“A lot of people said a Black man could get elected President of the United States when pigs fly,” the President of the United States said into a sleek, matte metal hand-held microphone. He waited for the reaction to die down and deadpanned, “And check it out. I’m in office less than a hundred days and booyah, swine flew.”

“Already heard that one,” Wiestler said around a mouthful of beer nuts.

“Don’t cry to me,” Monsoon grumbled. “I heard it all, while he was perpetrating it.’

“You know, once you get past the shock of the President doing a talk show,” Wiestler mused, “It starts to get kind of same,same. You stop rating him against Clinton or Jefferson or whatever and start comparing him to Letterman or Conan or Leno.”

“Oh, I didn’t tell him that about a thousand times,” Monsoon roared, his florid chops shaking in justifiable anger. “Barry, you’re just going to cheapen your coin, I’m telling him. And we’re going to need it if you want a sequel to your act in four years. But does he listen to me? Does he listen to fucking anybody?”

On the screen above the dim twilight of the bar where watching the “POTUS Show” had become a weekly ritual for the two flacksters, Obama continued his opening monologue. “Naturally I’m not going to negotiate with terrorists.” He paused and looked around as if counting the house. “I’m an attorney. I represent them and bill them by the hour.”

Wiestler almost spit up some of his Wild Turkey over that and turned to Monsoon, who held up a stifling hand and pointed to the screen.

“Just ask Bill Ayers. He thinks I’m the bomb.”

Wiestler’s laughter turned into an incredulous stare. “Holy shit! I figured you’re just being you usual grump about this show, but that’s just nuts.”

“So glad you’re finally wising up to what I’ve been trying to tell you. How much political capital is going down the drain with this thing?”

Wiestler regarded the screen, where Obama was mugging it up with his music director, Stevie Wonder, and pondered. “Well, I haven’t paid much attention to that end of things, you know. But maybe the Chief has something. You notice none of the other talk shows have been sounding him lately. Starts looking like knocking the competition. So he kind of bought off any nasty cracks from Letterman, et. al.”

“Until A-Rod knocks up his daughter.”

“And there’s something in being a household world. How’d you like to run a campaign for Leno?”

Monsoon’s habitual scowl softened as he thought that one over. His full lips even flirted with a little smile at his inner picture of coaching Leno into the presidency. Then he grunted, back to reality. “Make it Chuck Norris and we’ll talk.”

“How about Will Smith and a draft choice to be named later?” Wiestler shot back. But vooja de, he’d spoken too soon.

“I’m denying rumors that Will Smith has signed on to play me in a biopic,” Obama offhanded into the mike, then straightfaced the expectant pause. “Hey, if Bobby Darin got one…”

There was a smatter of applause and Wiestler gestured at the screen. “That wasn’t even funny.”

“Wait for it,” Monsoon groaned. “It gets unfunnier.”

“Oliver Stone did his little ‘I’m more subtle than Michael Moore’ number on Nixon and Bush. Apparently you have to be a Republican or get shot by half the population of the country.”

Monsoon snorted in disgust. “Go ahead, toss more crap on Camelot, Buckwheat.”

“Nothing on Jimmy Carter. Even with all the drama of the rabbit attack. And how about Bill? He deserves a film about his presidency. I mean other than the ones on Triple X Pay For View.”

“I’d pay,” Wiestler chuckled.

“If they got somebody less skanky than Monica, maybe. But check this out.”

“People have already compared my presidency to Bill’s. I don’t see any similarity between him and me,” again he strung out the wait to perfection. “I never even wanted to be Black.”

He waited out the applause and laugher, then winked. “If you saw any of that bioporn, maybe you can see why Bill does.”

Wiestler laughed out loud. “Hey, now that’s entertainment.”

“Do I look entertained?”

On screen, Obama continued, “Myself, I spent my life working to not be Black. Not as hard as Michael Jackson, maybe…”

Wiestler rolled his eyes and spun his stool to face Monsoon instead of the screen. “Speaking of white boys who can’t keep it in their own pants, how’s Hardley’s kid working out down in Cancun?”

“Not hearing much from our beamish boy,” Monsoon groused. “But I gotta admit, he’s got fuck-all to go on so far. He’s gumshoeing the A.O. but until she uses those cards it’s mostly a waiting game.”

“My guess is, they cancelled them about five minutes after I quit and came over here to the Good Guys.”

