Bow-wow. You can call me Bo. I’m President Shoutout’s family mutt, a Portuguese water dog with curly black hair. My real name isn’t Bo, but I’m not telling you my real one. Bo is fine. It’ll do anyway. Took the White House brain trust four months to come up with it — you wouldn’t believe the names they actually considered. Let’s just say that “Alinsky” was a contender until Axelrod said “why don’t you just name it ‘Arafat’ and kiss off flyover country for 2012?” Yeah, he called me “it.” Axelrod’s a real sweetheart. Barry’s chief political advisor, which means he spent the whole presidential campaign sending candygrams to the press corps so they wouldn’t do their job. He could have accomplished the same thing with a Hershey bar stolen from an orphan’s Halloween bag. I got his number. Axelrod smells like cabbage and tries to kick me when Barry’s not looking.
Right now, I’m sitting in the Oval Office with Barry, Axelrod and Chief of Staff and resident kneecapper, Rahm Emanuel, while the three chumps cool their heels in the waiting room. Barry’s staring out the window, going JFK on us, trying to figure out which precise upward angle of the chin registers that weary-but-resolute toughness that the press corps laps up. If he sticks that jaw up any higher he’s going to drown in a drizzle if you ask me, but the pose does seem to bring a flush to the freshly sculpted cheeks of Andrea Mitchell.
Have I mentioned that I’m a conservative? Yeah, I eat the kibble that the cook dumps in my bowl, but I can take care of myself. I killed a couple of squirrels a few weeks ago, just to prove that I don’t need handouts. I still eat the kibble though. This White House is Lib-Central; you don’t eat the kibble, they start thinking you’re uppity and snip-snip the soft and tender places. No thanks. It’s not so bad living here, but if I didn’t have a sense of humor, I’d throw myself under the wheels of the vice-presidential limo when Joe Biden’s doing donuts in the parking lot.
The three rubes? David Frum, David Brooks and Peggy Noonan, three GOP-approved media yappers. Pathetic. I can’t even tell the two Davids apart. Couple of constipated white guys who look like they got beat up a lot in junior high and never forgot it. One of them wrote some sappy article about how proud he was to have a president like Barry because he had a crisp crease in his trousers, but don’t ask me which one it was. Real genius. Yeah, next time let’s elect Mr. Blackwell president. He’s still alive, isn’t he? Peggy… she smells good, like mahogany and oranges, but she’s confusing. One minute she’s in a fugue state about Barry’s cool elegance, like he’s Fred Astaire with the nuclear football, the next she’s all weepy about teenagers who don’t know who Ronald Reagan was, and how just yesterday she was talking to an old friend about the delicious chocolate macaroons they served at this little shop on Third Avenue back when Republicans didn’t raise their voices, or nominate trailer trash for high office. You get the idea. Just another loony old broad with a column. Maureen Dowd without the desperation.
“Boss,” says Axelrod, “can we please call them in?”
Barry turns away from the window, rubbing his neck. The strain of that thrust-out jaw must be hard. “You think it’s time yet, pup?”
I sidle over and let him rub my ears. Barry hates making decisions.
Axelrod’s approach to the media is to hold up a chew-toy so they’ll walk on their hind legs. Offer them an exclusive interview with Barry and they’ll lick themselves with delight. Rahm prefers to smack their snouts with a rolled-up newspaper.
For all the nonsense written about Barry being the smartest guy on the planet, to me he looks like a guy who was weaned too early. Needy, if you catch my drift. That’s why people around him keep the praise machine cranked up. You don’t want to be around Barry when the applause stops, trust me. That’s where I come in. I’m supposed to be the family dog, but I’m always with Barry. Except for the Christmas trip to Hawaii, and you see how that turned out. We dogs have been running this same we-love-you scam for ten thousand years on you people, and it never gets old.
“So what do you think I should do, pup?” says Barry.
“I agree,” says Barry. He gives Axelrod the frosty face. “Tell me again why I should bother with these three.”
“Tell us both,” says Rahm, cleaning his fingernails with a pocket knife, “because I don’t get it either.”
