Obama War Room: Desperate Hours

OBAMA: Ryan’s the one who’s giving their caucus spine. And he still won’t budge?

VALERIE JARRETT: No, sir. His family . . . release them?

OBAMA: Not yet. Give it another day or two. Let Mrs. Ryan have formula for the baby, though.

BILL DALEY: What about Kucinich? He’ll block the House from doing anything that passes muster with Senate Democrats.

OBAMA: Get him on the horn.

[Daley dials, hands phone to President]

Hey Dennis, how ya doin’? Look, if the Boehner plan blows up in the House, we think we can get the Senate to swallow the Reid Plan. But first we have to get it through your chamber, and as long as you don’t . . . . Well, yes, I remember our discussion. [sighs] Yes, I agree to your terms. [hangs up]

DAVID PLOUFFE: What did you just promise him, sir?

OBAMA: On my next overseas trip, we’ll install a booster seat in Air Force One’s co-pilot chair, and he’ll pretend to fly the plane.

JARRETT: Well, that’s not too bad.

JOE BIDEN: I hate to bring it up, Boss, but I busted my butt with the Gang of Six, and uh, you said . . . .

OBAMA: A promise is a promise, Joe. I’ll notify the Secret Service that tomorrow morning, between 4:30 a.m. and 4:45 a.m., I’ll be temporarily unable to function as President because I’ll be unconscious, sleeping. You’ll have the helm, as promised. Try not to start a war.

DALEY: The Reid plan, sir? We need to get some Republican Senators on board.

OBAMA: Hmm . . . on board. Bill, reach out to Lugar, Snowe, Collins, Murkowski, and Brown. Tell them I respectfully demand their appearance at 8:00 p.m. aboard my Presidential Yacht, Alinsky, docked at the Gangplank Marina, 600 Water St SW.

DALEY: Um, there is no Presidential yacht any more, sir.

OBAMA: Yes, there is. I slipped it into a shipbuilding procurement bill last year. Just came in from the shipyard. Was supposed to be a surprise gift to Michelle for our anniversary. David, tell Research and Destroy I want updated folders on those Senators by 5:00. Tonight, I’m going on a shakedown cruise.

BIDEN: Schumer will try to sabotage the Majority Leader, Chief. Reid might lose votes in his caucus.

OBAMA: Order all Senate Democrats to appear for a private briefing tomorrow afternoon in the East Room.

JARRETT: Uh, sir. They’re really tired of listening to you tell them . . . .

OBAMA: Not me. I’ll ask Max Baucus in for lunch and drinks beforehand; he’ll speak for the Reid plan at the meeting.

DALEY: Sir, at the best of times, he goes on and on. How does that . . . .

OBAMA: When they’re assembled, the Chief Usher locks the doors. Only those who agree to vote “yea” for Reid may leave. Call it, “Baucus the Caucus.”

BIDEN: Good thinkin’, Boss. But how do we get Reid’s plan through Boehner’s House.

PLOUFFE: Here’s an idea: Pelosi demands a vote on Reid. Boehner agrees because he thinks he has the “nays,” which he does. Pelosi then submits the tally to the CBO to score, using the party breakdown from 2007 as a baseline. The numbers now favor us. Nancy runs the bill over to the Senate. It’s approved. Harry rushes it to the White House. You sign, sir. Done.

OBAMA: Hmm. “Tote the Vote.” Works for me.

DALEY: Uh, oh. Just got a text from Kucinich, sir. He’s upped the ante. Wants an August timeshare in the Residence while you and the family are vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard.

OBAMA: That . . . Munchkin. Say yes, but he brings his own sheets. John, how bad are my latest numbers?

ZOGBY: A majority thinks you’re to blame for the debt crisis, sir. And you’re now down 20 to Gingrich.

OBAMA: Must be because I’m not getting my message out. Jay, starting tomorrow, schedule press briefings for me on the hour, around the clock, until August 2nd. Right now, I need a break. Everybody wait here.

[enter First Lady ten minutes later]

BIDEN: Uh, Ma’m. Have you seen the Big O?

MICHELLE: In the Rose Garden, chain-smoking and crushing ants.

DALEY: Ants?

MICHELLE: He watches them, then crushes the ones heading either left or right. Those meandering aimlessly, he leaves alone. Some kind of simpatico thing. I’m worried about him.

BIDEN: Problem is, Ma’m, the debt ceilin’ brouhaha has him paralyzed. He strategeries pretty good, but at crunch time, he can’t bite the bullet and make a decision. Can you help?

MICHELLE: Maybe. [opens window, hollers] Hey. Get back in here right now. The dinnerware people just arrived. I want you to choose a pattern. You hear me, Barack?


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