Barack Obama disses Norway.
In a concert hall in Oslo, the Norwegian Naval Band was practicing for the upcoming Nobel Prize ceremonies, at which the most distinguished foreign guest was to be the President of the United States, scheduled to arrive later that day. The bearded bandmaster announced that they would now play the Star-Spangled Banner.
“An’ a vun, an’ a tew, an’…”
The band was off and running, performing the national anthem of the United States, and doing so beautifully. Off to one side, King Harald V – so anxious to achieve kingly perfection during the festivities that, even for the dry run, he had donned his 19th century, English fleet-admiral uniform (complete with plumed bicorn hat, worn fore-to-aft) – stood beaming upon, and shaking hands with, an imaginary President, happily contemplating the occasion of receiving the now-famous presidential bow.
Suddenly, the bandmaster was struck by an odd change in meter, a kind of syncopation that had crept into the music. He quickly isolated the unharmonious sound as the rapid clopping of a man running down the aisle.
The man – a small, bald bureaucrat from the foreign ministry, whose baggy coattails were snapping against his heels – began to shout.
“It’s all off! It’s all of!”
The bandmaster scowled, brought his hands together and brusquely extended his arms perpendicular to his body, instantly silencing the band (and, quite unknown to himself, giving a very creditable imitation of an umpire calling a base runner safe at first).He faced the little man who had stopped in front of the stage and soundly remonstrated with him.
“I know it’s yew, Olaf! Vat dew yew mean, runnin’ in here like a vun-man reindeer stampede, shoutin’ yer name like ve’re all s’posed tew yump vit’ yoy? ?”
The little man, clutching his chest and gulping for air, shook his head.
“No, no, I didn’t mean ‘It’s me, Olaf!’, I meant ‘it’s all off’ – de President’s visit tew several of de Nobel ceremonies. He even cancelled lunch vit his mayesty, over dere.”
King Harald, startled from his reverie, threw a cold glance at the emissary.
“Vat are yew sayin’? Hew says de President ain’t comin’?”
“I’m sorry, yer mayesty, but I yus’ got de vire from de Americans. De president says he’s tew busy, an’ he’s only goin’ tew be in Oslo fer less dan a day. Oh, by de vay; he vants tew know if he can buy cigarettes in de duty-free shop at de airport.”
King Harald’s complexion, which tended toward the florid, now resembled a pitcher full of cranberry juice. “By golly!” he thundered, “dis is an insult tew de honor of Norvay! Hew gib him dat dere Nobel prize in de first place, I esk yew? Ve coulda gib de dam’ t’ing tew de Dalai Lama or somebody hew actually done sump’n, but, no, dat fule Thorbjøm Jagland on de Prize Committee had tew pick Baruch Obama! Hew does he t’ink ve are, a buncha hog drovers from up aroun’ Hamar, trackin’ pig pewp tru our t’atched-roof cabins? Vell, I ain’t takin’ dis lyin’ down, no sirree! C’mon, fellers, I got me an idear!” With that, the king, his latent Viking instincts thoroughly roused, led the Naval Band out of the hall, like a berserker who’s discovered that the town he just sacked has short-changed him a couple of virgins and a keg of ale.
* * * *
Air Force One touched down at the Oslo airport. President Obama, David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel stood and stretched as the plane slowed to a stop. Axelrod, who was looking out of the window facing the terminal, called the others over.
“What the hell is that?”
On the tarmac, a military band was standing at attention, the sun gleaming off of trombones and tubas and trumpets. An elderly gentleman, who appeared to be dressed for a Gilbert and Sullivan revival, stood in front of the band, holding a blank placard.
Emanuel shrugged. “F**k if I know.”
Obama yawned. “Has the terminal been secured, Dave?”
Axelrod nodded. “Yes, sir, we just got word from airport security. You’ve got a clear path to the duty-free store.”
The men walked to the exit door behind the cockpit, and as the door opened, they froze.
Walking toward them along the mobile disembarkation corridor, with a kind of regal sashay, was the veritable reincarnation of a Teutonic goddess. She was a good six-feet tall, and had long, silky blond hair that fell below her shoulders, the front cut in bangs under which eyes the color of a Norwegian fjord sparkled. Her low-cut blue woolen jacket revealed a generous portion of her ample, tanned bosom, and her breasts bobbled maddeningly with each step. A short, pleated blue skirt stopped well short of her knees, and her legs were swathed in net stockings tucked into low, fur-topped boots with three-inch heels. If she had been the mythic goddess Brünnhilde, she would have made Siegfried flap his arms and crow like a rooster.
The Americans, on the other hand, whose eyes had taken on the aspect of saucers, resembled a tree full of hoot owls, all of which had simultaneously spied a plump rabbit. The president fiddled with his tie, Emanuel popped a Tic-Tac in his mouth, and Axelrod quickly brushed his fingers across his mustache to remove any stray bread crumbs. The vision of Nordic pulchritude approached the men, and flashed a smile that looked like sunlight reflecting from an ice floe. Obama elbowed his way past the other two men.
The woman extended a hand. “Velcome tew Norvay, Meester President! I am Helga Nordstrum, from de Office of Protocol. It is an honor tew meet yew!”
Obama, barely suppressing an urge to say “hubba hubba!”, latched on to her slender fingers with both hands, and pumped them slowly, as if he were jacking up a car in order to change a flat tire. In spite of himself, he actually giggled; then, recollecting the need to uphold the dignity of his office, he cleared his throat and stammered.
“Heh-heh…It’s …it’s…er…it’s good to meet you, too, Ms. Nordstrum. I…uh…gulp!…”
Damn! he thought to himself. Where’s that teleprompter when I really need it?
Emanuel gawked over the president’s shoulder, winking at Helga and waving. Axelrod stood absolutely motionless, as if he’d been struck with apoplexy, breathing heavily and blowing little spit bubbles that quickly popped on the ends of his mustache hairs.
Obama finally collected himself. “Well, if you don’t mind, Ms. Nordstrum, let’s proceed to the tax-free duty shop. I’m dying for a smoke.”
Her smile vanishing, as if her face had just entered into the six months of arctic-winter darkness, Helga held up a hand. “Dere are, I’m afraid, a few formalities before ve can let yew step off de plane. By order of his mayesty, King Harald V, all visitors tew Norvay are now compelled tew present a certified copy of dere oriyinal birt’ certificates.”
“What?!?” Obama squeaked.
“An’ also a medical certificate showin’ dat dey have received de H1N1 flew vaccine.”
“But listen, honey,” Emanuel cooed, “we’re not in the high-risk group for H1N1.”
“Vell, I’m sorry bo-eez, but dem’s de rules. If yew ain’t got de papervork, yew’ll have tew yus’ refewl and be on yer vay. Ve mail yew yer medal, Meester President” The smile reappeared, and Helga turned and strode away, her perfectly-rounded hips oscillating tantalizingly beneath her short skirt. She looked back over her shoulder, winked provocatively (as if to say, “An eyeful is all dat yew fellers are ever goin’ to get!”) and disappeared around the corner of the corridor.
The President sighed. “Ok, let’s refuel and get out of here. If you guys will excuse me, I think I’m going to go throw a glass of ice water in my face.”
After the plane had been refueled, but before the pilot had fired up the engines, the military band struck up a vaguely marshal-sounding tune, presumably the Norwegian national anthem. Once the plane began pulling away from the terminal, the old geezer in the comic-opera uniform reversed his placard. Obama read the words and frowned. “Yankee Go Home!”