A Second Look: The Brotha & the Otha

President Obama’s summer vacation just concluded, there was a fair amount of attention to the frequency of his golfing: courses traversed, rounds played, partners played with. ABC News even gave us “Obama’s Vacation by the Numbers.”

  • He made FIVE outings to local restaurants, including TWO dinners with friends, ONE intimate night out with the first lady, ONE family dinner and ONE run for fried-food pick up.

For that someone attended journalism school. (Somehow we won World War II without knowing Roosevelt couldn’t walk.) This put me in mind of a classic sad red earth posting from deep in the archives about one of the President’s vacations early in his first term. Yes, we do have classics on the sad red earth, admitted to that pantheon by vote of the assembled sad red earthlings. who happily, not haply, present:

The Brotha and the Otha

President Barack Obama's First Day In Office

(Scene: the White House – the Oval Office. President Obama sits behind his desk. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel stands before him.)

Emanuel: Okay, next – where you thinking of for your vacation?

Obama: I was thinking we’d go to Hawaii.

Emanuel (chin descending, eyes ascending): Not a good idea.

Obama: Ah, come on, Rahm. It’s home. It’s beautiful. I’ve got friends. Why not?

Emanuel: Optics.

Obama: Optics.

Emanuel: You gotta consider how it looks.

Obama: That I take a vacation?

Emanuel: Where you take the vacation. It can’t seem you’re having too much fun. Presidents can’t have too much fun. Only in limited doses, for limited times. Joe the Plumber’s plumber is thinking, I lost my job, my kid’s in chemo – people want to kill us – and you’re shankin’ balls under the palms, against the blue Pacific. No, no, no no, no, no, no.

Obama: People don’t want me to have a vacation?

Emanuel: Probably not. But they’ll accept something not too conspicuous.

Obama: Like Crawford, Texas? See, I think that proves right there I’m more qualified to be President. “What do you do on your vacation Mr. President?” “Ah clear brush.” Sheeit.

Emanuel: But he stayed too long.

Obama: So I won’t stay too long.

Emanuel: I don’t know, Rock –

Obama: I asked you not to call me Rock.

Emanuel: Well, I can’t call you Bar.

Obama: Wasn’t that Bush 41’s wife?

Emanuel: My point. The anti-Obama.

Obama: You could call me Mr. President.

Emanuel (considers a moment): I’ll call you Rock. (Beat) Then there’s the question of what if something happens while you’re on the vacation.

Obama: Then I’ll come back and deal with it.

Emanuel: Maybe, maybe not.

Obama: If I don’t come back they’ll say I’m indifferent and aloof.

Emanuel: If you do come back they’ll say you’re a captive of events. The terrorists flick the fiddle, you dance to their tune. “Member Carter and his Rose Garden strategy? Reagan murdered him with it.

Obama: Now you’re going to extremes. Isn’t there some reasonable middle ground on this?

Emanuel: Reason’s got nothing to do with it. Take Joe B., for instance, when he called you clean and articulate.

Obama:  Putz.

EmanuelPetzel. (He holds his thumb and forefinger an inch apart.)

Obama: Sez who?

Emanuel: Arlen. Remember all those train rides?

Obama: Spector? How the hell would he know?

Emanuel: It’s a big tent, Rock.

Obama: On the down low? Come on, man. I haven’t had lunch yet. Now I gotta be thinkin’ about that?

Emanuel: He calls you clean and articulate – like you’re not either, like everyone isn’t thinking it, about you, Colin – and they make a big deal about it. Like a Sharpton with his Brooklyn Do and drawl was ever gonna be the first.

Obama: Actually, I thanked Biden. Michelle always says I don’t shower enough.

Emanuel: Or word is that new book by Halperin is gonna quote Reid about you being light-skinned or something, not talking with a Negro dialect.

Obama: Negro? Get the fuck.

Emanuel: I shit you not.

Obama: But I am light skinned. I don’t talk Black.

Emanuel: Not unless you want to.

Obama: But that’s the point. Everyone gets what they want. The President has to be all things to all people.

Emanuel: And if you’re not, then they get you for that.

Obama: Like when I started droppin’ my “g”s.

Emanuel: Well, that was for the white workin’ class. After that shit about guns and religion.

Obama: Which I don’t believe for a minute. Devil made me say that.

Emanuel: Exactly. So this book is coming out and you can just see it now – somebody like Liz Cheney goes on This Week and rips into Reid for his racism, because, you know, you’re not light skinned and you don’t talk Black – actually, I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be good or bad; when conservatives go PC for points it gets really confusing – and even George Will is gonna blow chunks.

Obama: It’s amazing. There’s no reality to any of it.

Emanuel: Oh, it gets worse. Because when they talk about this stuff on TV, most of the time they acknowledge it’s all bullshit, but they talk about it anyway, because if a Pol talks shit, they think they’ve got to cover it, even if they cloak it in a discussion of how the media covers shit (which they’re not doing, they’re covering the story of how the media covers shit.) And the pol talks shit just so that they will cover it. And the news people acknowledge its shit – that’s their kinda due diligence, you see, “we told you this was shit” – and then they ask each other if the shit is going to hurt the President, and they say it is (as if no one’s listening) and people have now been told the President is being hurt by what everyone acknowledged from the start was bullshit. And then – I really love this – there’s always the sardonic one, without fail, a little above it all, who pings ‘em all with a “And that’s just exactly what we’re doing by talking about it.” There are so many mirrors you can’t even find yourself.

Obama: “So keep on playing those mind games together…”

Emanuel: “Faith in the future outta the now…”

Obama: Takes me back.

Emanuel: Yeah.

Obama: Okay, so where does that leave us?

Emanuel: I’ll tell you where that leaves us, Rock. A lot of these people out there grew up on 24/7 meat and dairy, wall-to-wall Wonder and mayo. Now their world’s being run by The Brotha and The Otha.

(Obama laughs. Emanuel extends his arms, palms down, for some skin.)

Emanuel: World upside down, Nigga!

(Obama scowls.)

Emanuel (pulling back)I’m just jivin with ya.

(Obama continues to scowl.)

Emanuel (reluctantly offering a beta shrug): I’m kibitzing.

Obama (widenening his eyes and pointing, as if to say “psyche!”): Word, Hebrew.

(Obama gets up, buttons his jacket.)

Obama: Okay, so where does that leave us? Wherever I go, whatever I do, they’ll find a way to spin it against me, right?

Emanuel: Long and short.

Obama (heading out of the office): Fuck that shit. I’m going to Hawaii.

Emanuel (turning, calling after him): You can’t go to Hawaii.

Obama (disappearing)Oh, yes, I can!

Emanuel: Yeah, well, you better hope no one tries to blow up a plane over Detroit!

(But Obama is gone.)

Emanuel: Mutherfucker!


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