I am one of President George W. Bush's gardeners. Mr. George likes to talk to me.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Software Glitch

Karl Rove came up to me while I was pruning the shrubs outside the West Wing. He was in a state of panic. The Vice President has been malfunctioning to an alarming degree recently, including the well-publicized encounter with the Vermont Senator who had the gall to accuse Dick Cheney of war profiteering. Dick Cheney suggested to the Senator that he indulge in a solitary copulatory encounter. Karl Rove thought the outburst was caused by a hardware problem, so he aked me to help him rewire the Vice President's circuitry. I insisted that we were dealing with a software problem, not a hardware problem.

"I believe the Vice President is allowed to curse in public only during times of war. Technically, we're still at war with Iraq until June 30. After the handoff, I think Mr. Dick can go no further than menacing stares."

"I thought the war ended back when the President landed on the carrier in front of the 'Mission Accomplished' sign."

"Apparently not. At least, not according to the Vice President's software."

"Golly jeepers," said Mr. Karl. "We better make this little sovereignty handoff sooner than later. We've got a campaign to win." He wrote a note in a day planner and left.

Now that Iraq is a sovereign nation, the Vice President should reserve his cussing to private meetings. If my theory is wrong, the Democrats may stoop so low as to accuse the Vice President of going insane.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Interview Practice

Ronald Reagan's remains were finally laid to rest yesterday after a whirlwind tour across the country. It's sad that we forget our great leaders so quickly. I hope the same fate does not befall Mr. George, who returned from his trip tan and vivacious. He found me in the garden outside the East Wing, and told me he needed my help. Karl Rove is already putting the finishing touches on the campaign victory. The economy will continue its gradual recovery, the price of oil will drop, failure in Iraq will be blamed on the liberal media, and Bin Laden will be captured in October. To be re-elected, Mr. George just needs to succeed in the debates and in interviews with the press.

Mr. George wanted me to help improve his interviewing skills. He asked me to write down three questions. I removed my gardening gloves, wrote out the questions, and went back to work. When Mr. George returned a few hours later, we practiced:

ME: Who is the greatest basketball player of all time?

MR. GEORGE: I think that depends on who has the most upside potential. Do you want to go with a center like Wilt or Kareem, or do you want to go with an upsided player like Michael Jordan?

ME: What does upside potential have to do with retired players?

MR. GEORGE: Let me finish. Let me finish. Will you please just let me finish?

ME: Yes.

MR. GEORGE: I'd say it's a four-way tie.

[Long pause.]

ME: Who is the greatest rock band of all time?

MR. GEORGE: I think you have to look at 50 Cent as being a great band. The kids just love them, and they use the guitar in a very unique fashion. They're like guitarial, um, entrepeneurs.

ME: What-

MR. GEORGE: Let me finish, let me finish! Please! You ask the question, and then I'll answer them, if you don't mind.


MR. GEORGE: So I think 50 Cent and Radiohead are the greatest rock bands.

ME: Thank you for your time.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Terror Alert Levels

I have taken it upon myself to drape a large colored ribbon at the top of the tallest sycamore in the rose garden. The color of the ribbon corresponds to the terror alert levels.

Red — Severe Condition. If you're home, put on your gas mask and seal your windows with duct tape. If you're in school, curl up under your desk. If you're on an airplane, God forbid, insist that the pilot land immediately. Use force, if necessary, but stay calm.

Orange — High Condition. If you're home, stay tuned to FoxNEWS on your television set. Check to make sure that a roll of duct tape is sitting on each window sill. Have your gas mask available. If you're out and about, keep your head on a swivel. Look for people who look Arabic or suspiciously European.

Yellow — Elevated Condition. Go about your business as usual, with only a mild sense of fear and foreboding.

Blue — Guarded Condition. This condition should occur only once this year. Remember to vote.

Green — Low Condition. All the terrorists have been captured or destroyed. Only under a green ribbon should you consider voting for a Democrat.

Friday, June 25, 2004

How to Deal with the Liberal Media

I get to talk to lots of people here at the White House, and not just famous people. I get to talk to maintenance personnel, caterers, lobbyists, reporters — you know, the type of people that Mr. Bill Clinton calls the "little people." The sad thing is that most of these little people don't want to talk about anything but the war in Iraq. When the liberals want to get into a debate, I feel like I'm shooting fish in a barrel. Here's a conversation I had with a woman from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, another representative of the liberal media:

PI: We shouldn't have gone to war with Iraq. Not without the support of the United Nations.

