Hungry for opinions as well as hamburgers, according to reports, President Clinton can be imagined welcoming an aide with a far-out idea.
"Remember, Mr. President, what Henry Wallace said about NATO when he was testifying against it in 1949?"
"I was three years old."
"Well, maybe it is time to toss around an idea for updating NATO."
"Henry Wallace was no Al Gore."
"Horrors, no. He was l-i-b-e-r-a-l, Truman's former secretary of commerce. He warned that the 12-nation North Atlantic Treaty 'will make Russia into a wild and cornered beast.' "
"Do I have time for this?"
"Time for Alexander Lebed?"
"High in the polls, isn't he?"
"Supposed to be Russia's most popular and most trusted politician."
"I like that combination."
"Lebed called NATO a 'heavy fist' that Russians see as an 'imperialist power' ready to 'jump on us' as soon as 'we are weak.' "
"How can we ease their pain?"
"Lebed said - and this was even in The Wall Street Journal - that NATO should change its name and duties and 'remove the red rag for the bull.' "
"Don't you mean bear?"
"A good one, Mr. President. Lebed said an alliance facing no more cold-war enemies should turn to peacemaking. Tasks like fighting drugs and potential nuclear and chemical terrorism. Then it could include Russia and other now-excluded countries."
"I did say I like to hear all sides!"
"And they tell me General Lebed is no bleeding-heart l-i-b-e-r-a-l."
"OK. Put his NATO notion in with the memos from Helms, Gingrich, and Albright."