It was a dreary October afternoon. Inside the Oval Office, a million things seemed to be happening in preparation for a visit from the outgoing president of Western Baklavia. Bowing to criticism about the excessive role the First Lady had in the day to day affairs of the country, the President himself was engaged in a high-level meeting with the Secretary of the Exterior to determine whether or not more roses should be planted in the Presidential Rose Garden.
Waldo Tripper set the book down on his desk and chuckled. “Where do they get this stuff? I just love political spoofs.”
“Sir, that was Time magazine.”
“Yes, well, anyway, very funny stuff. What simple problems they present. Planting more roses . . . ” Waldo shook his head and chuckled. “Of course, you can never have too many roses. Then again, everyone’s so damned budget-conscious these days. But damn it!” He slammed his fist down on the desk. “You can’t let the home of the leader of the free world get run down and dilapoduted . . . dilpilitoried . . . dilipid . . . shabby.” He turned to his assistant, sitting at the right-hand corner of his desk. “Where’s our gardener?”
“We don’t have a gardener, sir. That’s an elitist term. Only rich people have gardeners.”
“But I am rich! I’m the President, for god’s sake.”
“No, sir, you’re powerful. Bill Gates is rich.”
Waldo sighed and nodded. “Then, what do we do? Who do we call?”
“We call in a Horticultural Engineer.” Waldo looked puzzled.
“Good. Get me one of those.”
And so it went. The tremendous responsibilities of being a post cold-war
president: to plant or not to plant, what to call the help, who to invite for dinner
. . . Or was it whom? Sometimes it seemed unending. Most of the time, Waldo
felt up to it. Today, however, he was out of sorts. He’d had a late session with
Dr. Vladmost exploring his outer aura and biorhythmic ultraviolet consciousness,
and to top it all off, he wasn’t sure where Skippy was. He wasn’t worried, of
course. Being the First Lady, Skippy knew her name and address, as well as
those of several other good friends, and usually found her way home eventually.
“Look at this. They named all the characters the same as us. Can they do that? Isn’t that slander or something?”
“Sir, that’s Newsweek.” Waldo’s assistant picked up some papers and began moving toward Waldo’s chair. “Sir, can we go over these budget figures for next year?”
“No, sir, Next year. 2006.”
“Oops. Leap years always confuse me.”
This was nothing new, of course. Most things confused President Waldo,
as he was known. This was a very complex world he had to deal with. There
were no easy answers to the questions he pondered. Why is there poverty in
the world? How do we provide for our citizens and still balance the budget?
What the hell is a horticultural engineer? And, if Mary is four times as old as
John, who was 93 1/4 times older than Emily 45 years ago, how old is Theresa’s
step-mother-in-law twice removed? Thank heavens he had majored in Eastern
European Poetry in college. He had a good excuse for not understanding that.
“Ok, let me look this over. Ok. Defense 65%. Transportation 5%. Social Spending 10%. Snacks 1%. Done.”
“Sir, that’s only 81%. And we can’t spend 1% of the federal budget on snacks.”
“Why? That’s not so much. ”
“Sir, that would be several hundred million dollars. Who are these snacks for?’
“Oh, ok. Well, you handle it, then. What do I pay you for?”
“To assist you.”
“Well,” Waldo brushed his hands away from him, “then assist. Take care of it.”
“Yes, sir. Would you at least sign the budget before I leave?”
“Yes, yes. Alright. Now, go away and assist me with something.” The young man began walking out of the Oval Office, muttering something to himself about eight years of college and an MBA. This job was not as glamorous as his friends and family thought. It was as if he were running the country himself, but without all of the privilege. Eric paused and raised his eyebrow thoughtfully. “As if I were running the country myself. Hmmmm.” Waldo called after him. “And go get some more Oreos. We’re out.”
Suddenly, a tall thin man with greying hair and a greying suit burst into the office. “Mr. President, we have a major crisis brewing!”
“Are we invading Honduras again? I’m so bored with Central America. Let’s invade someone fun, like France.”
“They’re our ally, sir.”
“No challenge. They still haven’t even found all their missile silos.”
“Later, Sir. Right now, we have a major domestic crisis.”
“Oh, I know all about that, Don.”
“Of course, you do.” Don felt humbled, miffed at himself for not realizing that the President would be on top of things. Even if he was a little out of sorts today from that weird biorhythm exam, this was still The President of the United States, and naturally he would be monitoring things.
“Yes, and I sent Eric out for some more Oreos.”
Don sighed. There were times when he wondered. He wondered how this country had limped along for the past three years. He wondered if Waldo would, by some fluke, be re-elected. He wondered when Eric would be back with the Oreo Cookies. “Sir, this is a little more serious. There’s a high level scandal brewing. Some key members of Congress have been allowing presidents of major corporations onto the floor to cast votes for them.”
“Well, tell them to get up.”
“Sir, this is a major breech of public trust.”
“Who is involved?”
“Several of the oil companies and fast food franchises. Don’t you see the implications of this? Can’t you see the headlines: ‘Ronald McDonald votes against tax increases.'”
“Ah, hell, Don. I can’t do anything with this government, especially with Congress. Let’s face it, they’re all just a bunch of clowns anyway.” Waldo giggled, proud of his quick-thinking witticism. A life without humor was not worth living. Even if you were The President of the United States. “If Ronald McDonald can help, more power to him.” Waldo leaned forward and pressed the intercom button. “Eric, get Ronald McDonald on the phone.”
“What should we do?” Don queried, trying to keep Waldo on task.
“Invest, Donald, Invest. Take stock in America. The American People are the shareholders of the greatest corporation in the world! We’ll consolidate, sell to these companies, give them a real controlling interest.”
It wasn’t like the government hadn’t been accused already of being owned by corporations. But this was a constitutional crisis that Waldo was talking about. Bigger than the Teapot Dome, Watergate, or Whitewater. As Don contemplated the action he should take, he saw Waldo, quietly but exuberantly dancing across the room, chanting ‘E Pluburius Newman’ and singing ‘Doo-doo, blue suede shoes’. “He’s finally gone over the edge,” Don thought.
Just then everything came to a halt. The First Lady came bursting into the Oval Office, her arms full with shopping bags and announced “We’ll never balance the budget now!” Eric came running in after her and shouted “Mr. President, I’ve got your Oreo cookies.” Another crisis averted. For the moment.