“And we’re still thrilled to have you, Jerry. But getting back to Townsend’s adventures in Mexico, I don’t think it’s much of a problem if it’s a long-term thing. He’s not costing us anything, there are those who might feel better with him far, far away, and anything he comes up with will be gravy. It’s a small percentage shot, but we’ve got to play those like we mean them. And since we’re lucky enough to be working for the most powerful entity in the world, we can afford it.”

“You think he got anything he could use from his old man?”

“Does anybody? I mean, not body count or whatever, but a straight answer? He was never a team player. The kid seems a little closer to what we need.”

“Well, if he can get next to her and turn something out, we win. But…”

“Hey, get a load of this,” Monsoon cut in. He waved his rocky scotch at the TV screen in mock horror.

“…everywhere I go,” Obama was saying in a close up from the show’s desk. He held up a Blackberry PDA by his face as he spoke. “They’ll have to tear it from my cold, dead hands, is what I’m saying. But for anybody who isn’t a security risk, it’s the way things are done. It takes one Black Barry to know one.”

“Jesus, he’s doing spots?” Wiestler burst out so loud the bartender actually paid attention to them for a minute before turning back to staring down the pettish waitress’ décolletage. “That’s… Is that legal?”

“Don’t play naïve with me, of all people. Prexies solicit funds for speech all the time…”

“But prime time? A straight out ad buy? This isn’t Dole pitching Dickhardia after he lost, this is… shit it’s like saying the President of the United States can be bought up on the spot market.”

“Been there, done that. So have you.”

“Not this naked. This is…”

Joe Biden’s face, created by nature as the perfect second banana, replaced his boss on the screen, holding a white version of the product beside his beaming grin. “Hey, I got one, too.”

Obama was back on camera. “Yep, Joe’s holding the new “Whiteberry” model. It’s just like mine but much smaller and instead of the internet it connects to the Old Boy network, holds just five minutes of mp3 muzak that repeats over and over, and comes complete with virtual shredder and authentic gold-filled parachute.”

Wiestler turned slowly back to Monsoon, highly sobered. “Next time you talk to young Townsend, tell him to price apartments in Mexico for us.”

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Whatever else you might say about it, Townsend was thinking, this is some set of wheels. Supposed to be able to take anything less than a nuclear hit, totally soundproof, electronics consoles an AWACS plane would envy, and a top-flight bar. He looked around the somber dusk the black windows lent the back seat, trying to figure out what to say to these two Committee To ReElect The Incumbent guys. Always a safe bet, “Nice set of wheels.”Monsoon sprawling across the rear-facing jump seats, continued to give him the blank eyeball-vetting he’d gotten since he’d been ushered into the Caddy, but finally spoke. “It didn’t really belong to that Tupac guy.”

“I sort of figured that.”

“One way to look at it, it’s a job perk. Not just his job… my job, too.”

“Beats the shit out of a bus pass.”

Wiestler, the skinny Jewish guy, chuckled, but not a flicker from Monsoon’s big, florid Kilarney mug. “What I’m trying to get across to you, a D.C. kind of perk. All mental.”

“That’s my impression.”

Monsoon threw an exasperated look at Wiestler. “Lord love us, he’s a sarky as his old man.” To Townsend he spelled out, “What I mean is this, hotshot. Michelle doesn’t get to blast around in this car, do her shopping or whatever. Biden doesn’t get to take it out for a spin, drop by his implant doc or whatever. But I do. See what I’m saying?”

“You’re saying white guys have finally discovered the symbolic value of Cadillacs?”

“Hit him, will you Weasler? You’re closer. Have him audited or something.”

“Look, I’m already impressed. You made sure of that before you did this ‘pick you up in a black limo long as the Mall’ thing.”

“No point in slugging him. He’s as bombproof as …”

Townsend cut in sharply. “My old man. Yeah, yeah. Can we move past that a little? Get to me?”

Monsoon gave him another searching glare, then nodded to himself. “That might be a sort of theme in your life, huh, sonny? Well, sure. This is your show, all the way.”

“Rather, it’s our show,” Wiestler came in. “But you’ve been cast in a plum role.”

“I’d just like to thank all the little people who made it possible.”

Wiestler laughed and Monsoon made a disgusted noise like clearing his throat with a toilet brush. “Okay, sure. You’re young, dumb and full of cum and all over this thing. Think we’re a couple of superannuated puss-guts dwelling on the past. Fine. Thing is, everything in the brief is up to date, the priorities your chief mentioned are iron-clad. Deny knowing if you’re captured or catch the clap; all that crap. Here’s why you’re here: for questions. Got any of those in there with the snappy answers?”

“None came to mind. If I ever figure out what the hell I’m after, I’ll call you up.”

