The first day after vacation. President Obama rushes into the Oval Office for a scheduled meeting with a group of his advisers. He is carrying a box under one arm.
Obama: Sorry I’m late, guys, but I had to fetch something from upstairs. That vacation on Martha’s Vineyard is about to start paying dividends!
Axelrod: I certainly hope so, Mr. President. The press coverage has been pretty bad.
Obama: Not for much longer! My last day, I was out on the golf course and was having some trouble with my chip shots. You know what I did? I completely changed my grip and address, and I wound up playing like a pro! I was making some sensational shots!
Plouffe: You mean, sir, that you’re going to step down from the presidency to take up professional golf?
Obama: No, of course not [the president looks thoughtfully into the middle distance for a few seconds, then sighs]. No, no. What I mean, is, I got a great idea. I turned my game around by completely changing my focus. I’m going to do the same thing with my approval ratings! Now, what’s the biggest problem with my presidency so far?
Axelrod: Well, unemployment, the slow recovery, government debt…
Plouffe: And let’s not forget the growing recognition among the people that there are too many job-destroying regulations. There’s also your tendency to govern by executive fiat, as evidenced by your recent decision on deportations of illegal immigrants, and then there’s the Mexican gun-running scandal, your perceived lack of leadership during the debt-ceiling negotiations, the crony capitalism…
Obama: All right, all right! That’s enough! Here’s my point: I have had one or two successes, and they’ve been related to our military efforts. I got Bin Laden, and Gadhafy’s on the way to the dust bin.
Obama: Let’s play those things to the hilt! Jobs and the economy; that stuff’s so yesterday. I’m going to put myself across as a successful war president! That’s the kind of competence that virtually screams “leadership”. Besides, I’ve been wondering what to do with this thing Angela Merkel gave me, and now I see how I can use it as a terrific prop for my new image.
The president fishes Merkel’s gift from the box and proudly sets it on his desk.
Axelrod: Mr. President!
Plouffe: Sir, a...a pickelhaube?!?
Obama: Plouffe, stop showing your ignorance. This isn’t a bucket for collecting pickles. It’s one of those spikey German helmets from the First World War. The thing’s got military prowess written all over it.
Plouffe: Mr. President, that’s what a pickelhaube is; a spikey German helmet.
Obama: Oh. Huh. Well, the name sounds kind of funny. But nobody’s going to care what it’s called. The only thing that matters is the image. Here, let me put it on, and you’ll see.
Axelrod [wiping forehead with handkerchief]: Oh, yes, that screams something, all right, but I’m not sure it’s leadership.
Obama: Why? What’s wrong with it?
Axelrod: With all due respect, Mr. President, I really don’t think we want to be drawing parallels between you and Kaiser Wilhelm. Please take that thing off.
Obama removes the helmet, looks at it wistfully, and places it on his desk.
Obama: Sheesh! A guy tries to use a little initiative around here and all he catches is flack. [Obama’s personal secretary walks in] I thought I said I didn’t want to be disturbed!
Secretary: Sorry, sir, but you’ve got three urgent messages, one from Mr. Bernanke and two from Mr. Geithner.
Obama: Well, leave them, and see that I’m not interrupted again.
The secretary, offended by the president’s tone, stomps over to the desk, impales the notes on the business end of the pickelhaube, and stomps out of the room. Joe Biden slips around her and enters, wearing a cocked hat .
Biden: Damn the torpedoes…
Obama: Forget it, Joe. The military motif is off.
PhotoShop courtesy of Steve Burri