Reporters always complain. Even the White House press corps feels it's being stonewalled by President Bush's press secretary.

Ari Fleischer will go on the record about how much election money the president raised on his swing across America and what he ate for lunch, but the White House is mum on subjects it feels are nobody's business.

Surprise! I think Ari is correct. He is protecting the country's right not to know too much, particularly in an election year.

You can't run a government if you have no secrets. And you can't have a nosy bunch of men and women who think it is their duty to let the public know what's going on.

For example, I have heard from Bush supporters that the reason they believe in a preemptive strike against Saddam Hussein is because the president knows a lot more than he wants to tell us.

The White House gets mad when the media pack keeps asking Fleischer, "How much will a war against Iraq cost?" The Pentagon has the price down to the last billion, but the figure cannot be revealed as it would only give aid and comfort to the enemy.

The CIA knows where Saddam Hussein is at every moment, but it would be a terrible mistake to let him know that we know. If he knew what we know, he would hide out in Pakistan.

The White House has a big secret having to do with the economy. Of course they know what the deficit will be, and President Bush secretly keeps the number in his shirt pocket.

If the secret got out, we could have a recession and people would be laid off. This could affect the election.

The list of indicted CEOs is the biggest secret of all because they allegedly fleeced the American people. The list included the names of CEOs who contributed to Bush's presidential campaign and it is kept in a safe in the Situation Room.

Also in the safe are the names of companies like Halliburton. The reason they're locked up is that it could look bad for Vice President Cheney.

If the news media ever got hold of the names of these companies, there would be a shark-feeding frenzy -- which could hurt the election.

Fleischer is a good guy, and everyone likes him until he starts his briefing. He is noted for saying, "I don't know, and if I did know, I wouldn't tell you."

Ari doesn't make things up. He is taking orders from everyone in the White House. Other secrets he carries around are what punishment the senators who don't support Bush will get -- things like, "Forget the dam, close the air bases, and chop off federal lunch money for the state's schools."

If Fleischer doesn't do his job, political guru Karl Rove will blame him for losing the election.

(c)2002, Tribune Media Services