I read the news today, oh boy. A newspaper headline blared, “Obama Blinks on Jobs Speech.” The Associated Press reported that Obama wanted to deliver his long-awaited jobs speech to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday night, but House Speaker John Boehner refused him permission to speak on the day of his choosing. This move was unprecedented; until now, no Congress had ever rejected such a presidential request. Boehner told Obama that Thursday night – the televised start of the football season – would be more convenient for Congress. Naturally, Obama blinked. He said yes to Thursday night.Meanwhile, in an absurdist parallel universe, let’s read the news:Sept. 1, 2011WASHINGTON (Disassociated Press) – President Obama, invoking what he called “a spirit of reasonableness, comity, and transparency,” met publicly yesterday with House Republican leaders, and members of a newly formed Republican super committee, to negotiate the terms of his proposed appearance before a joint session of Congress. Hours later, Obama announced that a “fair deal” had been reached.The day began when House Speaker John Boehner and his deputy, Eric Cantor, hand-delivered a letter of demands to Obama. The text of the letter, leaked earlier to the press, appeared to indicate that the leaders would hold his appearance hostage unless he agreed to all the proposed terms. Boehner and Cantor denied any such intent, but said that the terms “clearly reflect the will of the American people.”In the letter’s key passage, Republicans wrote: “We respectfully agree to let the president speak to a joint congressional session on the night of our choosing, but only on the condition that he wear a ‘Kick Me’ sign on the backside of his suit. This sign shall be no less than 12 inches square, and the ‘Kick Me’ slogan shall be written with a black Sharpie Marker in letters no less than 8 inches high. We welcome the president to our House, and look forward to his acceptance of our stipulation.”Flanked by Boehner and Cantor at the negotiation session, the president told the press pool, “Compromise is important in our democracy, and reasonable people can always come to an agreement. However, my friends’ proposal does seem a bit excessive. Therefore, I would greatly prefer that the sign on my back be no more than 8 inches square, and that the letters be no more than four inches high.”Obama then invited Boehner to comment. “Thank you, Mr. President, for your input,” he said. “However, I do have concerns that four-inch letters might be too small for the cameras. But we’d be willing to meet your request if you would also be willing to wear a pinwheel hat with an attached twirling propeller.”Obama replied, “I am encouraged by your willingness to negotiate. It reflects the fact that, in American, we can accomplish whatever we set out to do. But rather than having me wear a pinwheel hat, would it perhaps be acceptable to the Speaker if I instead wear my Chicago White Sox cap?”Boehner frowned. Cantor, seated on the other side of Obama, caught Boehner’s eye. The Republican leaders leaned in front of Obama and whispered heatedly at each other. Finally Boehner addressed Obama: “Yes to the Sox cap, as long as you wear it sideways. Nevertheless, the American people insist that if you persist in wearing only a small ‘Kick Me’ sign, and if you persist in refusing the pinwheel hat, then you should accede to one new condition. The American people demand that high-definition TVs be installed on the House floor, so that Republicans can watch football during your speech. Thursday night, after all, is NFL opening night. Show some respect, Mr. President.”Obama called a 10-minute break, and left the room to huddle with his advisers. Republicans complained that the president was stalling “at a time when the American people want action.” Boehner told the waiting reporters, “We’re trying to reach a speedy agreement here. The president needs to understand the compromises we have already made within our caucus. Joe Wilson, our colleague from South Carolina, wanted to print up posters saying, ‘You Lie.’ We told him no. Several others proposed a drinking game that would be keyed to the president’s use of the word ‘jobs.’ We told them no. Others wanted to bring spitballs. We told them no. Others wanted him to wear a bag over his head, but we said no to that as well, because that might have detracted attention from the ‘Kick Me’ sign. We eagerly await the president’s speedy return to this room, as do the American people.”The president was gone for 20 minutes, during which time the Republican super committee members tweeted their outrage. When all parties resumed their seats, Obama said: “Football is as American as my flag pin, so of course I say yes to the high-definition TVs. However – “Boehner and Cantor rolled their eyes in exasperation.” – However, I would respectfully request that the football game volume be no louder than 30 percent.”Boehner replied, “If the president persists with his demands, then we propose one new condition. In exchange for our agreeing to keep the TV volume at 30 percent, and our agreeing to his request for a smaller ‘Kick Me’ sign – don’t forget, the black Sharpie marker, Mr. President! – and our agreeing to his desire to wear his White Sox cap sideways, we will let him use our House chamber, yes. But only if he agrees in advance to sign a pledge to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich in perpetuity.”Obama pondered for a moment. Then, nodding affably, he declared: “There it is, our grand compromise! I am so pleased. I look forward to seeing you next Thursday night in the House chamber. However, in the spirit of our renewed bipartisan friendship, there’s one last thing.”Boehner and Cantor masked their glares with frozen smiles. They waited.”I never actually ‘desired’ to wear my Sox cap sideways. So would it please be all right if I wore it facing forward?”The Republican leaders hesitated. Grudgingly, they nodded.”Thank you, gentlemen,” the president proudly declared. “Because, as all Americans know by now, there are some lines in the sand I refuse to cross.”
But seriously, folks. My newspaper column deals today with federal disaster relief and the Ebenezer Scrooge ethos.
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