My conservative friend Grump looked alarmed. He stared at my face for several seconds, then said: "What's wrong with you? Have you developed a twitch?''
Nothing is wrong with me.
"Then why are you wiggling your lips that way?''
I wasn't wiggling my lips. I was speaking to you.
"But you weren't saying anything.''
Of course I was. And if you read my lips, you would have understood.
"Read your lips? I can't read lips.''
I'm sorry, but I thought all Republicans could read lips. I mean, George Bush is always saying "read my lips,'' so I assumed that this was a common Republican skill.
"You don't understand. He says that for emphasis, to drive home a point, to make sure that people understand that he means what he says.''
Ah, I understand. When he says: "Read my lips: no new taxes,'' he wants us to make no mistake about it - there will be no new taxes when he is in the White House.
"Exactly. Now, what were you trying to say when you were wiggling your lips at me?''
What I was saying was: Read my lips, I want to make a bet with you.
"What kind of bet.''
Read my lips: I want to make a big bet.
"How big a bet?''
Read my lips: I want to bet $5,000.
"That is a considerable sum. And what is it you wish to bet on?''
Read my lips. I will bet you $5,000 that George Bush is feeding us a line.
"Be careful. I will not tolerate any insults directed at our Pollster-Designated Commander-in-Chief.''
Don't change the subject. Are you a betting man or aren't you?
"You haven't even said what we will be betting on.''
All right. Read my lips. I bet you five Big Ones that if George Bush becomes president, our taxes will go up.
"Just one moment. He didn't say taxes wouldn't go up. He said no new taxes.''
Don't play word games, Grump. If taxes go up, the increase is new. So any tax increase amounts to new taxes.
"What you're saying, in your usually crude way, is that George Bush is not being sincere.''
Read my lips: He's flat-out lying.
"By George, if it weren't illegal, I'd toss my glove in your face and challenge you to a duel.''
Never mind. Are you going to take the bet or aren't you?
"Betting is illegal.''
So is selling weapons to the ayatollah. Come on Grump, Columbus took a chance.
"How do you intend to structure this bet?''
We will each come up with 5 Gs, cash money. We'll put it in an interest-bearing escrow account. Then we will wait. If, after four years, there is no tax increase, you win. If there is a tax increase - which is a sure thing - I win.
"Taxes are a complex matter. Sometimes a tax increase isn't really an increase at all, but in economic theory, it is a decrease.''
Read my lips: We'll know if it is an increase. But to be certain, we will jointly select a neutral tax expert. Or even a panel of experts. And we will let them decide if a tax increase really is a tax increase.
"I'll have to think about it.''
Think about it? Grump, read my lips: You are chicken.
"I don't have to tolerate insults.''
Read my lips: You are worse than chicken. You are a quail, which is a tiny chicken.
"I think I should get odds. How about 2 to 1?''
I was right. You are a quail.
"Enough. Yes, there will be new taxes. But it will be the fault of the Democrats in Congress.''
Read my lips: That isn't what Bush has been saying. He's been saying: Read my lips: no new taxes. So let's not start making excuses before the dirty deed is even done.
"I don't have to listen to this scurrilous bilge. Keep your bet. I have better things to do.''
Yes, you can put up some more Willie Horton posters.
"Goodbye, you pinko.''
With that, Grump was gone. But I haven't given up.
Read my lips: Any Republican out there who wants to cover my bet, just give me a call. It will prove you aren't a quail.
Just a pigeon.