“Because they own some nice, ink-stained real estate, that’s why,” Axelrod explains patiently, droning on. “New York Times, Wall St. Journal –”
I bark. It makes Axelrod jump, which cracks Barry up.
“And they’ve been attacking Limbaugh and Beck,” continues Axelrod.
“Don’t need to worry about those two,” smirks Rahm. “I’ve got the FCC working on that.”
“Regardless of what the FCC does, Mr. President,” says Axelrod, and you can see Barry warm up at the mention of his title, straightening, like he’s at one of his Marine Corps photo ops. “Mr. President, these writers performed two critical functions in the last election cycle.” He held up a finger. “One, their infatuation with you dispelled any lingering doubts the independents had about electing a glib, inexperienced radical with no paper trail and a history of questionable friendships.”
“Don’t go talking about my pastor, okay?” snaps Barry.
“Or his ghostwriter,” adds Rahm. “Or the fisting Czar. Or…”
Barry looks at Rahm, his mouth all tight. “We are not amused.”
“Two,” said Axelrod, holding up two fingers. “They attacked Palin, just when she was catching fire, which gave the rest of the media carte blanche to go after her. Sure, Couric and Charlie Gibson bloodied her, but these three –”
“Is Gibson the one with the grandpa glasses or the talk show jerk who fools around with his staff?” wonders Barry.
“Charlie Gibson is the one with the half-bifocals,” says Axelrod, “which he used quite effectively to look down his nose at Palin –”
“You were paranoid about Yukon Barbie,” Rahm says to Axelrod. He finishes cleaning his nails and wipes the knife on his trousers. “She was no threat.”
“It’s all about enthusiasm, getting tushes in the voting booth,” relies Axelrod, his second chin jiggling with annoyance. “Palin excited the base. Fired them up. That’s dangerous. These three put out the fire in 2008, kept the base home on election day. We may need to use them again in 2012.”
Rahm snaps the knife shut. “Inviting them here shows weakness, and there’s been enough bowing and scraping lately.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asks Barry.
“You think Palin is going away?’ says Axelrod to Rahm. “Check the polling data. Oh, I forgot, you don’t believe in polls.”
“I believe in ACORN, and union goon squads, and secretaries of state who stay bought,” replies Rahm. “You pimp the votes, I’ll count them and we’ll see who comes out on top.”
“Mr. President,” begs Axelrod, “can we please call the three writers in?”
Barry was checking his reflection in the mirror. He does a lot of that. I’ve sat here on the carpet, right on the presidential seal, watching him practice his smile for hours. He’s always looking at himself. He misses a lot that way, doesn’t notice half of what’s going on around him, but say what you want, the man’s got great teeth.
“Mr. President,” prompts Axelrod, “can I summon the three writers?”
Nice touch, that summon. Axelrod knows how to work Barry. Usually, anyway. Not this time, though. For a moment, I think Barry’s finally hypnotized himself in front of the mirror.
Barry turns to Axelrod. “What do you think about the idea of raising the podium ten or twenty feet when I give the State of the Union address? I want to really tower over them.”
The blood drains from Axelrod’s face. Same thing happened a couple weeks ago when Barry said maybe he was going to wear a toga and a laurel wreath at his next press conference, or asked if there was a law that said he couldn’t be declared President for Life. “Well… that’s brilliant as usual, sir… but, perhaps –”
“Why don’t you give the State of the Union address while swinging on a trapeze over the chamber?” Rahm says, sourly. “You could wear red, white and blue tights.”
Barry shakes his head. “Red, white and blue… a little too jingoistic.”
“I think Rahm’s being sarcastic, Mr. President,” suggests Axelrod.
I growl at Rahm.
Barry pats my head as he glares at Rahm. “I agree with Bo.”
Rahm yawns. He and Barry, they go way back. I think Rahm knows stuff.
Barry nods. “Okay, Ax, give me the bullet points”
Axelrod checks his Blackberry. “Uh… right before the election, Brooks said that Palin represented ‘a fatal cancer to the Republican Party.’
