The situation’s become pretty hairy. I think they may be coming unglued. The president’s always talking about wearing one of Phil Spector’s old shock wigs and seeing if anyone recognizes him. Geithner’s been running around marveling about how cool it is that America now has the historical distinction of employing more czars than the Russian Empire. TOTUS, meanwhile, stands over in the corner blasting FAIL! FAIL! FAIL! across his screen every 5 minutes.
I’ve been thinking of tucking a tube of mace under my collar. I may have to start dumping Patrón in my water bowl soon. I’m convinced they have no idea how deeply they’re digging themselves.
This afternoon’s economic “summit” was no different. We were in the usual place, the Oval Office, with the usual gang, Hussein (it’s cool to say his middle name now) and Rhambo and Geithner and Biden and even Gibbsy (whose constant drooling is really starting to get on my nerves).
“Gibbsy,” Hussein says, his feet propped on his desk, the soles of his shoes pointing toward Israel. (He’s been doing this all day since he found out it stirred up the Israelis, almost habitually, like he’s wondering if they can really see him.) “I heard that right about the time I was on the phone disrespecting Bibi the other day Rush was making this joke: ‘What do Obama and God have in common? Neither has a birth certificate. How do they differ? God does not think he's Obama.’
“I don’t get it. Why would he say a thing like that?”
“He thinks he’s Letterman, sir,” Gibbsy says, wiping a thin trail of drool dangling from his mouth. “Well, that’s just awful,” Hussein said. “Letterman’s such a funny guy. Him and Jon Stewart…they they’re such great supporters these days.” He suddenly blurts out: “You know I wanted to be a comedian back in Indonesia, but they told me Muslim goat humor wouldn’t get me to the White House. Yuck Yuck Yuck.”
“Mr. President,” Rhambo says, his snake eyes narrowing to slits: “It didn’t. I really think we should probably stick to the economy.”
“Right, right,” the president says, taking his feet down from the desk and straightening his tie and intertwining his fingers before him, the serious man now. “We have a lot of work to do, gentlemen. What’s the story,” he asks, hunched forward, slowly panning the room with his beatific gaze.
“Well, sir….SLURRRRRRPPP…we have some problems. Unemployment numbers are ….SLURRRRRRPPP…out and, well, it’s up to 9.4%,” Gibbsy says, wiping his mouth on his sleeve.
The president shakes his head violently back and forth and leans back in his chair and purses his lips. “I thought we said it would never get that high; why that’s doomsday scenario for us, isn’t it Tim?”
“Yes, Mr. President,” Geithner says through his teeth as he gnaws on a hangnail with the rhythm of a jackhammer….dthdthdthdthdth… dthdthdthdthdth… dthdthdthdthdth. He stops and looks right at the president. “And some folks out there are pretty sure that Stimulus is a failure, precisely because we’re beyond the doomsday unemployment figures and the money just doesn’t seem to be helping (not that we’ve really released that much). Since that bill passed, 1.6 million people have joined the unemployment rolls, sir.”
“If things get any worse, you’re looking at double-digit unemployment, a presidency killer,” Rhambo says, his forked tongue darting out to sample the scent of the mood in the room.
In the corner, TOTUS shivers and flashes FAIL! FAIL! FAIL! across his screen. No one pays him any mind.
“Well, haven’t we ‘saved or created’ 150,000 jobs?” the president fires back at Rhambo, the same look Michelle gave Bruni the other day crossing his face.
(I start to think I should have brought that mace. I mean, really, just how many times in history has a president been maced? I’m betting not many. Probably none by his dog. It could get interesting around here one of these days. I make a note to definitely check with my dealer later.)
“We’ve just got to spend that Stimulus money faster,” the president says, waving a hand at Rhambo. “And have Congress spend less. And get Kenneth Feinberg, our new pay czar, to get the corporations to spend less on their executives. Oh, and maybe we’ll just have to borrow a little more than a few billion for health care. Really, sometimes I think I’m the only one standing here between the country’s survival and the pitchforks. Without me, I swear we’ll be bulldozing all of the cities.”