ME: The United Nations is a corrupt organization that is no longer useful. Are you aware of the scandals? The U.N. should be disbanded.

PI: Then what gave us the authority to go to war with Iraq?

ME: Iraq was clearly in violation of United Nations Resolution 1441. Have you read the original transcript?

PI: I thought you just said the United Nations is corrupt and useless.

ME: Have you read the original transcript of U.N. Resolution 1441?

PI: No.

ME: That's what I thought. Come talk to me when you have a deeper understanding.

Fish in a barrel.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Monkey Dreams

I had a strange and disturbing dream last night. After a violent sexual encounter with Debbie Reynolds, I found myself standing half-naked before a tribunal in a large atrium that had been carved out of stone. Chimpanzees and spider monkeys filled the seats behind me, and gorillas guarded the entryways. Six orangutans sat in front of me, asking difficult questions about my political views. The fat orangutan with a nasal voice — who somehow reminded me of Michael Moore — asked particularly difficult questions about national deficits, fear-mongering, pre-emptive invasions based on manufactured intelligence reports, and condoned torture, among other things. I tried to defend myself, but a throat injury kept me from speaking. When I said nothing, the panel of judges went ape on me.

"Guilty! Misprision of justice!"

Two gorillas bound my hands with twine and led me out of the auditorium. I karate chopped one gorilla with both hands, kneed the other gorilla in the stomach, and fled. Dashing through the stone city, I searched for another human being. I saw no one but shouting apes and menacing gorillas. I was scared and alone. I wanted a gun, but there were no guns in this hell-town. As I ran through the cobbled streets and ducked into a bright alleyway, I saw another human being at last — President George W. Bush.

"Mr. George!" I shouted. He wore haggard clothes and a beard covered his face, but it was Mr. George all right. He stared straight ahead and didn't answer my call. "Mr. George!" I shouted again, and turned his face towards me. I nearly reeled when I saw the lobotomy scar high on his shaved forehead. "Oh, Mr. George!" Just then, a net was thrown over me from above, whips started cracking, and two gorillas grabbed my arms. To my surprise, I was no longer mute:

"Take your paws off of me, you damned, dirty ape! We need strong leadership during times of change."

That woke me up.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Rumsfeld Jokes Around

So I was leaning on the walking stick that Mr. George gave back to me, looking out over the new flowers that I had spent the better part of two days planting, when Donald Rumsfeld approached me. With nowhere to run and no place to hide, I resigned myself to another confrontation.

"Hey Lenny," said Mr. Donald. "I have a joke for you."

"I'm not in the mood for jokes today, Mr. Donald," I said.

"Inch Me and Pinch Me went down to the lake with some guard dogs and a water board. Inch Me fell in the lake. Who was left?"

"Pinch Me."

He did. Hard. If the stock market hadn't collapsed at the end of Mr. Bill's presidency, I would seriously consider retiring right about now.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

More Ashcroft Prurience

Today's message will be short. A dark mood overwhelms me, and I have little time. I must remove the red and pink roses from the garden and replace them with azaleas and gardenias. There is one reason for this nonsense: Ashcroft. He came out here late last night, just as I was about to leave, and he insisted that the pink rose buds looked, in his words, "too much like the female's nethermost region." I approved of making the scantily clad statue decent for all Americans, but this is really too much. A rose is a rose. Is it not?

Monday, June 21, 2004

A Visit from the FOXNews Team

Mr. George is still out touring the country with the remains of Ronald Reagan, who is still considered to be the Greatest President of the United States, even though he has been dead for nearly three weeks. None of the members of the White House staff came out to see me this weekend, but I did get an interesting visit from two fellows in a black limousine. Alan Colmes got out of the driver's seat. He was wearing a black chauffeur's suit and matching black cap. He opened the rear door for Sean Hannity, who was wearing yellow slacks, a green blazer, and a purple ascot. Hannity handed Colmes his briefcase, and the two of them passed through security and came straight over to me.

HANNITY: Excuse me, are you Lenny the gardener?

ME: Yes I am. What can I do you for?

HANNITY: I have questions about gardening. First, given the fact the John Kerry has voted for over 350 tax increases, and given the fact that John Kerry is a wishy-washy liberal who votes on both sides of every issue and somehow manages to consistently vote to the left of Ted Kennedy, it would be a travesty to let that Massachusetts liberal anywhere near the White House. This leads to the question: How do you get rid of aphids in a vegetable garden?

