An Obamamas Carol: A Play in One, Er, Heartwarming Act.
THE SCENE: The White House, the President's bedroom. BARACK and MICHELLE OBAMA are sleeping in the ornate four-poster bed, snoring in tandem, wearing their traditional matching silk monogrammed pajamas (in festive red to honor the season, of course). Adorably, their matching cream sleep masks are also monogrammed; his reads "I'm Hers" and hers reads "He's Mine." (Awwww!) The fire in the fireplace has burned down to embers.
All of a sudden, smoke whooshes from the fireplace. Sparks dance mysteriously in the air as a ghostly call echoes through the room.
A GHOSTLY VOICE: Baaaaaaarrrrrraaaaaaacccccccccccck! Wake uuuuuuuuuuuuuup!
(BARACK snurfles, then opens his eyes. He nudges MICHELLE.)
BARACK: Hey, honey. Wake up! I think I heard something. Did you hear something?
(MICHELLE, blissfully snoring, doesn't respond at all.)
GHOSTLY VOICE: Sheeeeee caaaaaaan't heeeeeear youuuuuuu, Baraaaaaaaaack!
(BARACK sits up in bed, startled.)
BARACK: What the hell! Who's there? I - I warn you, the Secret Service is right outside that door, and they are authorized to use deadly force!
GHOSTLY VOICE (materializing into more solid form): Secret Service?! Nonsense. In my day, I kept a Winchester under my bed. And of course, Eleanor was a VERY light sleeper.
(As BARACK stares in amazement at the fireplace, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) steps out of the whirling smoke. He is young, in his full glory, with his trademark stogie in his mouth. BARACK's eyes are huge as his mouth breaks into his well-known, charming smile.)
BARACK (thrilled): Oh my goodness. Could it really be - one of our greatest Democratic Presidents of the 20th Century? (puzzled) But wait - this is a dream, isn't it? I mean, no offense, Mr. President, but you've been dead for quite some time. (smiles) Although, for a ghost, you're looking mighty vigorous indeed.
FDR: Thank you, Mr. President. (somewhat pompously) And yes, it is I, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, four-term Democratic President and creator of the New Deal. (in a more normal tone) As you correctly surmised, sir, I am indeed a mere specter of my former self. But this is no dream - at least, not an ordinary dream. For I am also...(even more dramatically) the Ghost of Christmas Past!!!!
BARACK: Um, what? (leaning back in disappointment) Damn, is this that stupid Scrooge crap all you white people love so much?
FDR (a bit embarrassed): Er, um, yes, young man, it is. (determined) Now, take your medicine like a good President. This is where I wave my hand and we're transported into the past...past...past...
(FDR waves his arm as promised, and the scene dissolves into the Washington of Christmas, 1932. He is seated in his comfortable townhome by the fireplace with his wife, ELEANOR. The decor is comfortably rustic, with matching leather wingchairs and mahogany sidetables next to them. FDR is poring over papers in preparation for his inauguration.)
FDR (shaking his head in amazement): ELEANOR, my God! I can't believe what a mess Hoover left me! People are living in tents. Unemployment is through the roof. No one trusts the banks, and the business community is dying. Even worse, older people are starving to death. That's an outrage, isn't it, darling? After working all their lives, they are living on cat food and dying in the streets!
ELEANOR: It's just awful, Franklin. Just awful!
FDR: I - I don't even know where to start. How can I make Americans believe in their government again, when we have done such a terrible job safeguarding their interests?
ELEANOR (walking behind him and putting her hands on his shoulders): Franklin, you are a good man. Trust your instincts. Think about putting to people to work, the way you did when you were Governor. Just try something - anything - but do it FAST.
FDR (pensively): Yes, it must be quick or we will lose the people for good. (brightening up) Yes, you've got something there, ELEANOR! Maybe I can do what I did in New York, just on a larger scale. And we'll help out the banks, just so that people will feel safe again. Oh! And we'll take care of the older people, and the Negroes, too.
OBAMA (interrupting, disbelievingly): NEGROES?!
(The historical tableau freezes.)
FDR (abashed): Yes, er, sorry about that, young man. Different times, different times. Just watch the nice show, now.
OBAMA (muttering rebelliously): This sucks. (in a normal tone of voice) Hey, Mr. President - can I smoke?
FDR: No! I'M the one with the cigar, not you! (muttering) Is he kidding me? (in a normal tone) You may resume, Christmas Past.
(The tableau unfreezes.)
FDR (getting excited): We'll have a Hundred Days program. We'll get as much through Congress as we possibly can - we'll spend as much as we can print. It'll be awe-inspiring!
ELEANOR: Franklin, dear - don't forget what you promised me about appointing women, now. Frances Perkins would be a wonderful Labor Secretary.
FDR: Of course, ELEANOR, of course. It's done! (his eyes are alight) This will be the greatest experiment in the history of our country. We'll call it -- The New Deal.
(The tableau fades out.)
FDR (smiling proudly): And, as you know, America flourished under my care for the next 16 years. The New Deal was a resounding success. I kept my promise to older people and created Social Security. I created good jobs with the WPA. My administration was friendly to women. I laid the groundwork for the United Nations. Hell, I even got us through the second World War! Beat that, Mr. Nobel Peace Prize! (reminiscing) Believe me, Congress did NOT want me to get involved in that. It took the Japs bombing Pearl Harbor to --
OBAMA (interrupting): Uh, um, thanks, Mr. President. Thanks very much for the lesson. I get it - the people come first, not the banks. And we need to get things done fast and all that shit. Right? I guess it's time for the Christmas Present Ghost to show up now, huh?
