Wealthy Frenchman

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Great Chinese Fake-Out

By MAUREEN DOWD

Dick and Rummy are in Karl's old office, eating Chinese leftovers.

"Serves Karl right, by golly," Rummy says. "He's so arrogant. Won't listen to anybody about anything. Goodness gracious, imagine having somebody in such an important job who doesn't take any advice or pay attention to dissenting opinions. An autocrat ruthlessly ruling over his own little kingdom. Even Laura can't stand his peacock-preening."

Dick grunts his assent, his mouth full of ginger-scented dumplings.

The Bush mandarins are feeling more sweet than sour. It's been a fun week, sidelining Rove, firing the C.I.A. officer who was a source for reporters (including for The Washington Post's Pulitzer-winning articles) on the agency's overseas gulag, plotting against Iran, messing with China's head, rolling like a Tiananmen tank over the retired generals who tried to lead a democratic uprising against Rummy.

"Here's to winning the Battle of the Potomac," Rummy said with a wolfish grin, clinking Scotch glasses with Dick. "Another tactical mistake by the military."

The Kid whizzes down the West Wing hall on his Razor scooter. "Hey, dudes, listen to my fortune cookie," he calls out. " 'Though effective, appear to be ineffective.' " Dick and Rummy exchange knowing looks.

"Hu's on first?" Rummy howls, and cracks up, as he does every time he makes the joke. "Those Commies got what was coming to them. They're still trying to figure out how we could ruin Hu's trip by letting some woman with a press pass from The Falun Gong Gazette onto the White House lawn to heckle him.

"How the Dickens do they think? We let her in! That little Commie thought he could come here and act like we're the second-rate power, like we're supposed to kowtow to him just because China can call in its marker anytime on hundreds of billions of our national debt. This is America! We love dissidents on the press platform, as long as they're dissing the president of some other country."

"Hu let her in?" Dick says out of one side of his mouth. He may be laughing, or it may be a coronary.

"You let her in!" Rummy yelps, never tiring of their Abbott and Costello routine. "Boo-hoo," Dick growls. "Poor Hu."

"If we can let a male prostitute into presidential press conferences, why not a Falun Goolagong propagandist?" Rummy says. "What a gas that was, having the White House announcer call the People's Republic of China the Republic of China, as if we didn't know the difference? We know, all right. Taiwan's our democratic ally.

"What have the Commies done for us? They're killjoys who tolerate negotiations without end. They opposed the Iraq war. They're worthless on North Korea. They don't want us to bomb Iran. They support Chavez, or any other left-wing, U.S.-hating nut with the oil they need. They think we shouldn't be throwing our military might around to run the world. They believe in all that Sun Tzu 'It is best to win without fighting' piffle.

"They flood our markets with junk, knowing that Americans will spend all their savings on SpongeBob SquarePants dolls, video games and DVD's, while the Chinese people save their money because the Commies don't allow them to buy our junk.

"If Hu wants somebody to kiss his ring, he should have stayed in that other Washington. Those computer geeks and coffee beanheads treated him like a conquering hero. They're such die-hard liberals, but they don't seem to give a good google about a little censorship or mind collaborating with the state's crackdown on human rights crackpots when it comes to their Chinese meal ticket. They saw him coming and said, 'Ya-Hu!' "

They hear an echoing "Ya-Hu to you!" yodel coming from the hall, and the scooter races into the room. "Is Hu-Man mad at me for manhandling him?" the Kid asks pleadingly. "Is Karl mad at me for unmanning him?"

Dick shakes his head reassuringly.

"I like Josh!" the Kid says. "He did a good job in the 2000 campaign heading up Bikers for Bush."

He pops a wheelie and is off.

"The Kid thinks it's a real staff shake-up," Dick scoffs.

"Yeah," Rummy chuckles. "Throwing overboard a press spokesman who we'd been throwing overboard every day for three years. How painful was that? We might have shuffled the cards — including Andy — but we're still dealing. The Kid's wheeling and we're dealing."

They spooned into their leftover dessert from the Hu lunch, "Good Fortune melon three ways," sure that it would always be their way or the highway. They knew they would be hungry for power again an hour later.

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