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 the difference.
Members of the president’s Cabinet were stunned last week when our chief executive entered the room. He was clad in a brilliantly white cape and cassock, and had a white skull cap on his head.
Barack Obama spread his arms and pirouetted, spun to a stop and asked, “How do you like me now?”
For a long moment, there was silence. Then Attorney General Eric Holder began to applaud, followed by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, then Health and Human Services’ Kathleen Sibelius and finally the rest – if somewhat tentatively.
Finally, Vice President Joseph Biden spoke.
“Chief,” he said, “that’s a swell looking outfit, but … I mean … What’s the point? You aren’t even Catholic.”
“It’s Valerie Jarret’s idea,” said Obama. “We all know my approval numbers have been slipping, and she figured this would give me a big boost in the polls.”
“But,” said Biden, “that’s a Catholic outfit, and …”
“That’s not the point,” said the president impatiently. “The new pope is Catholic, but it wasn’t just Catholics who were excited about him. The whole world seemed to embrace him. Talk about a love fest!
“Nobody has to call me ‘holy father,’ but I figure that when I step out on the White House balcony in this getup, the people not only will love me again, they will get behind the big declaration I plan to make.”
“What will that be?” asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
“The pope is infallible, right?” asked Obama.
“Well, he is in matters of morals and doctrine,” replied the vice president.
“OK, then,” said Obama. “As a progressive, my morals are superior, and nobody is more doctrinaire than I. So I should be infallible in all matters political. And I will declare it to be the case – by executive order.
“There aren’t enough votes in Congress to override one of my executive orders. This one will lend new weight to my arguments when I declare that my opponents should compromise and come around to my viewpoint.”
“There’s a problem,” chimed in Secretary of State John Kerry. “Papal infallibility has the imprimatur of a majority vote of Catholic bishops. … I believe it was around 1870. I don’t want to be a naysayer, far from it. But I think you have to have some sort of vote, the way the bishops did.”
There was a general murmur of agreement, and the president pondered the idea. Then he said, “Bishops, eh? Well we could substitute senators. They act like bishops anyway, and since we control the Senate, I should breeze through.
“Think of what it will mean for the legislative process: Any time there’s a stalemate, I step out on the balcony and the people go nuts. Any time there’s a scandal – are you listening, Eric? – I step out on the balcony and all is forgiven.
“It’s win, win win!”
The Cabinet members began to discuss the idea among themselves, in a number of conversations around the table. At last they seemed satisfied and by common consent told the president to proceed with his plan.
“We could hold a ceremony!” suggested Napolitano. “We’ll get a bunch of citizens – black, Latino, white, Asian – to stand behind you, just the way you do when you hold a press conference.”
“And we could get around that First Amendment ‘establishment clause’ by having them sing a secular hymn,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Something like, ‘We Are the World.'”
“You could do a national tour,” said Holder, “just like you do when you don’t really want a dialog with House Speaker John Boehner. Folks would lap it up!”
“I have an idea!” said Joe Biden. “When Pope Francis stepped out on the balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica, the first thing he did was perform an act of humility. You could do the same kind of thing! You know, bow to the people and kind of ask their blessing – their guidance. Yes! An act of humility would be just the thing!”
And the president replied, “Let’s not get carried away.”