Last week’s tumultuous events in Helsinki reminded me that American Presidents have always had complicated relationships with their Russian counterparts. After Nikita Khrushchev was so suddenly deposed by the Kremlin, humorist Art Buchwald imagined this bit of clever trans-Atlantic dialogue with LBJ. Collusion, anyone?
HELP WANTED, TOVARICH
With all their efficiency, the one thing the Soviets forgot to do was take out Khrushchev’s hot line to the White House. It probably will be denied, but the other night the hot line rang and Khrushchev was on it.
“Hello, Tovarich, it’s Nik,” a voice whispered when the President answered the phone.
“Howdy, Mr. Khrushchev! How’s everything?”
“Sh, sh, sh, not so loud. They may be listening outside the door. Congratulations on your election.”
“Well, thanks very much.”
“I imagine you have a lot of jobs open, Tovarich?”
“Well, yes. There are a few appointments I have to make.”
“You couldn’t use a good Russian expert, could you?”
“I hadn’t thought of it. Did you have anybody in mind?”
“Gosh, Mr. Khrushchev, that’s nice of you to offer, but I don’t think I could get you a security clearance. Don’t forget you once said you’d bury us, and it’s probably in your FBI file.”
“I was misquoted, by state controlled Communist press,” Mr. K whispered. (NOTE: now we call this ‘fake news.’) “I could make a good Russian expert. I know everything I did wrong in the last twelve years.”
“It isn’t just the bury-us line that would cause trouble. But remember when you took your shoe off at the United Nations? Well, the security people would probably think you were unstable. They take that kind of thing into consideration.”
“Tovarich, I swear on ‘Das Kapital’ the only reason I took my shoe off was because it was too tight. I can say this now. Russian shoes are not very good.”
“I’d like to help you, Mr. Khrushchev, but we got too many Russian experts as it is, and I’ve got an economy drive on. I don’t know how I could justify it.”
“What about the Department of Agriculture? I’m tops in farming. I could be in charge of collective farms.”
“We don’t have any collective farms, Mr. Khrushchev.”
“I could start some for you,” he begged.
“I don’t think that would work.”
“Is there anything open at Disneyland?”
“I could check for you, but you know that’s not a government-owned project. Mr. Disney hires his own people.”
“Tovarich, I don’t like to beg, but I need a job bad. Could I be a Senator from New York State?”
“We already have one from Massachusetts,” (Bobby Kennedy), the President replied. “Even if there was an opening, I’m afraid if you ran they would bring up the carpetbagger issue again.”
“There must be something for me to do. Perhaps advertising testimonials. I could be the one who uses greasy kid stuff on his hair.”
“I couldn’t help you there.”
“Maybe baseball Czar?” Nikita asked.
“Baseball is America’s national pastime. I’m not sure they’d want a Russian to head it up.”
“There must be something, Mr. President. After all I did for America these past few years.”
“Well, I did hear they were looking for someone to take over the Republican National Committee.”
“Wonderful. But wouldn’t they object because of my background?””
“It wouldn’t bother me.”