On Jan. 20, Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States. Later that day, another quiet ritual will unfold as Obama arrives at the White House to find a welcome letter from George W. Bush on the Oval Office desk.
Dear New Guy:
So this morning’s newspaper tells me it’s time to move out. Also, that Marmaduke has got himself into another spot of mischief. Ha ha. Will that dog ever learn? Doesn’t look like it, but I’ll keep you up to date.
Anyway, they tell me it’s a tradition for the outcoming president to leave a letter of advice for the ingoing president. All I got from Clinton was an annotated stack of Hustler, but fine.
Key things to know (in order):
• Kim Jong-il. Big-time screwy.
• Ahmadinejad. Ditto.
• Steve from Canada (the country to the above of us). An okay guy in small doses. Sensitive about the hair.
• The White House. Sometimes there are muffins. The ones with an apple slice on top are apple muffins.
• Don’t massage the German lady president. She gets pretty uppity about it.
• It’s surprisingly hard to throw a spiral with the nuclear football.
• You can ask for whatever you want to eat, and the Constitution says the chef has to make it.
• If your vice-president shoots someone in the face, it was probably an accident the first couple times—but then you start to wonder.
• Nicknames: very important. Everybody needs one. If they’re taller than five foot ten— call ’em Stretch. If they’re shorter than five foot six—call ’em Stretch, but in a way that’s ironical. Might help to wink when you say it. Everyone else: just put a “y” sound in there. Rummy, Brownie, Condi. Now here’s where it gets tricky. If the name already ends with a “y” sound, you gotta remove it—like with Kof at the UN or Tone over in England. Don’t worry—it gets easier after six months or so. Then they can all stop wearing those “Hello, My Name Is . . .” stickers.
Got to be honest with you, Stretch: it feels kinda weird to not be The Decider anymore. I mean, I’ll still be deciding things but not things of globalness. More like personal things like where to build my library and when to ask my Dad why he keeps muttering, “Well, there’s still Jeb, I guess.”
I’ve had some time in the last few days to look back and reflectify. And you know what? I have an issue with all these polls saying I’m the worst president ever. Really? Worse than the evil one from 24? I question that.
Frankly, I never understood why people were so critical. Take the whole Osama thing. Bin Laden once said: “Death is better than living on this earth with the unbelievers among us.” And who spent a lot of his presidency denying bin Laden death and forcing him to continue living as a free man? Bingo. Yours sincerely. Although, to be fair, I was wrong in repeatedly stating that bin Laden could run but not hide. Good hider, it turns out. Great hider.
Sometimes I wish I could just shout “Olly olly oxen free” and he’d come out. (Tried it. Nothing.)
Here’s the thing I didn’t know about being president: everyone gets mad at you if you make the slightest mistake. Like the war. Or the other war. The financial meltdown. Hurricane Katrina. Waterboarding. How was I supposed to know about things like collateralized debt obligations, emergency preparedness, and basic human rights? Some people are even mad at me about Bernie Madoff and his Potsie scheme. Like I could have stopped him if The Fonz couldn’t!
Here’s a final tip for you: I didn’t read things like magazines, or blogs, or intelligence reports—anything with words, really. It’s my belief that a president must have empathy. That allows him to see into the souls of his opponents. Sorta like that brunette who was making it with Riker on the Enterprise until she went looking for strange with the Klingon.
To conclusify, it’s a pretty thankless job being in charge. Very isolating and lonely. Or so Mr. Cheney tells me. He comes with the house, by the way. I’d take him with us but we just can’t risk exposing him to daylight.
New guy: I truly believe that America is the greatest nation in all of history—better than Britain or Rome or even Mordor. So good luck with being president and maybe one day we’ll be on that mountain together. (The one with the faces.)
Well, that’s about it. Oh yeah, I was supposed to mention: UFOs are real, the moon landings were faked and Kennedy was killed by a robot from the future.
P.S. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Pardon Heather Locklear now.