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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bill Burton's Secret Weapon: A Play in One Scientific Act.

THE SCENE: BILL BURTON, Barack Obama's campaign manager, is sitting behind a large chrome and glass desk in a well-appointed, modern office. A large, sleek metal box with two buttons rests on top of the desk. One button is red, and reads "Verbiage;" the other is green, and reads "Statistics."

There is a computer (the latest Mac, of course) and a printer on the side of the desk. His iPhone is lying on the desk: Bill is [duh!] too hip for a landline. Besides which, he doesn't want AT&T spying on HIM!

In front of the desk is DAVID AXELROD, Barack Obama's right-hand man. They are sipping cups of coffee and finishing up croissants. AXELROD also has an iPhone in his hand, from which he will read the action items for the meeting.

BURTON: Ah! The almond croissant was particularly moist today. So, David, what's on the agenda?

AXELROD: Okay, Bill, we've got several things that need our immediate attention. First off, as you know, President Obama's foreign-policy experience has now been brought up to parity with John McCain's after his week-long tour of Europe and the Middle East. So we're all good there. However, we estimated that a million people would attend his speech in Berlin, and even with two free concerts thrown in, we were nowhere near that number. Can we figure out how many people attended?

BURTON: No problemo! [addressing the box on his desk] Computer, how many people attended the Berlin rally?

COMPUTER [in sultry female voice]: Please press the green button. [BURTON does so.] Your answer is: Two hundred thousand.

AXELROD: Great, great. I'll send it out now. [notates the number in his iPhone and quickly sends it off to his press mailing list] Okay, next item is: The President skipped a visit to the troops while in Berlin because the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring in his cameras. How do we make it clear that President Obama does not, in fact, think of the troops as just a campaign prop?

BURTON [drawing in his breath]: Oooooh, that's a tough one. Let's see what our girl can come up with. Computer, what is the reason for Obama's skipping his visit to the troops?

COMPUTER: Please press the red button. [BURTON does so.] Your answer is: I.A.C.F.

AXELROD [confused]: IACF?

BURTON [embarrassed at the faux pas]: Um, that stands for "It's All Clinton's Fault." I keep telling her that is no longer an acceptable response, but she keeps defaulting to it - I don't know why. [addressing computer] Computer, please give alternate reason.

COMPUTER: Please press the red button. [BURTON does so.] Your alternate reason is: George W. Bush.

AXELROD: George W. Bush? What does she mean by that?

BURTON [nervously]: Search me. [both think for a moment]

AXELROD: Wait, wait! I've got it! We'll say the Pentagon stopped him from going. They were worried that it would look like a campaign visit. Brilliant, Bill! Gotta love that machine. [BURTON is visibly relieved. AXELROD dashes off another communique to the press corpse.] All right all right all right! Now, how about this one? People are raising the issue that President Obama's senior thesis is nowhere to be found.

BURTON: Heh. Thank goodness.

AXELROD: Yeah. So anyway, since Hillary's thesis was thoroughly reviewed and dissected in the media, why haven't we released Barack's?

BURTON: Wow. That IS a stumper! Computer, why haven't we released President Obama's thesis?

COMPUTER: Your question contains a logical fallacy. Please rephrase.

BURTON [rolling his eyes]: Fine, fine. [to AXELROD] She can't handle it when I say "President Obama." So literal-minded! [re-addressing computer] Computer, why haven't we released Senator Obama's thesis?

COMPUTER: Please press the red button. [BURTON does so.] Your response is: "The absurdity of spending any time discussing this issue on television at all makes it difficult to even respond to what you’ve done. Even presenting a balanced argument of what is such a specious story does not do justice to the ridiculousness of giving this any oxygen whatsoever."

[slight pause]

AXELROD: Well, it's a bit wordy, but I think it's the right tone. Great job again, Bill! Off it goes to my press contacts. [AXELROD works his iPhone.]

BURTON [looking at his iPhone]: So, David, is that about it? You know I have to bring the President his waffles.

AXELROD: Oh, just one more thing. Can that model do predictions?

BURTON [doubtfully]: Well, we did install a new module last week, but it's more of a "Magic Eight Ball" than a real analyzer.

AXELROD: Ahhhh, so what? Let's try her out. We may get something we like.

BURTON: Okey-dokey. What do you want me to ask her?

AXELROD: Ask her to predict the results of the November election. Who will become our next President? [snickering] As if we didn't know the answer to that.

BURTON [snickering]: Yeah! That's a good one, Davey. Let's have a little fun. Computer, who will become our next President?

COMPUTER: Please rotate me three times. [BURTON does so.] Your response is: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

BURTON: What? There must be some kind of malfunction. [starts hitting the side of the box]

COMPUTER: Barack Obama's campaign will self-destruct in thirty days.

AXELROD: What the hell is that bitch talking about? [crosses to desk and starts hitting the other side of the box]

COMPUTER: Party Unity, My Ass. PUMA. PUMA. PUMA! [COMPUTER explodes with a giant BANG! and a large puff of smoke.]

[After the smoke clears, BURTON and AXELROD have dirty faces, electric-shock hair, and exasperated expressions.]

AXELROD: Fifth one this month.

BURTON: Yup. Maybe we need a stronger anti-PUMA program. The PUMA virus keeps infecting all our bots.

AXELROD: Well, work on it, will ya? This is getting ridiculous. [begins walking out]

BURTON: Hey, Dave?

AXELROD: Yes, Bill?

BURTON: What if PUMA is the anti-virus, not the virus? What if we are the infection, and the Democratic body keeps rejecting us?

[brief pause]

AXELROD [menacingly]: Bill, you want my advice? Stop thinking so hard, or you'll end up going the way of your computer there.

BURTON [cowed]: Yessir. No problem. I was just -

AXELROD: I know what you were doing. Now, put your happy face on and go get the President his breakfast.

BURTON: Right away, sir. [involuntarily bursting out] PUMA!


BURTON [sheepishly]: Sorry, Dave. It's catching!

Cross-posted at The Confluence

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