When the president picked a patch of pickle problems ...

One thing about President Clinton, he knows his math. But does he know his grammar?

On a recent trip to Arkansas farm country, Mr. Clinton innocently set himself up for his own "news quiz" - this one about arithmetic. Speaking before a farming crowd, he mentioned how a group that buys supplies for Burger King had committed to purchasing 200 acres' worth of cucumbers in the Mississippi Delta.

"I don't know how many pickle slices that is, but it's 3.2 million pounds of cucumbers. That's a lot of pickles!" the president said.

This gave "CBS News" reporter Mark Knoller a bright idea, and he wrote down this question for the president:

"Mr. President - Inspired by your pickle story, we propose the following SAT question: If there are three cucumbers in a pound, and Burger King buys 3.2 million pounds of pickles, and you can cut 20 slices of pickle from every cucumber, how many pickle slices will you get? Show your work.

Signed, Mark Knoller


P.S. Name the leader of Chechnya."

On the way back home, Clinton visited the traveling press aboard Air Force One, with Mr. Knoller's note in hand. Asked how long he took to finish the problem, Clinton answered "about 30 seconds," adding that he didn't use a calculator because he's "technologically challenged."

The note contained the president's scribblings:


3 cukes x 3.2 m lbs = 9.6 m cukes

9.6 m x 20 slices = 192 million slices of cukes

I checked the calculation with the Chechnyan leader Aslan Maskhadov and he agrees.

Bill Clinton 11/5/99."

Touch. But did the president check with the White House speechwriter? The correct way to refer to a leader from Chechnya is as a Chechen, not Chechnyan.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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