The strike by by TV and movie scriptwriters could prove to be a long one. The negotiating committee for the Writers Guild of America thought it had a settlement this week, but although the union's New York members approved it, the far larger West Coast branch refused to ratify the offer after one member called it a "fascist" ploy by the producers. Three shows have already been forced into showing reruns, and several others are about to do the same. This is starting to hurt.

And not just on the screen. This week the president wanted to dramatize his opposition to tax increases, against which he is as eternally vigilant as Hollywood is against fascists. But with the professional scriptwriters on strike, all anybody at the White House could come up with was a line from a year-old Clint Eastwood movie. Mr. Eastwood, playing the flinty-eyed and much put-upon detective known as "Dirty Harry," wields a .45-caliber handgun and dares a vicious, athletic thug he has just subdued to make a move for his gun, saying: "Go ahead -- make my day."

So in his speech to a group of businessmen this week, the president said, "I have my veto pen drawn and ready for any tax increase that Congress might even think of sending up. And I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers, 'Go ahead -- make my day.'

Do the scriptwriters at the White House really think people are going to pack the theaters for this -- a bunch of middle-aged congressmen fretting over a tax increase while a 74-year-old man threatens them with a .45-caliber veto pen?

Maybe they should have reached back to Clark Gable in "Gone With the Wind." The congressmen would be Scarlett O'Hara, shrieking at the president about the deficits while he walks calmly out the door, saying: "Frank my dear, I don't give a damn." But that probably wouldn't work either -- the president doesn't have a mustache and nobody on the budget committees would be willing to wear all those petticoats.

We hope this strike ends soon.