ME: If you catch the aphids early enough, you can just remove the parts of the leaves that have black residue. Otherwise, you can go with rhubarb spray, an insecticidal soap, or fatty acid salts.

HANNITY: This is a very politically divided country right now. When I hear about Howard Dean saying the president knew about 9/11 ahead of time, when I'm being called a liar by Ted Kennedy every day, or when Al Gore insanely screeches at the top of his lungs that George Bush betrayed America, we've got politically divided times. And in these politically divided times, should I stake my tomato plants or use cages?

ME: Stakes are less expensive, but cages require less maintenance. It's more important to use good soil with compost manure, and to pinch off the suckers that grow between the branches and the stalk.

COLMES: Thank you for your time.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Mr. George Sulks

When I came in to work today, late again, I hurried to the garden on the west side of the White House, only to find Mr. George sitting in a lawn chair with bottles of Robitussin strewn around the flower bed. He had my walking stick. I have been looking for my cane for weeks.

"Rough night, Mr. George?"

"Do you think I'm a better man than my father?"

"I think you're both great men."

"He was a better athlete."

"You both participated in sports in college."

"My Dad was captain of the baseball team. I was on the cheerleading squad."

"You both went to Harvard and Yale."

"My Dad was Phi Beta Kappa. I got a C average taking easy classes."

"You both excelled at business."

"My Dad made the family fortune in the oil industry. I lost a bunch of his money."

"You were both fighter pilots during a war."

"My Dad flew 58 missions, got shot down, and won the Distinguished Flying Cross. I was too drunk to remember flying them little trainer planes around in Texas."

"You're both running campaigns that claim you're like Ronald Reagan."

"My Dad's a numb nuts."

"Listen here, Mr. George. You took out Saddam. Your Dad couldn't. People like you more. Plus your father never owned a baseball team, and he never printed out baseball cards with his picture on them. You did. And your father never got reelected as President. You're going to win, Mr. George. You're going to win!"

Mr. George rose slowly from the lawn chair. He handed me my walking stick, and without saying a word, walked into the White House, slow and dignified.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Ashcroft Fires Me Again

This morning I had a long breakfast with my mother, who, at 114 years of age, fell asleep often during the conversation. She is a liberal democrat beginning to show signs of old age, so I was forced to bring all conversation threads back to the core values of strength, freedom, and pride in America. When I arrived late at the White House, Ashcroft awaited me inside the security gate. He checked his watch nervously. Bad news. Here we go again.

"Good morning, Gardner," said Ashcroft. "Or should I say 'good afternoon'?"

"Good morning, Ashcroft." My tone acknowledged the bitter enmity between us.

"I need your help again. Same rules. I hear a peep out of you and you're history. Got it?"

"What do you need this time?"

"I've been watching myself on television, and I look, well, uncomfortable. The congressional hearings were my chance to shine in front of the whole world, but the press say I came across as smug and edgy."

"Do you want me to loosen the barbed wire around your chest?"

"I need you to change the whole arrangement. If I double up the hair-shirt undergarment, and then wrap the barbed wire more loosely around that, I think I can avoid looking pale and lascivious."

On the way to the shed, there was an uncomfortable silence. I wanted to talk about the weather or the Detroit Pistons, or maybe ask him why he doesn't just wear cotton garments, but Ashcroft is no one with whom to trifle. He broke the silence.

"I touched myself — there — again."

Same old thing. I refitted him in the shed, he cried and hugged me, and then told me to pack up my belongings because I was fired.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Playing 'Gestapo' with Rumsfeld

I was already in a grumpy mood to start the day. My walking stick was nowhere to be found. I was hobbling around on my arthritic knee, looking around for my special cane. I decided to check the supply shed, which put me in an even fouler mood. The supply shed is supposed to be filled with gardening supplies — hoses, flower seeds, bags of compost and manure, spades, shovels, twine, gloves. Gradually, over the last three years, the gardening supplies have been replaced by spare robot parts. Some of the Vice President's spare legs are propped up where the shovels used to be, circuitry is spread all over the benches, and a bunch of ball bearings are lying around in jars. I was moving robot parts around to find my walking stick when a large shadow filled the room. I spun to see who was blocking the doorway.

It was Donald Rumsfeld. He was holding a set of matches.

"Did you ever see a match burn twice?" he asked.

