Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Six months on

and the sheep are already wandering away.

And no wonder -- how dare Barack Obama not fix decades of decadence and graft after six months in office! At a time when the 24-hour news cycle is now 24 minutes long, who is he to think that people won't demand results in a similar time frame?

I think that the new president of the USA Bargainville should take to heart the story, probably apocryphal, of Soviet General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev's two letters to his successor Leonid Brezhnev (the one with the eyebrows). [EDIT: It is altogether likely that I stole this story from the Steven Soderbergh movie Traffic unconsciously.] A very cursory Google search did not yield this story so I will relate it as I recall it:
On the first day of Secretary Brezhnev's term in office, he sits down at his desk (steel, two hundred pounds, gunmetal blue, in the Bolshevik fashion) and opens the drawers. Inside the bottom drawer are two envelopes addressed to him from his predecessor. The first reads, "Open me the first time you get into trouble."

This being the Soviet Union, in due course Secretary Brezhnev is in political hot water. The Party is at his throat, the mob is at his doorstep. He opens the first letter. It contains only two words: "Blame me."

Secretary Brezhnev complies. He tells the Party that Khrushchev's legendary incompetence brought them to this pass, but that he will get them out of it. The Party blames Khrushchev, the mob is mollified.

Years pass and the Secretary's fortunes wax and wane. [Brezhnev was in power for eighteen years, until his death; this part of the fable is a little thin.] Finally, rampant economic stagnation cannot be ignored [at least that part is true] and the proletariat is whispering again. Despairing, Brezhnev rips open the second envelope. This one contains three words: "Write two letters."

Comrades Obama and Brezhnev both attained to the captain's chair, as it were, too late to turn their respective ships around, but just in time to take the blame for the vessels' going down. The difference between the two is that here we have some indication that Brezhnev's predecessor could spell.


Ryan Marr said...

I just watched traffic this week. Judge Wakefield was told that same story by the general.

Will said...

Maybe that's where I first heard it too. It's a hoary old chestnut.