As you are probably aware, Chinese President Jiang Zemin was demanding a fulsome apology from the United States for not stopping a Chinese plane from ramming an American plane.
Things were tense. As a China "specialist" who was quoted in The New York Times explained, Jiang had no choice but to take a hard line because he has "very diverse constituencies, and they all have to brought on board, both in the bureaucracy and in the public."
Or he could just shoot them.
By contrast, an American president really does have to respond to constituencies. By and large, Americans take a dim view of eating dogs, shooting students, and subjecting American servicemen to communist show trials until the American president agrees to hop on one foot dressed like a chicken. President Bush is hemmed in by peculiar American attitudes that demand proper treatment of American men and women, rather than execution in Tiananmen Square.
On one hand, it is totally humiliating for an American president to have to apologize to a 3-foot-tall dictator for his plane crashing into our plane. But on the other hand, short of all-out thermonuclear war, there was no other choice if we can't bear the idea of Americans being treated like the Chinese government treats its own people.
So this was my idea: Have President Clinton apologize. He'd get all weepy, bite his lower lip, ramble on and on and on -- the full Jimmy Swaggart routine. But at the same time, everyone would know he didn't mean it.
We could even have two separate tape reels, one short action shot for Jiang's "constituencies" and one with the outtakes for American viewers. Remember the footage of Clinton at Ron Brown's funeral? The full tape showed Clinton happily strolling along, smiling and laughing -- until he catches sight of a camera. Then he quickly hangs his head and pretends to wipe away a tear. It's a beautiful moment.
And now his country needs him. No other human so thoroughly lacks the capacity for embarrassment. (He's probably headed in China's direction right now on that Thai sex tour anyway.) Actually, we don't even need Clinton. That guy from "Saturday Night Live" could do it. Americans can barely tell the difference; the Chinese surely won't.