WASHINGTON — The president is up early, already showered and preparing to shave. Wiping steam from the mirror, he grimaces slightly at his image.
Obama: Good grief, I look old. So much gray.
Mirror: Aw, lighten up, Bo, it makes you look distinguished. You can’t wage war without a few streaks of worry showing in your face and hair.
(Obama hits his megawatt-smile switch.)
Even my smile looks old. And by the way, Bo is the dog. I am Barack Obama. I am the president of the United States, leader of the free world …
Keep telling yourself that, buddy, and maybe you’ll be able to believe it. All the other presidents managed to.
Buddy was also a dog. What’s your problem?
Nothing, just trying to keep you grounded. So what’s it going to be, Mr. Red Line? You going to go it alone?
What the hell?! What is wrong with David Cameron? I can’t count on anybody! (Obama nicks his chin.) First, John Boehner can’t get those tea party nitwits to do anything — anything! — and now the Brits won’t go with me to Syria. Where’s Tony Blair when you need him?! Probably making a pilgrimage someplace. Maybe I should become a Catholic, too. Then I can say, oops, I guess I was wrong, but, you know, I did what I thought was best.
I’m not sure Cardinal Dolan would go for that after you, ahem, misled him on the whole religious liberty thing. But, hey, at least you’ve got the French.
Ah oui. Assad must be terrified.
But, yeah, Blair and Bush didn’t even have WMD. We at least know that Assad has chemical weapons and used them against his own people. You’re stuck with those images, buddy. Oh, sorry. Have you heard from Colin?
Maybe he could help.
I must be sick. Suddenly I want to talk to W, the poor slob. He got saddled with yellowcake. I’m yoked to red line. Why are we always talking in primary colors? I feel like an idiot. I’m not a war president! I’m an end-the-war guy. I’m a drone striker, not a missile cruiser. I just wanted to heal the sick, help the poor and maybe shift a tide here and there. I feel like I’m going to throw up. All those kids. Oh my god.
(A woman’s voice penetrates the closed bathroom door.)
Michelle Obama: Barack, what are you doing in there? Your steel-cut oatmeal is getting cold. Did you want some fair-trade organic blackstrap molasses on that? Barack? Barack? OK then, I’ve got a mani in five. I’ll just leave it on your dresser. Don’t forget to take your Male Supreme tonic. And your bloodroot and burdock root. Oh, hey, Dawn! I didn’t hear you come in. So I’m thinking blue shellac. Crazy, right?
Mirror: Look, Mr. President, you’re much too hard on yourself. Read your own lips: No good options. You probably shouldn’t have drawn the red line, sure, but who knew Assad would go there? And by the way, let’s enjoy a moment of irony, shall we?
Your Republican pals? You know, the ones who were in a swoon over shock and awe, suddenly they’re the ones urging caution? Now they’re the ones who want U.N. approval? Suddenly THEY need absolute proof that Assad used chemical weapons. Where was this skepticism when we invaded Iraq? Rich.
Well, if we learned anything from that fiasco, it’s that no matter how noble our intentions going in, we can’t control what happens the day after. And whatever worse is, worse will happen. It’s that damned red line. Why can’t I just say, look, all I said was there would be consequences and that Assad would be held accountable?
That doesn’t mean I have to bomb Syria and possibly ignite a global war. Russia, Iran, Hezbollah — they’d love it. Better that I overstated a bluff than that I spill more blood and possibly enter into yet another endless war with people who will hate us no matter what. Without international support. … Who knows where it will end?
But the children, Mr. President. Those images. The suffering. 100,000 dead. Your credibility.
I know, I know.
(Obama presses a towel to his chin and reaches for his cell, punching 1 on speed dial.)
Hello, George? Got a minute?
Kathleen Parker’s email address is email@example.com.
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