Obama Goes Bi-Partisan: A Play in One Disastrous Act.
(THE SCENE: PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA's war room. The mood is grim and determined. OBAMA's most trusted advisers are in the sleek, modern chamber. As we look around, we see DAVID PLOUFFE, DAVID AXELROD, VALERIE JARRETT, ROBERT GIBBS and BILL BURTON, all with their game faces on. They are, of course, discussing the stunning loss of the Senate seat formerly held by TED KENNEDY, and their strategy going forward. OBAMA is smoking moodily, while the rest of the team struggles valiantly to try not to cough. JARRETT has a tiny fan blowing at her seat; as the one who has known OBAMA the longest, she is allowed to show discomfort with his habit.)
PLOUFFE: Well, clearly, our mistake in Massachusetts was to let that WOMAN run.
ALL (with clenched teeth, a la "Newman!" on Seinfeld): Coakley!
PLOUFFE: Yeah, COAKLEY. What an incompetent fool she was. How dare she blame us for sticking her with unpopular policies on Afghanistan and health care! Afghanistan isn't in Fenway Park, ya know.
AXELROD (smiling): Good one, Plouffie! (sighing) We do have to face reality, though - we don't have the (air quotes) "60 votes we need" to pass the Senate bill. That's the bill we really want, not the House bill, which, as we know, taxes the wealthy instead of the middle class.
BURTON: Um, Dave? Hate to interrupt and all, but I don't understand why we don't want to tax the wealthy. Seems like a good idea to me. Didn't Bill Clinton do that in the first year of his Presidency? And didn't it turn the economy around pretty quickly? (smiling proudly) If I recall correctly - and I do - that bill passed without a single Republican vote.
OBAMA (annoyed): Jesus, Bill, sometimes I have no idea why I keep you around. If Clinton did it, it was BAD, not good. Remember? Reagan good, Clinton BAD. Do I have to embroider it on a throw pillow for you?
BURTON (chastened): S-s-sorry, Mr. President. I'll try to keep that in mind.
AXELROD (standing, even more annoyed than OBAMA): Yes, Bill, do try to keep the interruptions to a minimum. (pacing) Anyway, the Senate bill is deader than Pelosi's forehead. We've got to regroup and respin. We've got to get the 2008 magic back! And by the way, Bob and Val, way to stay on message on Fox yesterday. What the hell were you thinking?!
JARRETT (defensively): We weren't off-message! We were just saying we don't know what's going to happen.
AXELROD (at the front of the room, sternly): Politics 101, Valerie - NEVER let 'em see you sweat.
(He looks up, composing his thoughts.)
GIBBS (whispering to JARRETT): Wasn't that a slogan for anti-perspirant? Does this guy ever say anything original?
(JARRETT stifles a laugh.)
AXELROD (back on track): All right, so our next move is to take control of the 2010 Congressional campaigns. Clearly, we can't trust the state Parties to do anything right. If they can lose in Massachusetts, they can lose ANYWHERE. And folks, we have some tough races coming up.
PLOUFFE: We're all on board, Dave. What's the strategy?
AXELROD: Well, first, we're going to dust off the campaign speeches from 2008. Barack has already started to talk about being a Washington outsider and a warrior for the people. That went over pretty well, so we're going to keep doing it. Next, we're going to run against Bush, just like we did in 2008. Finally, we're going to identify the weak Democratic candidates, and primary them with our own picks, like we're doing in New York with Harold Ford and Andrew Cuomo. What do you think?
(A brief silence greets these words of wisdom. Then, one by one, the team starts applauding. Soon, a standing ovation has erupted in the room.)
AXELROD (after the applause has died down): Thank you, thank you. Now, you all know what you have to do: Stay on message. We are going to prevail on health care, the economy and job creation. The Republicans just want to go back to the ways of Dubya, the Worst President Ever. We are the ones we've been waiting for. Yes we can! Now go out there and kick some Republican ass!
(THE TEAM, minus AXELROD and OBAMA, files out of the room, energized. OBAMA remains, deep in thought, and finally stubs out his cigarette.)
OBAMA: You know, Dave, some of this worries me just a little bit. What if people figure out that I've been President for a year and I've continued Bush's policies in almost every respect? And that I'm planning to make deep cuts in the most cherished Democratic programs in history - Medicare and Social Security - under the guise of deficit hawkism? And that I have no plan to create jobs or invest in Main Street at all? Hell, I even kept Robert Gates on as Secretary of Defense! Could I BE any more like Bush?
AXELROD: Well, not for lack of trying, Mr. President!
(The two men share a laugh.)
AXELROD (walking behind OBAMA and massaging his shoulders): Look, this strategy is bound to succeed. Massachusetts was a fluke. The Republicans are totally dead as a brand - they're split down the middle between the fundie whackjobs like Huckabee and Sarah Palin, and the tax cut/strong defense crowd like McCain and Gingrich. My money's on the fundie whackjobs to put up someone like Huckabee for President in 2012. What sane person will vote for him? Are you telling me the Independents are gonna go for a guy who fried squirrel in a popcorn popper? Come on, you've got it made in the shade. And hey - if you get a bunch of Republicans in 2010, they're gonna love your policies anyway, since they're so (air quotes) "bi-partisan." It's a win-win situation, really!
OBAMA (cheered up): You know what, Dave, you're right as always. Everything's gonna be fine. (OBAMA stands up, prepares to exit the room, then turns around) But wait! What about the national security vote? Can't have those soccer moms realizing how much my policies are hurting poor women. They might start giving a shit!
AXELROD (after a beat): Well, we can always have Osama release another tape.
OBAMA (grinning): You think of everything, Dave. See you this weekend at golf!
AXELROD (grinning back): You betcha!
(AXELROD makes sure OBAMA has left, then speed-dials on his iPhone. He puts it on speaker.)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE: Hello?
AXELROD: Rove? Ax here.
ROVE (smiling audibly): Davie-boy. How'd the meeting go?
AXELROD: Great, Karl, just great. Obama's clueless and so is the rest of the team. Your guys are set for 2010 and 2012.
ROVE: I knew I could count on you, Ax. Hey, um...the check's in the mail.
(A beat, then both strategists roar with laughter.)
AXELROD (wiping his eyes): Damn, Karl, you are hilarious! So, who's it going to be, Mitt or Bobby?
ROVE (waggishly): Now, that would be telling, Davie-boy. Let's just say, you're going to love him!
AXELROD: And so is my Swiss bank account. Later, Karl!
ROVE: Later! And here's to many more years of (you can hear the air quotes) "bi-partisanship."
AXELROD: Ken y'hi ratzon!
Cross-posted at The Widdershins