When did David Axelrod pick up John Boehner as a client, and doesn’t this present a conflict of interest with his role as President Obama’s senior political adviser? For some bizarre reason--perhaps the stress of skydiving poll numbers is inducing panic and madness--the White House political strategists have decided to elevate Boehner, the House minority leader, to national prominence in order to attack him. Thanks to the White House, he has been given a voice that he could never have achieved on his own. As one Boehner aide told me: “Obama has become our new best friend.”
So let’s resume our old place as a baffled fly on the Oval Office wall to see if we can divine the meaning behind this insanity.
In the room: President Barack Obama, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senior Adviser David Axelrod, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Senate Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and New York Times reporter Eric Lipton.
Obama enters, casual in his shirtsleeves, cool and calm as ever, and leans back in his chair to survey the room. He arches his eyebrows: “Why do we have a reporter in the room?”
Gibbs: “He’s with the New York Times, sir.”
Obama: “But he’s a reporter.”
Gibbs: “But he’s with the New York Times.”
Obama: “Right, of course. Well let’s begin. Do we want to talk about the healthcare bill and how to spin these premium increases that we said would never happen?”
Emanuel, Axelrod, Gibbs, and Reid in unison: “No!”
Pelosi: “I do!”
Emanuel: “Not to say I told you so, but we are getting our [expletive deleted] ripped off and handed back to us like handshakes because of these premium hikes. We need to tell the insurance companies that we’ll grind their [expletive deleted] into the ground like cigarette butts if they raise premiums anymore.”
Gibbs: “Sebelius has already gotten out front on this. There’s a lovely photo of her in the Wall Street Journal looking confused, awkward, and angry all at the same time.”
Emanuel snaps fingers at intern, she walks over: “Get me Sebelius. I want her in my office two minutes after this meeting ends. If she’s not there, tell her I will hunt her down and pummel her with a rubber hose.”
Gibbs stands up to redirect focus: “Let’s stick to this, Mr. President.” He hands Obama a copy of the September 11 edition of the Times attacking GOP Minority Leader John Boehner. The headline reads: “G.O.P. Leader Tightly Bound to Lobbyists.”
Obama scans the newspaper with a widening grin: “Wow. I love it. Boehner’s ‘lobbyist friends,’ all part of a ‘club.’ This guy comes off sounding as corrupt as Charlie Rangel. Fantastic work, Eric.”
Lipton: “Thank you, sir.”
Obama: “There’s nothing in this story about all the unions lobbying us is there?”
Room breaks out into laughter.
Obama: “Hooooo, I kill myself. Okay, so what do we do with this?”
Axelrod: “We make Boehner the new Nancy Pelosi. We need to make the public hate his guts as much as they hate Nancy.
Pelosi: “Excuse me?”
Gibbs: “If the polls are correct, she may be the most despised person in America. Except for Tony Hayward at BP.”
Reid: “People do really do want to vomit when she talks.”
Pelosi: “Hellloooooo, I’m right here.”
Obama: “So how do we make Boehner the new Nancy?”
Axelrod: “We’re going to have to raise his profile. Make him the face of the GOP. Ask voters whether they want to go back to the bad economic times of the old Republican days or stick with the bad economic times under us.”
Lipton: “The New York Times will do its part, sir.”
Pelosi: “If you guys think John Boehner is on my level, you’re sadly mistaken.”
Emanuel picks a kitten out of a box near his feet and hurls it at Pelosi: “By the time we’re done with Boehner we’ll have your head morphed on his body. It will drive people into such fits of outraged delirium they will want to gouge him in the eyes with kitchen utensils.”
Obama: “What if she’s right? What if we can’t make him as nationally hated as she is? Do he we have a backup plan?”
Axelrod: “Yes, sir. Larry Johnston of Des Moines.”
Gibbs: “Larry Johnston. With a T.”
Obama: “I don’t get it. Is he some kind of corrupt Republican mayor?”
Axelrod: “No, sir, just a auto mechanic out of the heartland. You know, the kind of guy who clings to guns and religion. Hi name recognition can’t be any lower than Boehner’s, so if we can’t raise Boehner’s profile we turn on Johnston and make him the next Joe the Plumber.”
Obama: “I get it. Another teachable moment about the value of redistributing wealth.”
Axelrod is stung in the ear with a spiraling kitten.
Emanuel: “Joe the knuckle-[expletive deleted] Plumber was a disaster for us.”
Pelosi: “No, he’s a perfect example of why we need to raise taxes more. Boehner wants to cut taxes to help the filthy rich and create jobs or whatever; we want to raise taxes to help gun-clinging idiots like Larry Johnston go to college and get his head on straight.”
Reid nods. Either in agreement or in sleep.
Obama: “Okay, then, we’ve got our strategy. I’m excited.”
Emanuel: “You are?”
Obama: “Yes, can’t you tell? This is my excited face.”
The room stands to leave. Emanuel snaps his finger at the intern and she comes to his side. “Sebelius. Two minutes. Alive or with her head on a platter. Or you’ll never see that precious little dog of yours again.”