FDR (glaring at OBAMA): Yes, it is, young man. And I certainly hope he receives a better welcome than I did! (Deeply offended, FDR disappears in a swirl of smoke.)
OBAMA: Thank God. What a blowhard! I wonder who's going to bore me next?
(The Ghost of Christmas Present, MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., materializes behind OBAMA.)
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.'S GHOST: That...would be me.
OBAMA (turning, embarrassed): Oh! I apologize. I, uh, didn't see you there, Dr. King.
MLK (in his unmistakeable cadence): I'm not surPRISED, Barack. I'm not surPRISED at all. You seem to have forgotten exactly what it MEANS to be a BLACK MAN in AMERica. Show him, Lord. Show him the way!
(The next tableau appears. It's all black men and women; black men in jail due to punitive drug laws, black women poor and alone, trying to raise their families; black people losing their jobs, living in their cars, in shelters...you get the idea. It's a parade of such human misery as to grow the Grinchiest heart a couple of sizes.)
OBAMA (with fake empathy): Dr. King, that is terrible, just terrible. And I can pledge to you that I will do everything in my power to help the African American community. (switching on his campaign mode) You know, sir, you may not have heard this, but I was born the son of a Kenyan man -
MLK (rolling his eyes): And a Kansas woman. Yes, yes, Barack, I know. I KNOW about your BACKGROUND. But what in the name of the LORD does that have to do with the POVERTY of BLACK PEOPLE in AMERica?
OBAMA (thrown off his rhythm for the first time in a long time): Uh, er, um...it makes me, like, post-racial?
MLK (thundering): Post-RACIAL? Who the HELL do you think you're TALKing to? There ain't no "post-racial" in AMERica, son. They KILLED me for trying to bring PEACE and JUStice to the BLACK MAN. They KILLED me for helping to END segreGATION. They KILLED me for trying to end the WAR that was MURDERING our sons and daughters. They KILLED me for talking about economic inJUSTICE. MY Peace Prize was a REFLECTION of my ACTIONS on behalf of my PEOPLE.
(OBAMA, shaken, has a tear in his eye.)
MLK: (more quietly) Because of my efforts, Barack, you are President today. Never forget the ones who came before you. And you must take care of your brothers and sisters. (building up to a crescendo again) You must STOP taking their hard-earned pay and THROWING it away on GREED, corRUPtion and WAR. You must PROVIDE universal HEALTHCARE to them. You must END the war in Afghanistan. You must bring our people HOME to their families. You must HELP them stay in their HOMES, END the criminalization of BLACK MEN, and give them JOBS and PRIDE. Our people do not need a HANDOUT and a LECTURE, Barack; they need HELP. And YOU are the only one who can give it to them. YOU can save the day. YOU can be the CHANGE they can beLIEVE in! Say it with me now:
OBAMA AND MLK TOGETHER: AMEN!
(MLK disappears in a puff of smoke.)
OBAMA (thoughtfully, visibly moved): Huh. You know, I think he's right. I DO owe something to the American people, especially the African-American community. And that healthcare bill - who am I kidding? It's crap. It's not going to do a damn thing to help them. Maybe - maybe I should start with that. And what was that cigar-smoking fool saying about jobs? (searching for something to write with) Now where'd I put that Presidential pen of mine?
(The GHOST OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE materializes in a puff of smoke. It is - RONALD REAGAN.)
REAGAN: Now, now, young man, there you go again.
OBAMA (almost fainting): R-R-R-
REAGAN: Yes, it's me, the Great Communicator, the guy who transformed politics in America, so they say. What the hell do I know, I just read the lines. So, they elected a black guy President, huh? Americans'll do the craziest things!
OBAMA (breathless): Mr. President - sir - it is the greatest honor of my life to meet you. And I'm not bullshitting the way I was with FDR!
REAGAN (frowning): FDR? That troublemaker was here?
OBAMA (nodding eagerly): Yessir. Yessir. And, uh, ahem, someone else. Not important. Anyhoo, what have you come to teach me?
REAGAN: Son, I just wanted to let you know that you're doing great. Everything you're doing is exactly what I would have done, at least, in my first term.
OBAMA (giddy with relief): REALLY?
REAGAN (patting him on the shoulder): Oh, absolutely. Don't give it another thought! It was only in my second term that I realized I had to raise taxes a bit. But by then, I had already begun the process you're so skillfully continuing: instituting a state of continuous war, grabbing all the power I could get, making all my corporate friends fat and happy, and screwing those lazy welfare queens to the wall! No offense, of course.
OBAMA (sincerely): None taken!
REAGAN: Yup, and I also got the evangelicals to vote solidly Republican. I hear you're peeling off some of that voting bloc too. Good for you!
OBAMA (hugely relieved): Wow, President Reagan -
REAGAN: Call me Ronnie. Everybody does.
OBAMA: R-R-Ronnie. I have to say, before you arrived, this Christmas Carol crap was a serious downer. But now, I feel so good about myself. I'm obviously on the right track here, and I'm going to end up being just as popular and revered as you were!
REAGAN: If not more! Hey, they never gave ME a Peace Prize, although I was knighted by the Queen of England. Boy, that woman is short!
All right, it's almost morning. Great stuff, Barack, and Merry Christmas to Michelle and the kids! Ho ho ho!
(REAGAN disappears in a puff of smoke. OBAMA goes back to bed and slips his sleep mask on.)
OBAMA (blissfully): Best. Christmas Eve. EVER!