Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton began their Moscow summit on Tuesday by having a private conversation. But they should know by now--there is no such thing as a private conversation.
Here is a transcript, leaked to us by unreliable sources:
Yeltsin: A ruble for your thoughts.
Clinton: You don't HAVE a ruble.
Yeltsin: Is sad but true.
Clinton: What's a ruble worth today?
Yeltsin: Half a ruble.
Clinton: Your economy's in big trouble, Mr. President.
Yeltsin: And yours is not?
Clinton: Well . . .
Yeltsin: The way your stock market is falling, soon you won't have money to take a young lady to dinner.
Clinton: I thought you were leaving office. American TV reported that you had already signed your resignation.
Yeltsin: You believe American TV?
Clinton: Good point.
Yeltsin: American TV is very bad. American TV makes jokes about Russian president being drunk. It is not nice to make jokes about Russian president being drunk.
Clinton: No, it isn't.
Yeltsin: I have not had a drink since . . . (he looks at wristwatch). See, I make jokes myself.
Clinton: I know how you feel.
Yeltsin: It is bad time for you, yes?
Clinton: A real bad time, yes.
Yeltsin: This romance with young woman . . . Lewinsky, Lewinsky . . . she is from Poland?
Yeltsin: I always mix up those two. Ha, I make another joke.
Clinton: Now listen, Boris . . .
Yeltsin: Where did you meet her? The new Spago?
Clinton: Let's talk about somethin' else.
Yeltsin: Very well. How is your wife?
Clinton: Let's talk about somethin' ELSE.
Yeltsin: You really are having a bad few weeks, my friend.
Clinton: So tell me. Why didn't your legislators confirm Viktor Chernomyrdin for prime minister? I know he was your personal choice.
Yeltsin: He was.
Clinton: Who will you nominate next?
Yeltsin: Viktor Chernomyrdin.
Clinton: And if he loses again?
Yeltsin: Viktor Chernomyrdin.
Clinton: But suppose . . .
Yeltsin: Viktor Chernomyrdin!
Clinton: Did you nearly resign from office yourself after Russia devalued the ruble?
Clinton: What stopped you?
Yeltsin: Well, I did call for my own resignation, but then I refused to accept it.
Clinton: Very interesting.
Yeltsin: And you? You face, perhaps, impeachment?
Clinton: I kinda doubt it.
Yeltsin: You are sure?
Clinton: Well, I'm 99% sure.
Yeltsin: Perhaps I should invite Mr. Gore to join us tonight, just in case?
Clinton: Now that's not necessary.
Yeltsin: Your bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan, I did not approve of that, Bill.
Clinton: Couldn't be helped.
Yeltsin: You did this for military purposes? Or just to improve your popularity with the American people?
Clinton: I swear, I . . .
Yeltsin: Come on, just between us.
(He whispers into Yeltsin's ear.)
Yeltsin: That is what I thought.
Clinton: So how can I help you, my friend, during this time of crisis?
Yeltsin: Anything you can spare. Cash. Check. A nice Georgetown fund-raiser?
Clinton: You got it.
Yeltsin: Every little bit helps.
Clinton: Let me see how my real estate holdings do. And I think my wife's still got some cattle interests.
Yeltsin: And how may I be of help to you?
Clinton: You just hang in there, Boris.
Yeltsin: I will, Bill.
Clinton: I need every friend I can get.
Yeltsin: That makes two of us.
Clinton: Don't you go leaving office now.
Yeltsin: I won't if you won't.
Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, or phone (213) 237-7366.