The snow-covered mountain is deserted. "Roger, Mogul Two. You and Snowbunny may proceed," shouts the disembodied voice of a Secret Service agent. "Snowbunny?" asks a second voice. Replies a third: "Okay, Mr. President. Now remember, keep low to the ground."
Gerald Ford did not go by the code name "Snowbunny" on the ski slopes at Vail last Christmas, but he did one day on the pen-and-ink slopes of Doonesbury. That comic-strip episode now hangs on the wall of Ford's private study, just off the Oval Office. Down the hall, Ron Nessen keeps three more Doonesburys, all poking gentle fun at the press secretary. Downstairs, in the office of White House Photographer David Kennerly, who covered the Viet Nam War for U.P.I, and TIME, there is a set of Doonesbury panels depicting a homesick Viet Cong terrorist writing to his mother from an assignment in Laos: "How I wish I could be home violating the truce accords." Down the street, Treasury Secretary William Simon hoards a series of Doonesburys drawn in 1972, when Simon was the nation's first energy czar. They show him issuing fiats from a throne and demanding "my signet ring and hot wax!"
It takes an artist of power and originality to transform the White House into a cartoon museum. His name is Garry Trudeau, and his Doonesbury is more than mindless mirth. It is a climate of opinion, a mocking view of American life. Since the spidery lines of Doonesbury first appeared in the Yale campus newspaper in 1968, they have become the punch lines of some 449 dailies. The strip is now scanned by more than 60 million readers in the U.S. and Canada. Hard-and soft-bound collections have sold over three-quarters of a million copies, and the biggest assemblage yet, The Doonesbury Chronicles (Holt, Rinehart & Winston; $12.95 hardcover, $6.95 paper), has sold 270,000 copies since last fall.
The strip's pivotal character is the pencil-nosed naïf Michael J. Doonesbury, a founding member of the Walden Puddle Commune and an armchair liberal who spends much of his time, quite literally in an armchair, sampling the world's lunacy from television newscasts. He seems to have a gift for the mal mot, telling a menacing group of black separatists, "Hey, ol' Martin Luther King was one heck of a fellah, wasn't he?" or informing a $65,000-a-year rock entrepreneur in California that "back East you 'Frisco hipsters are kind of legendary, living off the land the way you do." Among other communards and coconspirators:
> Zonker Harris, a spaghetti-haired specimen of the drug culture who carries on Socratic dialogues with his philodendron, gets busted for possession, discovers that the prosecutor has bugged his room, and tells the hidden microphone: "I hate grass. I just get high on life! And America!"
>The Rev. Scot Sloan, "the fighting young priest who can talk to the young ... Didn't you read about me in Look? Birmingham, Selma, Chicago '68?" He lives with his dog, Unconditional Amnesty, and his cat, Kent State.