Ross Mackenzie

The story goes that in the 1950s, because it couldn't determine what Dwight Eisenhower was saying in his tangled thicket of words during press conferences, The New York Times started printing transcripts and letting its readers figure out his meanings.

Suppose, just to be supposin', you were part of the White House press corps and were approved to ask the first question at the president's next press conference. Here's an imaginary transcript.

All rise for the Maximum Leader.

Thank you. I have no statement. Now, if I can just find my list of acceptable questioners -- here it is. Oh yes. Wanda?

Sir, you have just returned from your apology tour to Europe and the Middle East, during which you frequently lamented America and what it has done. Do you feel your trip was a success?

I don't accept your phraseology. It was not an apology tour but a reality tour, wherein I confessed after too long for the many real sins this nation has visited upon the world. I have made it clear that I am a believer in change. It is past time that we changed -- and made a clean break with the discredited policies of the past. This is no longer our hour but a global hour. We cannot yet know if the beautiful peoples of the world accepted our confession. If they did, then the trip was a success.

Bill?

Mr. President, despite all the medical evidence that smoking is bad for one's health, you said in a December television interview that you occasionally fall off the wagon. My question is: Do you still sneak cigarettes in the Rose Garden?

I can assure you smoking is bad for children, and I am doing everything in my power to give them the strong education every American child deserves -- contrary to the Neanderthal Bushies.

Over here, at the end of the second row. Melissa, it's your turn.

Mr. President, the Republicans are saying that your deficit spending programs will equal in just your first 20 months in office the deficit run up by President Bush in his entire eight years. How do you respond to that?

Look. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and too many Americans haven't had any lunch since the turn of the millennium. Don't believe what you see and hear in the Limbaugh-Bush press. I will pledge right here that Americans finally will have their lunch handed to them -- and a hot lunch at that.

But, sir. Doesn't your tax program amount to Marxist redistribution theory -- with a large dose of Robin Hood theory thrown in? You know -- from each according to his ability, to each according to his need? Taking from the rich and giving to the poor?

Well, yes. But remember two things -- redistribution is necessary and you have to spend. Taxes are ephemeral, they're just money -- here today and gone tomorrow. And let's not forget you can't take it with you, so why not give it to the government for the huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

For most people, like Tim Geithner of Dartmouth, taxes are not the issue -- and Tim has a full plate. He and I and my team of Harvard geniuses (we are still re-educating or purging the executive branch of holdover Bush Yalies) are trying our best to spend our way out of the mess we inherited.

You can go to my Web site and learn everything you need to know about cleaning the Augean stables. Suzanne?

Sir, can you tell us your thinking about reaching out to the gay-lesbian community with those special invitations to the White House Easter Egg Roll?

Thank you for the question. Waldo?

Mr. President, that was marvelous of you to visit our troops in Iraq. So caring. So warm. So reminiscent of the Communist-front bring-the-boys-home campaigns of old --

Who let you in here? Did you submit your question ahead of time? Are you on the approved list of questioners?

Look. You're not going to Swift Boat me. During the campaign I promised we would withdraw from Iraq -- and we are. As I also said during the campaign, we should bomb Pakistan -- and I have asked Vice President Biden and Secretary Clinton and my security team how to accomplish that most efficiently. You have to understand I am trying as well to rebuild this grim economy left to me by Bush so the troops maimed in our invasion of Pakistan will have the money to pay the premiums on their insurance for their wounds.

Last question. Rhonda?

Sir, during the campaign, you refused to wear a flag lapel pin, yet these days not only are you often seen wearing one but you always seem to be speaking in front of a lot of stars and stripes. Can you explain your evident change of heart?

As usual, I was quoted out of context. If you go to my Web site, you'll learn a great deal about the flag -- and how it was first sewn according to the design of my wife and best friend Michelle. She went to Princeton; I went to Columbia, and we both wound up at Harvard Law School, where I was head of the law review. After Harvard, she joined me in boarding the Lincoln Express from Springfield to Washington to help me with the mess we inherited from Bush.

Let me just conclude. This is Camelot II. We might as well enjoy our brief shining moment in this twilight struggle while we can. It may be the last one we have before, you know -- the catastrophe that is sure to come.


Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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