Dear Gov. Bush:
At the emergency meeting this morning of the Bush 2000 foreign policy staff, we were united in our belief that you should stand your ground and be PROUD that you had brain-lock on the names of those foreign leaders when that pit bull TV interviewer in Boston ambushed you Wednesday. "General. I can't name the general. General" was not really all that shabby an answer to the question of who staged the coup in Pakistan.
We have developed what we call the "Pakistan, Shmackistan, India, Shmindia" strategy. The core concept: You are a BIG PICTURE guy. You delegate to staffers the silly details, like knowing the name of the prime minister of India, the world's largest democracy.
You need to tell people that you care about the American people, not a bunch of FOREIGNERS, a word you should use constantly and derisively and which you should pronounce "furreners."
STUMP MESSAGE: You will learn who these dadgum foreigners are at the Jan. 20, 2001, Inaugural Keg Party.
SOUND BITE: "We'll sort it all out at the kegger."
In the meantime, just as a backup, we have prepared a briefing of some MAJOR CONCEPTS in the area of foreign policy. We think we should begin with the basics.
OUR SOLAR SYSTEM: We live on Earth, the third planet from the sun. Neighbors are Venus (on our left) and Mars (right). There are some jumbo planets farther out. Saturn is the one with the rings. Potential interesting comment: "I'd love to go to the asteroid belt and meet the Asteroidians."
GLOBAL GEOGRAPHY: There are six land masses that are considered continents, but they are tallied as seven, because the big slabby thing with Europe on the left and China on the right is considered two. We're in North America. South America is to the south of us. Africa is the one that looks like a question mark. Australia is "down under," but the people don't realize they're upside down. The four oceans are the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Arctic; they have salty water, and in some places they are very, very deep. No way could you touch bottom out there. "The Arctic" is the cold area at the top of the planet, and the Antarctic (or "Antarctica") is at the bottom. IMPORTANT: There are no Antarcticans. Just scientists and penguins.
BIG WARS IN THIS CENTURY: Our won-lost-tied record is 3-1-1. Won the First and Second World Wars and the Persian Gulf War. Lost Vietnam. Worked a tie in Korea. Plus we won the Cold War, but that was a strange one because the enemy just gave up when we weren't looking.
MAJOR LEADERS: Stalin had a big mustache and ran the Soviet Union and was a bad, bad man. Hitler: ultra-mega-bad. Had a much smaller mustache. (Note: Both now deceased.) If you get into a debate with Pat Buchanan, let fly with your conviction that Hitler was all-bad, all-the-time--that he was 24-7-365 bad. Churchill: the fat bald guy with the cigar. FDR: great man, considering he was a Democrat. (IMPORTANT: There were two Roosevelts. FDR was the one in the wheelchair, Teddy was the one with the glasses who shot the rhinos.) Never, ever say anything bad about John F. Kennedy, the most wonderful man of the millennium. Nixon, though widely considered evil, wasn't such a bad guy if you didn't get to know him. Reagan is a god.
CHINA: More than a billion communists. We trust them as far as we can throw them.
INDIA: Almost as many people as in China, and they are called "Indians" but are different from the ones that John Wayne chased around. India doesn't like Pakistan, which is up and to the left. The feeling is mutual.
FRANCE: Incredible food. Oh, what they do with sauces! People are kind of rude and intellectual. Not your crowd.
ENGLAND: Had an empire once. Became peculiar and daft over time. Source of the Beatles, Monty Python and "Masterpiece Theatre." Call them "the English" or "the Brits" rather than "Englanders." Never call the Queen "Liz." The heir is Charles, the one with the ears. The handsome guy is Tony Blair, the prime minister. To reiterate relative strength of nations, when you shake his hand, crush his fingers into pulp.
POPE: John Paul II, the Vicar of Christ. Please remember that he is EXTREMELY Catholic.
EYES-ONLY POLITICAL DAMAGE REPORT: The Boston massacre will only be hurtful to the extent that you may already be suffering a reputation for being a lightweight--i.e., the George Will problem. It's important that people understand that you aren't stupid, you're just a "regular guy," which means you have an almost moral obligation to be ignorant about the name of that general in Pakistan. It's not like you didn't know the name of the center fielder of the Texas Rangers! We are spinning the pundits to point out that 1-for-4 on the pop quiz isn't bad. You knew a fragment of the name of the Taiwan leader!
Indeed this has created some intrigue within the campaign. We are trying to sort out who, precisely, briefed you on Taiwan. Sir: Are you getting secret help from outsiders? Should we discuss?
Rough Draft--which appears at 1 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the PM Extra edition of washingtonpost.com--knows the names of about three foreign leaders, including Yeltsin.