Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

“Mr. President,” said Amy Handleman, “unemployment continues to be the most pressing problem facing our nation.”

Handleman and two other presidential advisers, Jill Poke and Howard Bashford, had joined Barack Obama in the Oval Office to convey some bad news. But the president was unfazed by Handleman’s opening.

“Look on the bright side,” he counseled. “Think how much worse it would be if we hadn’t created or saved 2 million jobs through my economic-stimulus program.”

“But Mr. President,” interjected Bashford, “housing prices still are depressed, and the pace of sales fell off the table when the incentive bonus ended.”

“Cheer up,” said the president. “Think how many low-income minorities were able to realize the dream of home ownership – however briefly – thanks to federal-government pressure on banks to make ill-advised loans.”

“Uh, yeah,” said Poke. “But I’m worried that financial bailouts have contributed to runaway federal debt that has the country concerned about burgeoning deficits.”

“Ha, ha, ha,” laughed the president. “You sound like the Nervous Nellies out there who don’t understand that without spending wildly now, the deficit would be much worse in the future.”

“But people are linking the health-reform bill to the deficit,” said Handleman. “They’re seeing evidence that it’s already costing more than advertised, and they don’t like it.”

“Evidence, schmevidence,” smirked Obama. “The health-care spending also will keep things from being much worse than they would be without it.”

“On another matter,” said Bashford, “people are really unhappy that your Justice Department won’t prosecute those New Black Panthers for voter intimidation.”

“Voter intimidation?” chuckled Obama. “What voter intimidation? Why, the situation would be much worse if I hadn’t entered office as the first post-racial president. It’s nothing to worry about.”

“I think we should worry about the pace of the Gulf of Mexico oil cleanup,” said Poke. “It’s way too slow for the people of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.”

“Think how much worse it would have been if I hadn’t been on top of the problem from day one,” said the president with some annoyance. “And it would be much worse without my drilling moratorium.”

“But we weren’t there from day one,” muttered Poke, and Obama cast her a searing glance.

“It … would … have … been … much … worse,” he said, emphasizing each word. “Look, let’s get off these domestic issues, each of which would have been much worse without my leadership. How about moving on to international affairs?”

“Afghanistan continues to cost us dearly in blood and treasure,” said Handleman, “and President Karzai keeps asserting sovereignty in inconvenient ways.”

“Well, things would be much worse there if I hadn’t sat down with Karzai and established the warm, mutually respectful relations we now enjoy,” said Obama.

“What about our warm, mutually respectful relationship with Russia?” asked Bashford. “That took a tumble when we arrested all those spies.”

“Stay on the sunny side,” smiled the president. “Our public image would have been much worse if I hadn’t protected our nation’s sovereignty by deporting those illegal aliens.”

“Speaking of which,” said Handleman, “we’re taking a public-relations beating over the lawsuit against Arizona’s illegal-alien crackdown.”

“That’s a question of federal pre-emption,” said Obama, “and the situation would be much worse if we hadn’t beefed up our border enforcement. But let’s get back to international affairs.”

“Israel isn’t happy with the way you’re courting the Palestinians,” said Poke.

“Our relationship with Israel would be much worse if I hadn’t invited Benjamin Netanyahu to shoot some hoops with me,” said Obama. “Next matter.”

“Saudi Arabia continues to finance hate-America madrassas in Pakistan and other Muslim countries,” said Handleman.

“Yeah,” mused the president, who then brightened and said, “But things would have been much worse without my outreach to the Muslim world and my bow to King Abdullah.”

“However, making outreach to the Muslim world part of NASA’s mission didn’t sit well with the American people,” said Poke.

“That’s not a problem,” said Obama. “We issued a statement saying it wasn’t true. Otherwise, it would have been much worse.”

“One last thing, Mr. President,” said Bashford. “The tea-party people are upset about what they view as extralegal behavior by some of your czars and in some of your executive orders. How are we going to counter this?”

“First of all, tell them they’re wrong and we’re right,” said the president. “If worse comes to worst and that doesn’t work, explain how much worse things would be if I actually honored the Constitution.”

“OK, we’ll do that,” said Handleman, “but we’re operating under something of a burden.”

“What burden?” said Obama.

“According to one poll,” Handleman answered, “60 percent of Americans disapprove of the way you’re governing.”

Obama’s cheerful expression evaporated.

“Sixty percent?” he said. “Things would be much worse … I guess they couldn’t be much worse.”

Last week’s opus on efforts to form a California Citizens Redistricting Commission brought comments from two others who applied to serve and one who just wants California to secede from the Union.

One of the former summed up the manipulation of the selection process: “[T]hey decided that the total applicant pool of 500 informed and motivated citizens [was] not enough from which to choose 10. So, they reopened the process and extended the deadline by several weeks. During this time, we were pounded with daily reminders (some e-mail, some snail mail) to finish [the] application and also to go to a class to teach you how to fill out your application. … Sorry, but if you need to be reminded daily and have to go to a class to write a few paragraphs, I don’t believe you are well qualified to be an independent board member. You are, however, probably well qualified to do what you are told when it comes to making a decision on where to draw the [electoral district] lines.”

Yep. You have to figure the motivated applicants who met the original deadline – and didn’t need “Webinar” tutorials to complete the lengthy form – were a touch too independent and well-informed for the state bureaucracy.

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