Michael P. Ackley has worked more than three decades as a journalist, the majority of that time at the Sacramento Union. His experience includes reporting, editing and writing commentary. He retired from teaching journalism for California State University at Hayward.More ↓Less ↑
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.
“Mele kalikimaka, honey!” exclaimed Michelle Obama, calling the White House from a Hawaiian condo last Thursday. “That’s the island greeting that we send to you, from the land where palm trees sway!”
“Very funny, Dear,” replied the president. “I’ll be there with you and the kids on Christmas Day, but I just couldn’t leave Washington while the nation needed me.”
“We understand,” said Michelle. “Those pesky House Republicans just didn’t want you to have a much needed – and deserved – vacation.”
“Now, now, Michelle,” said the president. “What you say may be true, but it goes much beyond their mean-spirited desire to inconvenience me. They actually were trying to force me to make a decision on the Keystone oil pipeline before the 2012 election. Imagine them playing politics like that!”
“Oh, Barack! It’s so unfair,” said Michelle.
“I know,” said the president. “That Boehner guy – with whom I have a very cordial relationship – for days wouldn’t even go for the Senate compromise. He claimed we should extend the payroll tax holiday for a full year, rather than just two months.”
“But, honey, didn’t you want a full year?” asked Michelle.
“Sure I did,” said the president. “But his real reason was he wanted me to approve the oil pipeline. It was so … so … Machiavellian!”
“I don’t understand him, either,” said Michelle. “After all, the Senate compromise requires you to approve that pipeline within 60 days or declare that the thing isn’t in the national interest.”
“Ha!” barked the president. “I’ll sign on to that deal as soon as it hits my desk.”
“I knew you understood compromise,” said Michelle. “You’ll make that pipeline decision at the end of 60 days, even though whatever you do is sure to offend either Big Labor or the radical environmentalists.”
“Michelle, Michelle,” clucked the president condescendingly. “Sometimes you just don’t see the big picture. You’re forgetting one very important factor: I’m president of the United States.”
“How could I forget?” said Michelle, rather sharply. “I have to listen to you humming ‘Hail to the Chief’ every morning while you’re shaving.”
“Think about it, Dear,” said the president, ignoring the jibe. “What would happen if the press of business – the national interest – had me so busy that I just couldn’t find the time to read all the memoranda and briefing papers and employment projections and environmental reports that I really should understand in detail before making a decision?
“What if – in good conscience – I just didn’t feel informed enough to make a decision on the pipeline? What if I wasn’t ready after 90 days, or 120 or for 10 months? What could Congress do about it?”
“Well, that Boehner fellow would accuse you of reneging on the deal,” said Michelle, “and in the Senate, Mitch McConnell would say the same thing.”
The president chuckled, “They’d even accuse me of playing politics, which I would never do. As president, you know, I’m above such things.”
“But, Barack, that pipeline has been studied to death,” said Michelle.
“Not by me,” replied the president. “I’m duty bound to make myself fully informed before making such a momentous decision. The way I figure it, I couldn’t possibly digest all that information – what with other matters that are bound to come up – until November seventh at the earliest.”
“You always do the most responsible thing – what’s best for the country,” said Michelle adoringly. “Things were so much better when you could count on our majorities in both houses of Congress to do things in an open, transparent and honest way. But that was when compromise was the order of the day.
“You might even say the whole country had Hawaii’s spirit of aloha. Well, the girls and I are heading for the beach.”
“Don’t rub it in,” said the president, “at least, not the way I plan to rub this deal in during my re-election campaign.”
(Personal note: Michael Ackley is taking a couple of weeks off to commune with his children and grandchildren. A happy New Year to all.)