Blackmail for the White House

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, May 14, 2006

It is with deep solemnity that I write today of the case of Philip Winikoff, a 76-year-old Floridian who has been arrested on charges of assault. Saying he was a doctor and carrying a little black bag, Mr. Winikoff allegedly went door to door, offering women free breast exams. At least two people are said to have taken him up on it before Mr. Winikoff was, as it were, busted. The accused is actually a shuttle driver for a car dealership.

Now, obviously, there is nothing whatsoever funny about this. I am, of course, appropriately outraged. But I was compelled to include it here because it illustrates an important point: There is no scheme so outrageous or idiotic that it cannot find a ready victim.

Take, for example, the recent case of New York Post gossip writer Jared Paul Stern, who is charged with having attempted to extort money from a billionaire. In return for cash ? he had various payment plans ? Stern allegedly promised to stop writing bad things about the guy. The guy listened patiently, then went to the cops.

In my opinion, Stern's alleged shakedown scheme was perfectly plausible, given the aforementioned world patsy population. His error was in approaching a billionaire. I don't have proof of this, but I am guessing that billionaires tend to be pretty smart people. If I'm going to try that racket, I wouldn't make that same mistake.

- - -

To: George W. Bush

From: Gene Weingarten, columnist

(Eyes only)

Dear Mr. President:

It may have come to your attention that, in the past, I have written about you in a somewhat uncharitable fashion. For example, I once accused you of having destabilized the world, but only to the extent that "a baseball bat destabilizes a flamingo." Also, I said that if you and your phony-baloney, arch-conservative, sanctimonious, privacy-meddling cronies had your way, "it will be illegal to have sex unless you are wearing pajamas." To name just a couple.

I think we can agree that these characterizations are unpleasant. Wouldn't it be a pity if this sort of thing continued? Well, I come to you today with a simple, multitiered offer to make the whole problem go away.

The $25,000 Package: For this one-time fee, I promise that I will never compare your intelligence unfavorably to that of a coprophagous invertebrate. Specifically, I will not write that, "In committing America to a disastrous war of ideological whimsy teetering on a naive, platitude-driven, kindergarten understanding of geopolitics, George W. Bush showed less strategic wisdom than is customarily exhibited by a dung beetle foraging for nutrition in a cow pasture."

The $100,000 Package: For this you get the above, plus I will refrain from gleefully reveling in your precipitous popularity decline by using promiscuously cruel analogies at the expense of your evil puppet master. I will not, for example, compare the movement of your poll numbers to "the sort of vertical plunge typically associated with quail -- a small, slow, plump, defenseless bird often shot out of the sky by rich white guys who like to kill things when they are not shooting each other in the face by mistake."

The $1 Million Package: This is the big one. You get everything above, plus I will put a positive spin on what I do write. This will actually turn your liabilities into strengths. I will do that by gracefully avoiding inconvenient facts through a complex arrangement of doubletalk, jargon and nearly indecipherable syntax. This would be my war coverage:

"Last week, 116,731 American troops were not killed in Iraq, almost as high a number as the previous week, when 116,759 American troops were not killed. The difference between the two numbers of American troops who were not killed reflects those relatively few persons who bravely sacrificed their lives to assure that those who had bravely sacrificed their lives in the previous week didn't sacrifice their lives in vain to justify the sacrifice of those who died the week before that, a week when fully 116,796 American troops were not killed in Iraq."

Okay, that's it. I'll be awaiting your answer. I know you are a man who recognizes a good business proposition when you see one. The Dubai port deal, for example.

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