"Matches only burn once," I said, trying to be bold.

Mr. Donald lit the match and said, "One." He blew it out and quickly jabbed the burnt end into my forearm.


"That's very funny, Mr. Donald." He was blocking my exit from the shed.

"Say, Lenny, do you want to play 'Gestapo'?"

"How do you play?" I should have just said No, but for some reason, I thought that would make it worse.

"What's your name?" Mr. Donald asked.

"It's Lenny."

He slapped me. "You're lying."

Mr. Donald finally left the shed, and I couldn't find my walking stick. I am in a black mood.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The Thinking Man's President

I just don't understand all these criticisms of Mr. George. It hurts my feelings. Especially when my mother accuses Mr. George of not being curious enough to think through important issues. She was upset by Mr. George's own admission that when his advisors are briefing him, he isn't so much interested in what they're saying as how they're saying it. Mr. George says he tries to get a read on the advisor, as if they're in a poker game. My mother, bless her heart, pointed out that it does no good to get a read on whether your advisor is bluffing if he genuinely believes his pair of deuces will win the hand against five other players. She's right. But what my mother doesn't know is that Mr. George does think about issues.

Take this discussion I had with Mr. George while he was practicing his golf swing near the begonias:

"Listen here, Lenny," said Mr. George. "I wanna try something out on you. Marriage is defined as being a natural act of commitment between a man and woman. It just is."

"I agree, Mr. George."

"No, no! Come on, Lenny!" said Mr. George, waving his 5-iron. "I need you to argue against me. I need you to play the devil's adversity to help me practice up for these debates. So let's try again— marriage is a sacred act to be imposed upon a man and a woman, for better or poorer, richer and in health. It's always been that way, and it should always be that way."

"Hm, oh, okay. I guess I could say that homosexuals don't choose to be that way — they can't help themselves — and letting homosexuals get married will help them feel like they're part of our society. There, how's that?"

"You're wrong, Lenny!" Mr. George started swinging his club into the tulips, sending petals into the wind. "Homosexuals are evil, and homosexual lovers are evil, and maybe you're a homosexual, Lenny. Did you stop to think about that?"

"Come on, Mr. George, I'm just playing devil's advocate like you asked. I agree with you."

"No, Lenny, stay in characterization. Keep arguing."

"Oh right. Let's see. Some homosexuals can't get tax breaks because of their sexual orientation."

"I'll see to it that everyone gets a tax break. And here's something else—" Mr. George stood up straight and fixed his stare. "There's two kinds of homosexuals. The first kind are born that way — weak, like the pasty wimps we used to snap towels at in gym class. The second kind of homosexual got that way through preversion and cowardice. When heterosexual waters get a little too choppy, these fellows jump ship and swim to Fairy Island. They just do. So when they don't have luck with girls, so they get into all kinds of perversions. As legislators, our job is to make that swim to Fairy Island as tough as possible, so as to keep the number of sodomists as low as possible. That way, America can be America again, loving freedom and righteousness and democracy."

I tried to come up with an argument, but I literally couldn't. I'm looking forward to these debates.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Readers Respond

I would like to start today's message by thanking those readers who poured out their heart-felt sympathies to me regarding the ferocious attack of the killer cicadas. In a way, it was good to hear about other people's troubles with these evil insects. Yes, I am sad now, but I will get over this crisis in time. Some trees die, others grow strong, and the cycle of life shall continue, even if John Kerry wins the election. However, I do not appreciate those readers who find humor in stately trees being killed by vile pests. Here's the email of the day:

ha ha you're trees are dying!!! your stupid and your face is stupid and i hope the cicadas eat all the trees and flowers at your stupid wite house I think your dumn and i think mr. george is a dumnass. why dont you trying shoving the dead insecks up yore butt maybe that will help ha ha ha!!! ;-{

How on earth would inserting the cicada remains into one's anal cavity help the situation? I am an old man! And please use appropriate punctuation and capitalization in your messages. It is obvious from this message and others that some children are indeed being left behind. What gives me hope is that Mr. George's groundbreaking educational reforms will require states to finally spend the millions of dollars required to adequately test students and to keep parents informed of their children's progress. It is too late for such reforms to help you, foul reader, but perhaps the next generation will learn to respect the English language.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Mr. George Learns Karate

While trimming the shrubs on the west side of the White House, I was hoping that Mr. George would come visit me after his trip to France. I enjoy our daily chats. He likes to talk to me about his plans, and I appreciate being able to say things like, "Yes, I think you better rule out gay marriage in a constitutional amendment, because kids these days don't seem to care what homosexuals are doing in rest stops." In some small way, I feel like I'm helping to shape the President's views. I was concerned that he was going to be traveling around the country with Mr. Ronald's corpse, but to my surprise and delight, Mr. George approached me on the garden path.

