At their convention, the Republicans' main theme was "compassionate conservatism." The party members wanted the world to know they care for the poor, the children, the environment and the war in Iraq.

How did they achieve their goal?

I talked to Dr. Heinrich Applebaum, the party's medical adviser. "We all know the Republican platform was much farther to the right than the speakers," I said. "What was their secret?"

"I gave them Compassionate Conservative pills," he said. "Just before they went up on the stage, they took two pills with a glass of water. If they felt the effects were wearing off, they took two more while they were speaking."

"After taking the pills could they drive or use heavy equipment?"

"I warned them it was not such a good idea."

"The people at the convention didn't mind the compassion?"

"No. Even the right wing cheered the early speakers because they knew the last two nights they would get red meat," he said.

"By the way, what is a Compassionate Conservative?"

"It is someone who believes he wants to help the working poor, the uneducated and the unemployed -- not with money, but with prayers and tax cuts."

"Amen," I said.

"This is the opposite of the liberal, who is the enemy of the state and wants the government to bail out the country. The liberal is against drilling for oil in Alaska, cutting down trees in Oregon and limiting the number of snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park."

"What about Dick Cheney?"

"He refused to take any. He said the pills made him nauseated. He told us beforehand he was not going to play the role of the good guy. The vice president doesn't have to be a Compassionate Conservative. He has to say things with no compassion at all."

"He made his point in his speech to the choir," I agreed. "I noticed he didn't defend his role in Halliburton."

"He felt the convention wasn't the right place to do it, and the press would have another excuse to make a big deal over it."

"What about Senator Zell Miller, the Democrat from Georgia who gave the Republican keynote speech?"

"Because it was such an extreme switch, the pills didn't work. We had a cardiologist give him a heart transplant. Since he gave the keynote speech for the Democrats in 1992, he needed a new heart."

"You did a marvelous job," I told him. "He sounded more like a Republican than Dick Cheney did. He said he didn't leave the Democratic Party -- it left him. Did you give Arnold Schwarzenegger a heart transplant?"

"Yes. His was one of the most successful Compassionate Conservative heart operations we have had."

"Whose heart did you give him?"

Applebaum replied, "If you promise not to tell anyone, we gave him Teddy Kennedy's."

"I don't believe it."

"Figure it out. Arnold is married to Maria Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family."

"But Teddy is a liberal. What is his heart doing in a Republican's body?"

"Arnold does not agree with everything in the Republican Party, but his heart still belongs to Bush."

"But when he spoke he sounded like a liberal. How could he agree to the transplant?"

"Maria told him, 'You owe it to our family.' "

(c) 2004 Tribune Media Services