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 we hover at 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 didn't have 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, staking out the center yet besieged by extremes. When will grumbling left-wingers get why my being against the "dumb" Iraq war meant being gung-ho in Afghanistan? Push-pull is the key, encouraging whatever voter projections suit our Rorschach regime. Don't critics appreciate our finesse, taking multiple sides on major issues while deflecting attack for flip-flopping? Eat your heart out, Mitt.
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 from a dumb war a win, at least politically? Our balancing act works -- delivering a pro-peace, anti-war credo while executing a pro-peace, pro-war agenda. Likewise, we promote strong government stimulus, like a good Democrat, while assailing big deficits, a Republican talking point. Who else calls for taxing millionaires plus promises tax relief -- or pitches a modest jobs program knowing the House will never pass it? Finesse is having it both ways without getting stung -- or saying you're sorry.
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. Not a hard task -- 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 yet non-threatening country we must bomb next. Our core principles are unchanged: we stay devoutly non-ideological, in short seeming everything to everybody. Here, friends, is our working Obama credo -- we're not red states, nor blues states but only states that could go Democratic [smiles].