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My Lunch with President-Elect Obama--The Meeting in the Annex

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My Lunch President-Elect Obama

A Fictive Essay of New Ideas

Ed Cowan

Part II

The Meeting in the Annex


I considered my lunch with Senator Obama on the 22 of November to have been a success. He had been generous with his time, had listened carefully to me, but had said very little himself. Days grew into weeks without contact. Based on the old salts popping up in his cabinet, I concluded that he had decided to go the other way. Just when I quit expecting a call, I got one asking me and two others from southern California to fly to Washington on an Air Force flight with space available the next day. My two companions were disgruntled, but I had flown space-available on military aircraft when I was in the service. I thought it clever of him, in this time of tight money, to fly us gratis on military aircraft.

A shuttle bus took us to downtown D.C., and I was picked up by a low-level staffer and taken to the large annex of a larger building, the name of which I never learned. I met two gentlemen seated on the far side of a conference table in a room not much bigger than the table. I leaned across and shook hands and learned the elder, around forty, was named Harry Eisen. The other lad was young and didn't say much after his first question.

"Do you mind, Mr. Cowan, if we record this session?" he asked as he pulled a mini-tape recorder and placed it on the table.

"Not at all, Ted," I replied, remembering only his first name. "I'm Ed," I added as I pulled my cassette player out of my briefcase and plugged it into the socket on my side of the conference table. I hit record and said, "We didn't last time, but I'm cool with it. Is the President-Elect coming?"

Noting that I was recording, I looked at Eisen, who answered, "Yes, he will be... shortly." His right hand waved toward the very big screen TV on the wall just beyond the table. "He's not here at this time, but he'll join us soon via the TV. I've read your book, and though I have some questions and some reservations, I must say, you certainly think big and have some... full-scale solutions. You go right to the heart of the matter... I like that."

His voice was sincere and his manner more so as he looked intently at me with a crooked smile. I smiled back and spoke with equal sincerity.

"Right. On any given problem, we need to step back, look at the whole problem, and then solve, resolve, or manage the entire problem in an intelligent way. Do it right and solve the whole problem completely."

"Well, you are consistent. And optimistic. Are the very large problems we confront really that manageable? Is it... that simple?"

I took my time in answering. "No, world problems aren't simple; they are impossible to solve if they aren't recognized, defined, and countered with positive action. We must keep the public process as simple as possible so people can read and follow it, but the process in solution will be vast, worldwide, in every nation. As I told the Senator, the printed text of the methods of solution to problem number one will probably total 30 railroad boxcars, yet the solution is simply stated: we want parity disarmament as we turn the Blue Helmets of the UN into the cops of the planet."

He took my words seriously, was considering them, unlike many who hear me talk so bluntly and want to laugh. He finally came out with what he had been trying to put in kinder terms and failed.

"Do you think America will go for that, sir?" he asked as he cocked his head with respectful skepticism.

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Ed Cowan attended high school and the University of Texas in Austin, getting his BA in English in 1964. In 1965 he moved to Vermont, became a writer, and spent ten years, most of it on the staff at Montpelier High School after manning a fire tower (more...)
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