"Good morning, Lenny!" said Mr. George. He was smiling and kicking his right leg out to the side.

"Good morning, Mr. George. Why are you in such a good mood?"

"First off, I've been learning karate," said Mr. George. He pronounced it kar-ah-TAY, with emphasis on the last syllable. He threw several forward twist punches, exhaling with each thrust, and then he kicked his foot dangerously close to my nose.

"My favorite motto is 'You can never— it's good to be prepared.' What would happen if some of Saddam's hijackers snuck onto Air Force One? Without karate, I'd be defenseless."

"Do you really think karate would do any good against trained assassins with box cutters and pepper spray?" I asked.

"Watch this. This is Osama's head—" Mr. George side-kicked the wooden watering can into the back of the bench, breaking it into splinters. Pat Nixon had given me that watering can as an Easter present.

"Most impressive," I said.

"My favorite motto is 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice— you won't, you're not gonna fool me a second time.' I'm not going to let evil overcome good. Not on my watch!"

On his way out of the garden, Mr. George continued to karate chop leaves and side-kick trunks of small trees. He is a determined young man.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

The Attack of the Cicadas

I am tired of fighting. Our small trees are killed. The birch is dead. The elm tree is dead. The old trees are all dead. And now it is the young trees that may not survive. That which led the young trees is dead. The cicadas are swarming, and we have no cheesecloth. We have no pesticides. The little saplings are being swarmed to death. My tree branches, some of them, droop under the weight of cicada eggs, and have no wraps, no protection. No one knows what to do — perhaps running away. I want to have time to look for my red maples, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my arbolists! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Rush Limbaugh Lies

At times, working in the White House garden feels like a slice of Heaven here on Earth. In the afternoons, all five of my senses are awakened to life's Higher Powers: my eyes take in the deep azure Virginia sky; my bootless feet sink in to the fecund soil; my mouth enjoys Apple Jack, the world's finest chewing tobacco; my nose fills with the aroma of delicate lilacs and hydrangeas; my ears listen to the voice of Rush Limbaugh. Mr. Rush's deep, soothing voice pours out of my head phones like baptism water — I fear nothing when he speaks. I don't mean to blaspheme. Rush Limbaugh is not God, but he speaks with the power and authority of the Divine.

I met him yesterday.

I remember as a young boy trying to get an autograph from the great Tris Speaker, but instead of signing my Washington Senators score sheet, he spat on it and pushed my face backwards with his palm. My mother spent three days trying to get me to stop crying. I had a similar experience with Mr. Rush. He had just gotten instructions from members of the Grand Old Party and decided to peruse them in the gardens. I introduced myself:

"Excuse me, Mr. Rush. I'm Lenny Gardner. I love your show."

"Well thank you, old-timer. I'm glad to have you listening."

"Thank you so much for putting the Abu Ghraib scandal in perspective," I said. "I was concerned about America's moral direction until you compared the torture of detainees to the initiation rituals of frat boys. My sense of patriotism returned."

"That maybe wasn't the smartest thing to say," said Mr. Rush. He popped three pills in his mouth and swallowed without water.

"And I'm glad you set those liberals straight about the Iraqi war rationale," I said, feeling star-struck and bashful. "They keep saying the war is about oil, but we know better, don't we, Mr. Rush?"

"Well actually, old-timer, I like you, so I want to let you in on a little secret — the war in Iraq is about oil," said Rush, looking around, as if to make sure no one else was listening. "Oil and money. Don't let anyone tell you different."

"No, it's called Operation Iraqi Freedom," I said. I felt confused and hurt. "This is a fight for freedom. We need to free the Iraqi people from a madman."

"That's a good one. The kind people at Halliburton just want these Arabs to be free. Yep, that's it. We can't allow the beautiful Persians to live under tyranny. That would just be too awful."

"I can't believe I'm hearing this," I said.

"Let me tell you something else," Mr. Rush whispered. "Our leaders knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand. They needed a Pearl Harbor, and they got one."

"You're telling me things that are not true!" I shouted.

