This is a great piece of fiction, however the reality is this could be coming down the road…
The applause from the members of the United Nations General Assembly rolled around President Obama, echoing off the vast expanse of wood and marble, a tidal wave of approval and acclaim, although… truth be told, it was a little less than he had expected. His first address to the world body and not even a standing-O?
President Obama held up his hands to acknowledge the applause and the diplomats must have misinterpreted him, must have thought that he was asking for silence, because they immediately stopped clapping, leaning back in their chairs, awaiting his speech. He cleared his throat, trying to hold back his annoyance.
“Thank you, thank you, really, no, thank you very much.” He grinned at the cameras that were broadcasting his address to the world, flashed the smile that had never failed him. “My name is Barak Obama, and I approved this message.”
Silence in the great hall. A few nervous titters from the aides that David Axelrod, his campaign strategist, had sprinkled throughout the room, but their attempt to jumpstart another round of applause fell flat. Note to self: Diplomats are harder to roll than journalists. He glanced over at the U.S. ambassador, Barbra Streisand, who gave him a thumbs up.
“But seriously,” said President Obama, his grin faltering. He cleared his throat. Wet his lips. The crowd shifted in their seats. “Well… um… as you know… people will try to scare you, warn you about me, because… I’ve got a Harvard law degree and a funny name, and uh, as you can see, I… I don’t look like any other president on the money… “ He looked at the African diplomats in the front row. “The U.S. money, not your money, of course…”
The ambassador from the Congo looked quizzically at the ambassador from Zaire.
“So… so I guess what I’m saying is… don’t be afraid of me,” said President Obama.
The Russian ambassador laughed, head tilted back, roaring with laughter.
President Obama blinked, then realized what had happened. There must be a time-delay on the translation the Russian ambassador was hearing. He had just gotten the president’s introductory joke. The president beamed at the ambassador, who laughed even harder.
The Georgian ambassador, clearly overcome with the president’s message of hope, was weeping into his hands.
President Obama cleared his throat. Ambassador Streisand gave him another thumbs up. “Let’s be honest, folks, my country’s made some big mistakes these last few years. Really… really big mistakes. Words were said… not by me, but by the former administration, words that I think we all regret. Words like victory, axis of evil” — he threw his hands up in quote marks around evil —- “honor… sacrifice… but those days are over. I don’t even know what the former administration was thinking. Certainly not about world opinion. Well, my fellow citizens of planet Earth, I’m here to tell you, it’s morning in America… and you’re all invited for breakfast.”
The Iranian ambassador yawned, showed off his gold fillings for a good ten seconds. That bit of tape was going to be all over Fox News tonight.
“Breakfast… breakfast is about to be served, and no one… not anyone will ever go hungry again,” purred the president.
The Iranian ambassador belched loudly, and the diplomats around him laughed. Even Streisand smiled. Fine. She could be replaced by another Hollywood idiot any time he felt like it. Send Babs back to Malibu and her tenth farewell tour.
President Obama saw a light flash from the rear of the hall, sensed the halo forming around his head. More of Axelrod’s genius. The tiny laser created a nimbus around him, gave him a heavenly glow not visible to the conscious mind, but one that the unconscious responded to. They had tried it the first time when he was interviewed by Charlie Gibson during the campaign, and the ABC anchor had practically wet himself, his half-glasses bobbing on the end of his nose like a fisherman getting a big strike. They hadn’t dared try it when he went on The View. One of the ladies might have exploded. The halo laser didn’t seem to be having as much effect on the diplomats at the U.N. though, they just… sat there. Heathens.
The teleprompter flickered, and went dark. The president felt it like a punch to the gut.
That laser… that of Axelrod’s must have shorted something out. No lofty words in front of him, no soaring phrases and probably no halo either. In the control room above the crowd, he could see the tech crew playing paperwad basketball, oblivious to his plight.
The president blotted his forehead with the back of his hand. He tried to remember the speech he was supposed to give, but all he could recall was something about brotherhood and community and five billion dollar gifts to countries he couldn’t even pronounce. Right about now, President Obama would pay five billion dollars for a cigarette.
“But… but enough about breakfast and the atrocities of the Bush cabal,” said President Obama. “I’m here to introduce myself and to let you know that there’s a new sheriff in town and he doesn’t carry a gun, but… but he’s got housing vouchers, and… and green cards for everyone… and solutions too. I’m the sheriff that when you’re driving around, lost, I can give you directions. You got a flat, I’ll change it. Or, my deputy Joe Biden will, anyway.”
The diplomats were muttering now, looking around. Clearly, he was going to have to dumb things down to be understood.
“You know, thanks to our affluent American lifestyle we have a problem with blubber butts and global warming…” The president tugged at his collar. “It feels a little warm in here right now, doesn’t it? Proof positive to all you doubters out there.” He cleared his throat. “Right now, at this very minute, somewhere in the Arctic Ocean there’s a polar bear doing the backstroke because the ice has all melted, and this… this polar bear, who never hurt anyone, his arms are getting really tired and he… he’s going to drown unless… unless…”
President Obama stared at his reflection in the cameras, transfixed. Truth be told, he was one good-looking man. A healer. A uniter. Oil upon the troubled waters. He winked at himself. Better make room on Mount Rushmore…
Barry! What are you doing, man?
It was Axelrod on his earpiece.
You’re zoning out, Barry. Sound of finger snapping. This is showtime, buddy. Charm the rubes.
President Obama tore himself away from his reflection, leaned over the podium. He tried to make eye contact with the crowd, but there were too many of them, and they looked so… different. Weird clothes, weird faces… it was like campaigning in Kentucky or rural Ohio.
“As the great philosopher John Lennon sang,” said President Obama, winging it, using one of his never-fail college town stump speeches, “imagine there’s no countries, it’s uh.. it’s not hard to do.”
Most of the ambassadors looked confused. The Chinese ambassador removed his earpiece, rapped it on his desk and put it back in place.
President Obama’s tongue felt thick but he soldiered on. “Nothing… nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too.”
Great, Barry, said Axelrod, there goes any hope for the God, grits, and guns vote, next time.
“Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can,” intoned President Obama. “No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man… and women, men and women, and… and transgendered too.” He wiped his eyes, overcome for a moment with the beauty of the sentiments. “Imagine all the people, sharing all the world…”
The Russian ambassador was laughing again, some fat Cossack with beads of black Beluga caviar glistening on his thick moustache. The North Korean ambassador laughed along with him.
“You may say I’m a dreamer,” said President Obama, raising his voice, refusing to back down. He had faced rednecks and street toughs in his years as a community organizer, and had won them over with his unflinching optimism, his smooth oratory and the promise of government checks. The only difference was that the Russians and North Koreans had nukes. “You can go ahead and say, hey, President Obama is just a dreamer, but… but listen people, I’m not the only one. I’m really not—-”
Ambassador Streisand jumped up, wildly applauding. Axelrod’s shills did their best to jumpstart a standing-O, but the effort died.
“Thank you very much, Mr. President,” said Secretary General Jimmy Carter, entering from stage left. “Ladies and gentlemen of the Assembly, I give you President Barack Hussein Obama.”
“But, I’m… I’m not finished,” sputtered President Obama.
“Let’s give a warm welcome to the president of the United States!” said the Secretary General.
President Obama listened as the applause thundered around the room like a waterfall, drowning him his protests. He closed his eyes, bowed to the assembled multitude. Tears leaked down his cheeks. Finally, finally, they understood him.
— Robert Ferrigno is author, most recently, of Sins of the Assassin.