Scene: The Oval Office
Time: Daily briefing with senior staff
Speaker: The President, perplexed, pacing, nodding
Let's talk politics today and re-election, no holds barred. I arrive here every morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, flush with my perpetual audacity of hope, but lately my dander is up. Maybe no one could preside over this warring country. But only 40% approval -- with our wave of legislative triumphs second in modern times to LBJ -- and under greater duress? Who'd predict only a year ago our re-election would be in doubt -- especially against this gang of has-beens, misfits, clowns, losers and wannabes? If I lacked my formidable self-esteem, I'd feel insulted [smiles, boyishly].
Look, I appreciate how staff plays to every audience -- Tea Party aside -- with a scattergun as wide as anything since Reagan. That's what made the Gipper impressive, capturing men and women, old and young, the right, the center, and blue collar Democrats. Chockablock with anti-government fanatics Reagan never knew, we must firmly stay the course we set from Day One -- talk Democratic, rule Republican.
Talk about a tightrope presidency, choosing the center yet besieged by extremes. When will grumbling leftwingers get why my being against the "dumb" Iraq war meant being gungho in Afghanistan? Push-pull is the key, encouraging all sorts of projections on our Rorschach regime. Don't critics appreciate our finesse, taking multiple sides on major issues but managing to escape the flip-flopper tag? Mitt Romney could learn from our success.
Yet we announce the Holy Grail -- withdrawal of U.S. troops from that interminable Iraqi quagmire -- and it barely ripples our positives. Isn't successful withdrawal a kind of victory? We've done well with our balancing act -- delivering a pro-peace, anti-war credo while executing a pro-peace, pro-war agenda. Likewise, we traditionally promote strong government stimulus, like a good Democrat, while assailing big deficits, a Republican talking point. Not everyone calls for taxing millionaires plus promises tax relief -- or pitches a modest jobs program knowing the House will never pass it. Finesse just doesn't win hearts and minds like it used to.
Being For It - and Against It
As Clinton proved twice, and we once, ideological fixations don't win national elections. Our stay here depends on regaining centrists -- and that means pillaging Republicans for knee-jerk, out-of-touch orthodoxy. Which frankly shouldn't be hard -- after all, their notion of political debate is which absurd flat tax they like best; or how high the wall with Mexico should be; or what terrifying terrorist country we must bomb next. Our core principles are unchanged: we stay devoutly non-ideological, in short seeming everything to everybody. Excluding nutcases beyond our ken. Here, friends, is today's pragmatic Obama credo -- we're not red states,nor blues states but only states that could go Democratic [smiles].
Is it thus such a mystery why we campaigned sharply against Bush rights violations, but in office had to match, even outdo him? Talk left, go right, and never look back. Doesn't the left appreciate that knocking off a few bad guys shows how tough we are? And terminating our own untried citizens, like a western film shootout, shows we're as tough as Cheney. Anything but looking "soft on crime," like Kerry or Dukakis, or in today jargon, "soft on terrorists." What Americans want, like it or not, are clear war cries against a looming enemy, not mere espionage or subterranean police work. Why, we're brave enough to take on liberal sacred cows -- one week defending Social Security and Medicare, the next week agreeing to reforms to save the country from budget Armageddon.
Item: need to countermand the "Obama campaign betrayals" mantra, justifying our compromises as positive, American pragmatism serving the majority. Romney shows it's better to be maligned as a socialist - easy to disprove that - than branded an unprincipled flip-flopper - impossible to disprove. Perry, too, cornered himself, endorsing a dreadful immigration stance that outrages the far right and moderate Hispanics. Apparently, these guys never studied my favorite mythological figure, the two-headed Janus who looks in multiple directions without blinking.
Item: need to get more credit for real overseas gains. Dramatic wins - like shooting down bin Laden, decimating terrorists with drones, and especially dethroning hated dictators - must be translated into homefield political leverage. You'd think 9/11 would have convinced voters the USA is not the whole world. Still work here to be done. Fortunately, we're running out of potential invasion sites so let's make the most of the cards we've been dealt.
Back-door Decoy Play
Item: need to offset nonsense we're "unfriendly to business." Right, with loans, contracts, credits, subsidies, war spending and research grants? Any more corporate-friendly, and I'd have to be listed on a dozen board of directors [another big smile]. One positive to the OWS is we can stop badgering banks, oil companies, and rich people as the enemy. Why risk our capital when protesters make the same point? We state we "fully understand" public anger without endorsement, and subsequent embarrassment. Good timing: the perfect backdoor decoy play.
Item: need environmental wins before the election. Luckily, we're holding our own, despite letting BP run its own Gulf clean-up, adding new roads to log public lands, lowering EPA pollution measures, while approving new offshore permits plus the Canada-Oklahoma pipe line. Fortunately, with Republicans sounding like unfeeling, predatory Robber Barons gagging on regulations, all we need are a few splashy headlines next year. Maybe a new national park, or national forest, and more alternative energy programs to add to the stable we have. Environmentalists cheer when you hand out crumbs.Finally, we must prepare for a curious problem -- that this presidency could be tarnished, made ordinary, by debating the likes of Herman Cain or Rick Perry. Remember how Biden evoked sympathy for Palin, followed with all that winking, smirking, and dismissing questions. It's not easy for the well-informed and experienced professional to debate know-nothing amateurs without appearing condescending, so let's work up strategies here. We all know none of us suffer fools lightly, unless they're in the cabinet already [smiles]. But with luck and enough campaign cash -- plus as competition either a buffoon or a Romney jammed into ideological corners -- I still like our chances.