by Wendy Vapors, 11/12/99
Dc: What does a person need to know ... to really KNOW ... to
be President of the United States. This question has come up as a result of the
trouble George W. Bush had with a reporter's quiz on the names of various Generals
who have taken control of a number of the world's hot spots.
But how important is it that a president have command of the facts?
We asked Wendy Vapors to find out.
Wendy: What does a President need to know? To find out, I've come to the library
at Pandering College for a seminar on the topic ... "What Does a President
Need to Know?" The coordinator of the seminar is Presidential History Scholar
Washington Jefferson Lincoln. Professor?
WJL: What does a president need to know? That IS the question.
Take a look at the greatest Presidents we've had.
Wendy: Who would they be?
WJL: Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. And what did they know? How to run a
computer? No. The price of onions? No. How a price scanner works? No. The name
of the latest strongman in Pakistan or Indonesia? No. A president has assistants
to keep track of those things. A president's knowledge has to be more basic.
Wendy: Such as?
WJL: Washington was a planter. Jefferson was a thinker. A renaissance man. An
architect. And Lincoln. Where to begin with Lincoln?
Wendy: Legal training?
WJL: Actually, I was thinking about rail splitting. He was good with an axe.
Wendy: So ... what does that mean?
WJL: If you can plant, draw up blueprints and split wood, the available data shows
you're on the right track. And if you look good in a stovepipe hat, history shows
you've got an edge.
Wendy: Where would you even GET a stovepipe hat?
WJL: A good president ... would know.
Wendy: And is there anybody in the race currently who meets those requirements?
WJL: Sadly ... no. Especially on the rail splitting part.
Wendy: Also attending the Pandering College seminar for a panel discussion of
the topic "What does the President need to know ... about Women?" was
presidential advisor Marlene Lenya.
Marlene: (heavy German accent, fatalistic, ala Weill and Kissinger) A president?
What is he, but a man? A woman someday, maybe. But so far, nah. Just a man. That
is all they have been. Only that and nothing more. And what is a man but a kiss?
An embrace. One night in the moonlight, and he is gone. A toy. A plaything. A
bauble. I will always love them all, and say no more.
Wendy: Yes ... but ... it's an important job, and there has to be some minimum
standard, right? An intelligence ... or something?
Marlene: You are so young. And I am tired.
Wendy: Finally, the Pandering College Symposium, "What Does A President Need
to Know?" has a children's component. One member of that panel is little
Bobby: A President should be able to do anything, and that means knowing math.
Hard math. Calculus. And how to pick his nose without anybody seeing! That's REALLY
tricky, especially with all the cameras around!
(sfx: kid crowd out)
Wendy: Finally ... I put the question to media expert and deal maker Spin Williams.
Spin: (phone) What does a president need to know?
Wendy: That's the question.
Spin: Did you come up with that question?
Wendy: No, but it's the hottest question going. Right now.
Spin: It's a good question. I wanted to be sure you'd get credit.
My answer might surprise you.
Wendy: I hope so.
Spin: The most important thing a president needs to know ... is when to answer
a question ... and when NOT to answer. Knowing when to say nothing ... is crucial.
For all of us.
Wendy: Would you ... elaborate on that?
Wendy: What seems to be universally true is that nobody agrees what a president
should know, and those who have been president or have worked with presidents
a lot know enough to say, knowingly, that they refuse to say what a president
And that ... speaks volumes. I'm Wendy Vapors, and I'm reporting.
Dale Connelly Reporting Home