} That one caught the President off guard. "I'm sorry?"
} > NULL QUESTION
} The other reporters had stopped their clamor, surprised at the audacity
} of the request. They were equally fascinated by the President's
} reaction: discomfort, certainly, but the color creeping into his face
} implied that there was something he definitely -didn't- want to say.
} "L-let me say that about this...." The President trailed off into
} silence. Since he'd begun his first campaign nine years ago, he'd never
} been at a loss for words. Until now. A confused murmur began among the
} reporters. What was wrong? He had always been good for a few sound
} bites at each conference, and his Middle-American good looks made the
} print photographers' jobs a lot easier. Now, it looked like the
} reporters would actually have to -writsomething. They began to fear for
} their jobs.
} The press secretary was the first to regain his composure. He went to
} the podium and whispered in the President's ear. At first the President
} seemed oblivious, but after a moment he caught on and managed to
} understand what was being said. From the look on his face it was
} obvious that the press secretary had suggested something outrageous,
} but after some heated whispers the President finally nodded and turned
} to the microphone.
} "Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, please make careful record of what
} you observe here today. This is an historical moment in the making.
} "As many have noticed, American politics over the past few centuries -
} clear back to the founding of this great nation, even before it was an
} independent state - has been an excellent example of Newton's Third Law
} of Motion: 'For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.'
} "The success of our system of government by officials elected by the
} populace hinges on an informed electorate. The position of every
} candidate on every issue must be explored before the best choice can be
} made for the job. Of course, and I am proud to be the first government
} official to admit this out loud, most candidates aren't as concerned
} about making a good government as they are about having a position of
} power and influence." The reporters murmured in surprise, not at the
} revelation, but at the candid way it was given. "Toward that end, most
} candidates (and all successful ones) have applied Newton's Third Law
} toward questions directed to them by the press. The political
} interpretation would be 'For every question of substance, there is an
} answer of equal and opposite value.'
} "Since most reporters are trained to seek the heart of the matter, it
} follows that they should ask questions of great substance and global
} import. Therefore, I and my colleagues in government are obligated to
} give meaningless, misdirected, and frequently false answers to preserve
} the 'balance' implied in the Third Law. But today, I have received a
} question of less than zero substance - not negative substance, mind
} you, but null: the null question. Therefore, I must give an answer that
} is substantial and true."
} The President took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Here goes."
} "I sought this position, not for the benefit of the Nation, but for my
} own bank account. The companionship I have enjoyed since my arrival in
} Washington was a fringe benefit. I have made a fortune behind the
} scenes in the buying and selling of favors and influence, and plan to
} continue after my term ends.
} "Never have I acted in accordance with my conscience or my
} constituency. I have no conscience, and if I seemed to go along with
} public opinion, it was because it coincided with the opinion of major
} contributors to my personal goals.
} "None of the other candidates who ran against me in any election,
} except one, were any different from me. That one exception died in an
} unfortunate car crash. I did NOT engineer that crash. I had someone
} else take care of it for me.
} "The apparent benefits to the economy, the nation, and the world, that
} have occurred during my administration are simply the up-end swing of
} the socio-economic pendulum, a phenomenon that has been known for
} centuries but never revealed. Nothing I or any government official have
} done, or could ever do, will influence that swing. Expect a period of
} severe depression about 15 years from now. By then I should be happily
} divorced and living on a private Caribbean island.
} "The former Soviet Union, far from being a threat to the United States,
} was actually our ally. They caused us to pull together in building a
} war machine, developing new technologies and putting thousands of
} people to work, to fight a bunch of farmers and goatherds who wouldn't
} know which end of an AK-47 to point at an American if they ever saw
} one. The menace of Communism was nothing more than a red herring that
} created wonderful opportunities to curry favor, peddle influence, and
} misdirect funding into the pockets of government officials and
} corporate officers.
} "And now, perhaps the most telling truth of all: not one single
} American gives a rat's ass about any of this. They have their MTV,
} their beer, and their welfare checks! They have the "bread and
} circuses" that led to the downfall of the Roman empire. They are fat
} and happy and as long as the lines for lottery tickets are shorter than
} their belt size, they'll keep voting for me and anyone else that's good
} for a few sound bites and photographs well."
} The President paused for breath. Not a reporter moved, not a camera
} clicked. The recorders were still running - not a word was missed - but
} nobody could say a word. Finally, after a long pause, the sound of
} someone clapping came from the back of the room. After some hesitation,
} other joined in. Moments later, the entire room was on its feet
} applauding the President. After about five minutes he motioned for
} quiet, and five minutes later he could finally speak again.
} "Thank you! Thank you! It was a risky thing to do, and had you not
} responded this way my press secretary would have been involved in a
} tragic auto accident." The secretary paled, until he saw the president
} wink. "But I do have one more thing I'd like to get off my chest." He
} looked at the correspondent who had asked the question, and had also
} been the first to applaud.
} "Orrie, if you EVER forward one of those questions to me again, I'll
} hunt you down like a dog and nail your sorry hide to my garage!"