"I'll say anything if the price is right. Listen, take care, old-timer. The flowers look great."

Even though the skies were clear, I spent the rest of the afternoon under a dark cloud. Mr. Rush lied to my face. I hope he was just making fun of me.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Chatting with Al Gore

The back of the White House has beautiful gardens — if I don't say so myself — with benches where tourists used to be able sit and look at the mansion that the damned British tried to burn down. This was before security was tightened. Nowadays, only those of us with security permits can go back there. I was wiping the dead cicadas off one of the benches when I noticed Al Gore lying underneath it. It was early in the morning, and his jump suit was covered with dirt and morning dew. I nudged him in the shoulder with my boot.

"Good morning, Al."

"Good morning, Lenny." Al looked uncomfortable again, embarrassed. A whiskey bottle and three empty cans of spray paint were scattered around the bench.

"Looks like you had another rough night."

"I don't like to complain," said Al. "The past is the past, and it's time to forgive and forget. Just move on. Just keeping moving forward."

"There are tarps in the maintenance shed. You can use them. They'll keep the dew off."

"It's just that I spent eight years watching Bill turn the sacred White House into a frat house. I think some of his college buddies saw more of the inside rooms than I did. And I was Vice-President! For eight years!"

"Like I told you before, you can roll up the burlap bags to use as pillows when you get like this."

"And then, when it was my turn to replace Bill and restore dignity to the American Presidency, I blew it in the debates. I treated George like he was some kind of idiot, so anything he said that wasn't stupid made people say, 'Hey, he's not an idiot. He's like me. And he says he'll bring America back together.' I blew it!"

"You can also give me a call when you get in one of these moods," I said. "I'll bring you some blankets and tea and a real pillow. You can set up camp out here, and no one needs to know."

"And even with all my mistakes during the 2000 campaign, I still had it won. I won more votes than George. It was Florida… Florida."

Al lay back down under the bench and kept mumbling to himself about being locked out of his own home. You have to feel bad for the guy.

Monday, June 07, 2004

A Tribute to Ronald Reagan

Some readers have sent me strongly worded messages complaining that I left Ronald Reagan off my list of the Top Ten Presidents of the United States. Some Reagan critics point to his daffy "I don't recall" responses in the wake of the Iran/Contra affair, in which he sold weapons to Iran and used the proceeds to help the Nicaraguan rebels. However, he was suffering from Alzheimer's by then, so I don't hold his testimony against him. Nor do I judge him for facilitating the Savings & Loan scandal through deregulation, because I respect his faith in the integrity of the American businessman. I had omitted Mr. Ronald for three reasons: (1) Because he followed a big tax cut with an even bigger tax increase — taxes are bad, (2) he dramatically increased the size of the federal government, and (3) whenever I asked him a question about a current affair during any of few visits to the White House garden, he responded by smiling and talking about children, or hope, or golden sunsets. Or sometimes the new Taco Bell fajitas.

That was all before his life ended so tragically, well before his time.

I have now placed Ronald Reagan at the top of my list of the Top Ten Greatest Presidents of the United States. Now, as we ponder a wonderful actor and good president, I realize this is no time for petty grievances. Now is a time for hysterical hyperbole. Together with Phil Donohue, he slammed the door on the Communist Threat! Together with the Olympic hockey team, he inspired a healthy sense of xenophobia and patriotism! And together with Oliver Stone, he pushed past the complex rhetoric of capitalism: greed is good. Greed is good!

Friday, June 04, 2004

10 Greatest Presidents of the United States

While Mr. George is off in Normandy celebrating the 60th anniversary of D-Day, I thought it would be appropriate to suggest a list of the Ten Greatest Presidents in United States History:

1a. RONALD REAGAN — Think walks along the beach under a golden sunset.

1b. Richard Nixon — I may be somewhat biased in that Richard Nixon was the first President to hire me as a gardener at the White House. He improved relations with China, he got us out of the Vietnam War, and he handled alleged corruption with dignity.

2. George W. Bush — He has the courage and moral fortitude to stay the course, wherever that course may lead.

3. Warren G. Harding — First and foremost, he kept us out of the nefarious League of Nations. Trust no one, I say. Plus he reminds me of Mr. George in how he responded to allegations that some of his friends were using their official positions for their own enrichment. Harding circled the wagons, suppressed evidence, and rose above the scandal. Tragically, he died of a heart attack before he could finish the job.

