President Barack Obama stands in front of the three-story brownstone somewhere in Brooklyn. He’s been to the Middle East, Paris after it was hit by terrorists, and a sushi joint in Moscow that gave him food poisoning, but never to Park Slope in his two terms as president. He braces himself as he pushes the buzzer for apartment 221B.
A NEWSMAN’S VOICE: The lock doesn’t work. Just come on up, Barack. Oh, and leave your buddies downstairs. This is an intimate gathering.
Obama nods to his Secret Service agents. They stand at attention as codename UNITER44 ascends the stairs.
Obama opens the door to the first apartment to the left. It’s a welcoming place. Artistic prints of Norman Rockwell and Ansel Adams line the walls. The apartment is cramped, cluttered, and goddamned honest — just how veteran newsman KARL DIGBY likes it.
Karl, seated at a card table, tips his cigar and snifter of brandy to the President.
KARL: So nice of you to join us, Mr. Hope-and-Change.
OBAMA: That was the 2008 me, Karl.
A VOICE FROM THE HALL: Well, as my daughter says, “I love the ‘00s.”
Suddenly, EX-PRESIDENT JED BARTLET walks in from the hallway, zipping up his fly from a trip to the efficient shared bathroom. He takes his seat across from Karl and picks up his cigar and brandy.
Karl has seen Fortune 500 CEOs, House Speakers, and foreign heads of state come into his bungalow seeking advice. But never before has he entertained two American Presidents at once. He handles it like an old pro.
KARL: Please have a seat, Barack. Just move that.
Karl motions to his bed, upon which a WOMAN’S RED NIGHTGOWN has been carelessly left. He and Jed share a smirk and a tip of the brandy snifter.
OBAMA: Kind of a small place for a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist, eh, Karl?
KARL: That’s rich coming from someone who’s been living in government housing for the past 7 years.
JED: We were just sitting here, veteran newsman to veteran politico, reminiscing about a friend we all lost yesterday.
KARL: To you, David Bowie, hopefully whatever galaxy you’ve gone to has some groupies, too. (Karl and Jed down their Brandys and immediately pour three more). But the Major Tom in you died a long time ago, no, Barack?
OBAMA: Now that’s not–
JED: Ground control, to Major Obama: your bipartisan Medicare compromise is burning up through the stratosphere.
OBAMA: Mr. President, I came here for–
KARL: Tell my wife I love her very much… Speaker Paul Ryan knows!
Karl and Jed clink their martini glasses together as Obama stands red-cheeked.
OBAMA: Very funny, gentlemen. Look, I came to you for advice about something serious.
KARL: Yeah, it’s your final State of the Union Address. Fourth and down in the fourth quarter.
JED: Hail Mary pass deep into Simpsons-Bowles territory.
KARL: Last chance at the golden ring of bipartisan compromise.
OBAMA: Enough with the sports talk, guys. I didn’t go to a football school like Notre Dame or Wellesley.
JED: Yeah, and that’s why you don’t get it. Have a seat, Barack. Just move that pair of Victoria’s Secret long johns one of Karl’s many friends seems to have carelessly left here.
KARL: Do you want to start a lost-and-found, Jed?
JED: So, we’re rude to our guest. What’s the problem, 44?
OBAMA: Well, 43, it’s my last State of Union. The Super Bowl of SOTUs. The biggest speech I’ll ever make in my life. I want to introduce market-based reforms for Medicare, but Paul Ryan thinks he’s Rex Ryan. I want to raise the retirement age, but Mitch McConnell is on my back like Vince Foster’s brain matter on the Potomac. I want to tell the Iraqis to get serious with ISIS, but the State Department is busier deleting more emails than Jennifer Lawrence.
JED: Hey, you want to walk and talk?
Obama slams a tall glass of brandy.
OBAMA: I’d rather take a seat.
Obama sets down his tulip glass of IPA.
KARL: Just set aside those peppermint-flavored dental dams.
Obama sits down.
OBAMA: So what do you have to tell me?
JED: First of all, you need to accept the unfortunate truth that the American people elected you with a mandate to lead, not to listen. This is your final address, and your last chance to show the people the leadership they want.
KARL: Hey, Jed. You just served one Presidency, I’ve covered five of them. Let me handle this. (to Obama🙂 With all due respect, Mr. President, here’s where you’re at. You’re the starting quarterback, on the honor roll, the student body president, but you’re waiting for the prom queen to ask you out. That, Barack, is not how leadership works. You have to let these people know, yes, I am better than you. Yes, I’m smarter. Yes, you should listen to what I have to say.
OBAMA: But the weblogs will go after me like I proposed making selfies a felony.
JED: Keystrokes aren’t votes, POTUS.
OBAMA: 4th quarter.
JED: 4th down, 4th and inches.
KARL: 2 minutes left.
ALL AT ONCE: Perfect.
KARL: Barack, you came into office on a wave of hope and change. Then what happened? You put away that magic pixie dust and surrendered to the extremists in your party who forced you to sign a stimulus bill with more pork than Fidel Castro’s quinceañera. You need to drag that soaring rhetoric out of storage and use it to inspire the American people again.
OBAMA: How do I do that when the NRA is blocking gun control?
JED: How about you get Wayne LaPierre into the Oval Office and say this to him: “And they will take their swords and beat them into plowshares.”
OBAMA: That’s beautiful. Who said that? Elizabeth Warren?
JED: It was Jesus Christ, Matthew 14:5.
KARL tosses Obama a copy of the New Testament.
KARL: Alright QB, you’re starting Tuesday.
OBAMA: Wouldn’t have it any other way.
KARL chugs his bottle of vodka. He lights a cigar and immediately puts it out.
KARL: How are you feeling, 44?
OBAMA: Fired up, and ready to go!
OBAMA and JED BARTLET put out their cigars and stand at attention, crisply saluting the genius journalist KARL, who gives the victory sign.
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at [email protected] or Tweet to @carl_diggler.