid; that’s quite rare. (Even trading Sammy Sosa can be defended now that he deflated to half-size when steroids were disallowed.)
So let the word go forth from this time and place to liberals everywhere: Presidents have the smarts, but what some lack is wisdom. Think Jimmy Carter.