4. Herbert Hoover — Another president who had the courage to stay the course in changing times.

5. James Buchanan — Like me, a confirmed bachelor. He held his ground firmly as the nation split into two warring factions.

6. Calvin Coolidge — Wonderfully aloof. His favorite motto: "Four out of five problems solve themselves."

7. William McKinley — He wasn't afraid to start a war based on unconfirmed allegations. A man of action, and a fine imperialist.

8. George H. W. Bush — Like his son, he excelled in business, achieved honors at Yale, fought bravely for his country, and created an international coalition to go to war against Iraq. Sadly, unlike his son, he raised taxes to pay for increased government spending. Why?

9. Ulysses S. Grant — Like Mr. George, he served his country with honor in the military. One visitor to the White House noted in Grant "a puzzled pathos, as of a man with a problem before him of which he does not understand the terms." Despite his confusion, Grant finished out his term with a show of strength.

10. William Henry Harrison — His was a case of missed potential. Not wanting to look foolish, he refused to wear a hat or coat during his inauguration, despite the cold rain. He died 30 days later of pneumonia. Nevertheless, his 2-hour inauguration speech was superb enough to get him on this list.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Accountibility for Abu Ghraib

Many of my readers have accused me of being a Democrat. I am not a Democrat. I am a Barry Goldwater Republican. I support George W. Bush. I think he is a great man with a highly inquisitive mind, and he has surrounded himself with leaders who are interested only in the good of the free people of the world, and in making the world ready for the apocalypse.

Like everyone else, I was shocked by the manner in which the United States prison guards treated detainees in Abu Ghraib. A few weeks ago, before his vacation, I asked Mr. George if this was the act of a few sadistic prison guards, or if it was the natural consequence of flawed policies. Mr. George was quick to respond.

"These guards were at fault, yes, but it was mainly the result of bad policy," said Mr. George.

"But everyone else is saying that it's just a few bad apples," I said. I'm a gardener, so I sometimes like to use gardening metaphors.

"Nope. It was caused by the carelessness of the leaders. It goes way up the chain of command. Every general, and every admiral, and every corporal — all the big guys — should have known about these fancy new digitized cameras, and they should have done something about it."

"But the problem wasn't the digital cameras, it was the systematic abuse of detainees that violates national and international rules of conduct."

"No, it was the digified cameras. Look, those Iraqis weren't innocent. They had it coming. They attacked our soil. Right over there in New York City and right here in Washington. Here's the thing. Our military never should have let those pictures out. And I hold our leaders responsible."

See? You just have to have faith in our leaders.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Chatting with Karl Rove

I like talking to all the White House folks, especially when Mr. George is on vacation, even if all they want to do is complain or ask quetions. Karl Rove is a busy man, so he doesn't spend as much time out here in the garden as he did a couple years ago. Today was an exception. He came right up to me and started talking.

"We've got a technical problem, Lenny," Mr. Karl was wincing and rubbing his hands. "I was hoping you could help us out."

"To record Fox News," I said for the hundredth time, "put the TV on channel 3, and then change the VCR channel to 18."

"No, it's not about that this time. It's about the Vice-President."

"Mr. Dick?"

"Right, Mr. Cheney. He's not responding well to visual stimuli."

"Have you removed his face plate and checked his positronic network?"

"Yes, and we ran a diagnostic on the neural membrane. Nothing turned up. Then we cleared the cache buffer, replaced the lithium battery, and tested the spark plug. Same problem."

"The Vice-President has a spark plug?" I asked.

"Oh, golly gee, never mind," Mr. Karl said. He starting looking at the ground and mumbling a plan. "We'll just bump up the terror alert level and send the Veep to Offutt Air Force Base. Maybe the folks in Nebraska can fix him." Then he looked up at me, as if he just realized he was talking out loud. "Thanks, Lenny. The flowers look great."

Mr. Karl sure is a nice man.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Cold Cocked!

I was trimming the rhododendrons yesterday near the east side of the White House when Donald Rumsfeld came up to me and said, "Hey Lenny! You wanna play a game?"

"Sure, Mr. Donald."

"It's called "Cold Cock the Gardener.'"

When I woke up a couple hours later, I was lying flat on top of the smallest rhododendron. A 2x4 piece of wood was lying next to me, and it had blood and some of the hair from the top of my head on it. I don't like that game. Maybe one of these days I'll teach Mr. Donald how to play a game called "Cold Cock the Secretary of Defense." Maybe I just will.