He looks around the room again for approval.
(I’ve spent enough time around him since I came here during Easter to know he’s very insecure. He needs love and attention, someone to take him for a walk now and then and scratch behind his ears and tell him he’s a good boy and give him a treat, even when he’s completely off his rocker.)
“That’s right, Mr. President, you are The One,” Gibbsy says… SLURRRRRRPPP.
“Indeed,” Rhambo says, his tongue smelling the air again.
“You’re the man!” Biden says, ogling the cover of the most recent issue of Family Circle in his hands.
Hussein continues: “Joe…haven’t we been saying that Stimulus is a complete success, that it’s going to be a long, hard, road to recovery, yes, but we’re gaining ground? Isn’t that what we’ve been saying?”
“Hey, man, don’t ask me, this is all above my pay grade,” Biden says, flipping his magazine open and turning it sideways and frowning. “Hey…where’s the centerfold?”
“Yeah…um…right. Sorry, Joe.” Hussein looks up at the ceiling, as if he were trying to call on Allah, then lowers his gaze to the room and starts his favorite monologue, the whine in his voice creeping higher and higher with every word: “Look, people keep saying I want the government to run everything. I DON’T! I don't want to run auto companies, and I don't want to run banks. I've got two wars I've got to run already. I’ve got North Korea. I've got more than enough to do. But with all this trouble, government’s the only resource with the power to fix things.”
He finishes and looks around the room for approval, and, on cue, everyone bursts into laughter.
“I LOVE IT when you tell the press that joke, sir,” Biden says, laughing and laughing and laughing.
In the corner, TOTUS still flashes FAIL! FAIL! FAIL! across his screen, and everyone still ignores him.
“Yeah, sometimes I can hardly contain myself,” the president says, beaming.
“Alright…alright…hold on now. Let’s get serious: It’s time to ask: WWJCD?”
“What would Jesus Christ do?” Gibbsy says, his mouth suddenly closed, the drool gone, his eyes wide, as if he’s just heard the craziest thing ever.
“NO!” The president shouts. “Gibbsy, how many times do I have to tell you? We don’t say that name anymore. WWJCD stands for: What Would Jimmy Carter Do?”
“Yeah, maybe. But here’s the thing.” The president lowers his voice, almost to a whisper, as if people who voted for him were nearby and wouldn’t like what he was about to say. “You know, I read the other day the economy in Washington is booming, that unemployment has shrunk to 5.6%, that college grads are shunning Wall Street and coming here instead.”
“Well, sir. That’s because about half of the jobs you’ve ‘saved or created’ are government jobs,” Rhambo says, hissing.
“I know,” the president says, smiling. He’s so pleased his ears seem to wiggle. Not for the first time since I’ve been here, I resist the urge to bite one. “That’s my point. Why don’t we just take a stake in everything?”
Life starts to color Rhambo’s cold-blooded, dead-fish face. He smiles, his forked tongue curling with delight.
“Why don’t we just go out and force the public and private business that are on the brink of collapse -- which is pretty much everyone, at this point -- into government protection. Let’s forget about small numbers, like a few million. Let’s save and create 150 million jobs through government takeover.” The president, so pleased with his plan, stands and smacks his hands together, the loud POP! jolting Biden awake, who’d fallen into a bit of a nap, his Family Circle apparently too deep for afternoon reading.
“The only thing that’s still not clear to me is how are we going to pay for it all.” The president looks way in thought.
“PAY?” Geithner and Rhambo and Biden and even Gibbsy (normally a little slow on the uptake) all say, in unison before starting a chorus of laughter (real, this time).
“Opportunity,” the president finishes and smiles like a loon.
I shake my head, pretending I have an itch in one of my ears. You simpleton megalomaniac, I think. You’re digging your own political grave, and taking the country down with you. Out of the side of one eye, I see TOTUS in the corner, wobbling back and forth, so violently, now, I don’t even have to turn my head all the way around to see his screen: