President passes pickle test

President passes pickle test

In recent weeks, Bill Clinton has gone out of his way to say respectful things about the major candidates who aspire to succeed him as President. This is true not only of Vice President Al Gore, but also of Gore's Democratic rival Bill Bradley and the top-tier Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Thus, it was entirely in keeping for Clinton to decline the invitations to join in ridiculing Bush for flunking a graduate-level pop quiz on world leaders that was sprung on him last week by a showboating Boston television reporter. But this sudden desire to appear statesmanlike has not cost Clinton his sense of humor-or robbed him of his boyish pride in his own facile mind.

Last Friday, while touting agricultural cooperatives in the town of Bradley, Ark., the President told a crowd at a packing plant that Burger King had recently contracted to purchase 200 acres of cucumbers from growers in the Mississippi Delta. "I don't know how many pickle slices that is," Clinton said with a chuckle, "but it's 3.2 million pounds of cucumbers. That's a lot of pickles."

Yes, but exactly how many? That's what the traveling White House press corps wanted to know. And so, in a light vein-and in the spirit of spoofing the new pop quiz journalism-CBS Radio reporter Mark Knoller scribbled out this question for the President.

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.
-Mark Knoller, Quizmaster
P.S. Name the leader of Chechnya.

Clinton, known for doing crossword puzzles during policy meetings, couldn't resist this challenge. On the way back to Washington, he showed up in the press section of Air Force One with a note of his own, written in his own writing.

3 cukes x 3.2 million lbs = 9.6 million 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

The President told reporters that he did the problem "in about 30 seconds"-and without a calculator. There was no response from the Bush camp.