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“Frum… he said… you have a superior intellect and first-class temperament.”
“Faint praise,” says Barry, scratching behind my ears. “You could say the same thing about Bo here.”
“Send them home,” says Rahm. “Tell them you’re going to work on your jump shot instead. These media trash, the more you abuse them, the more they like it.”
“Uh,” said Axelrod, ” Frum also said he was ‘truly frightened by the collapse of support for the Republican Party by the young and the educated.” He sniffs through that funny nose of his. “The implication being, that if you have more than three teeth and a job that doesn’t require wearing a paper hat, then you best vote for Obama.”
“Bitter dropouts clinging to their guns and their god,” says Barry, watching himself in the mirror. “You believe I got criticized for saying that?”
“Uh…” says Axelrod, “Peggy Noonan tossed you a real bouquet in her Christmas column, sir, she’s definitely back on the reservation.”
“I don’t appreciate the racial slur,” says Barry, distracted by his reflection. “Native American casinos are some of our biggest donors. Besides, it makes you sound like a damned cracker.”
“My apologies, Mr. President,” says Axelrod. A single bead of sweat rolled down his forehead and hung off the tip of his nose.
“My point is that my outreach to Noonan has been very successful. Her Christmas column was a gushathon of love from anonymous White House staffers, one of whom…” He read from his Blackberry: “the president still has this amazing ability to tune out the noise from Washington, read the letters from the people, listen to their concerns, listen to his advisors, hear both sides, absorb all the information, and make the decision that he honestly feels is right for the country.”
Barry laughs. “You’re kidding me, right?”
Rahm’s laughing too.
“No, Mr. President,” says Axelrod, the bead of sweat vibrating on the end of his nose.
“Somebody really said that?” asks the Master. “It wasn’t one of her imaginary friends?”
“She called her source “an accomplished young man,” says Axelrod.
“That’s what she called you during the run up to the coronation,” says Rahm.
Axelrod presses his earpiece, looks at Barry. “We have a situation at the South Gate, sir. Meghan McCain is demanding to be part of the group. She says she’s done as much for you as any of the other three, particularly, and I quote, ‘with the thong-and-bong electorate.'”
“Who’s at the gate?” asks Barry.
“Meghan McCain,” replies Axelrod. “John McCain’s daughter.”
“The guy from Die Hard?” said Barry. “He’s a Hollywood Republican, isn’t he?”
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“No sir, that was Bruce Willis playing the part of John McClane,” says Axelrod, sweat rolling off him now. “Senator John McCain, he’s kind of a Republican too. He was your opponent in 2008.”
“The old guy?” says Barry. “I remember him. He was nice to me, right?”
“A total gentleman, sir,” agrees Axelrod.
“A total gift,” Rahm cackles.
“There was a town hall for him in Ohio right before the election,” says Axelrod, “and a woman got up and she was in tears because she was afraid you were going to get elected—”
“Did you get her name?” barks Barry, his eyes suddenly like ice cubes.
“No… no, of course not,” stammers Axelrod.
“I did,” says Rahm, softly.
“The point, sir,” continues Axelrod, “is that when this woman said she was afraid of you, John McCain grabbed the microphone from her and announced to the crowd, his crowd, ‘I have to tell you, Sen. Obama is a decent person and a person you don’t have to be scared of as president of the United States.”
Barry grins. “You’re telling me my opponent endorsed me?”
“Well, sir, not –”
“See, Rahm, it’s just like I told you,” says Barry triumphantly, “there’s no such thing as enemies, there’s only poor, ignorant racists who haven’t recognized my unique position in the universe. Any day now Putin and Ahmadinejad and that Chinese dude who blew me off at Copenhagen, what’s his name?”
Rahm belches. They do that in Chicago.
I scratch at the door to the office. Let Meghan in, let Meghan in, please, please, please.
“This Meghan McCain’s daddy gave me his blessing,” says Barry, beaming. “That counts for something.” He snaps his fingers at Axelrod. “What are you waiting for?”
“You heard the man,” Rahm says to Axelrod. “Send in the rubes.”