“There you go. We very decidedly expect you to keep in touch. There’s a bag of Dirty Tricks waiting for you in your townhouse: bugs, sweeps, sponders, creepy-crawlies, cams, all that shit you guys do.”

“I don’t suppose there’s a lighter that can kill forty-three different ways or a briefcase that’s full of gold sovereigns that turns into a helicopter?”

“Could be, take a look when you open the package,” Wiestler smirked. “It’ll be like Christmas morning for junior grade spooks.”

“Cool, all I ever got at home was switches and hickory charcoal.” He looked at both of these merry tricksters and took a more respectful tone. “Look. I’m on this and I plan on you guys getting you money’s worth, or whatever you run on. I appreciate you picking me, I’ll keep you posted to the max.”

“There, see,” Wiestler said sweetly, “I told you he could kiss ass if he felt like it.”

“Well, pucker yours up, honey. I’m all about seeing results.”

Wiestler turned Townsend a glance, clucking sympathetically. “Not all Harps are jolly old elves. But listen, kid. I know you’ve heard this until you’re sick of it, but in fact, I did have the privilege of working with your father at one time.”

“Wait, I know this one.” Townsend snapped back into his defensiveness about what he would probably hear again and again until a generation of monkeywrenchers died off or faded away. “Great soldier and patriot, intrepid crime-fighter, bulwark of the American way? He screwed your wife and gave her a dose? Or a variation on those themes.”

“My wife hated him.”

Okay, so she probably did screw him, Townsend thought. Legion of Lost Lambs with Fig Leaf Cluster.

“But what I was going to say was, that son of a bitch really knew how to party.”

Hmm, more dossier on The Dads. “He’s a man of many parts.”

“So say hi if you see him.”

“I’ll certainly pass on your regards.” In the unlikely event, Townsend was thinking.

Munson leaned forward and suddenly the fat-assed bottomfeeder slipped away and there was this force sitting in front of him, an unquestionable wind of will. He spoke softly, but with a palpable intention behind it. “Think you might see him soon?”

“Well, you know never with the Pop.” Understatement of the decade, but better than Fat Chance.

“You should. In fact, I recommend it.”

“I’ll look him up as soon as I get back. Promise.”

“How about before you go?” Only grammatically a question: in real time a flat out command.

“Okay. I’ll do that. Pass on your compliments.”

Monsoon gave an ostensible smile. “Good. Don’t show him that picture of the spade bitch. He’d be on the plane with you.”

Townsend replied with a non-smile of his own. “ She’s hot as an inside tip. all right. I’m so glad you people are equal-opportunity exploiters.”

“I think we’re on the same page,” Wiestler said smoothly.

Monsoon nodded. “Ready to rock.”

A silence of finality and mutual lack of camaraderie settled into the back of the world’s most expensive General Motors car and Townsend looked around, checking it out. And sort of wondering where they were going and why. “We should take this juggernaut over to Accokeek,” he said brightly. “Pick some street drags.”

“The attention span of the young,” Wiestler nodded with mock sadness. “How about we watch the rest of that tape?”

“Fuck that,” Monsoon groused. “I had to sit through the real thing.”

“Aw, it was just getting good.” Wiestler pushed some hidden button and the plasma screen lit up, showing the set of the POTUS Show, the Prez leaning forward towards a beaming Caroline Kennedy on the guest sofa.

Obama grabbed even Monsoon’s disaffected attention by saying, “Being a designated New Yorker would confuse your self-image a little?”

“Not that much. I’ve always been a fan of the, whatchacallem, Yorkies. I just forgot and left the little cap in the limo.”

Weistler whinnied in glee and turned up the volume while Monsoon shook his head. “Can you believe that, kid? Chief Executive as Arsenio retread.”

“I prefer Jimmy Kimmel, frankly.”

Onscreen, Obama smiled ebulliently. “Doesn’t sound like trading on unearned cachet from your family name in order to run for Senator of a state you never lived in and actually despise created much of a problem for you.”

“Well, like I said, Barry, Hillary has always been a major inspiration to me.”

Weistler howled with laughter and even Monsoon cracked a jaded smile. “I gotta admit, that was almost worth it.”

Obama hid his reaction. “I’m surprised you didn’t make a bid on my old seat in Illinois.”

“Oh, I shopped around. But I got turned off by his whole, ‘What would you pay to be a Senator? Don’t answer now, because you also get…’ approach. You don’t treat a trusted public office like a blue light special. Plus I found out some of the bribe was earmarked for alcohol treatment centers in Chicago.”

“You have a problem with rehab, Caroline?”

“It’s a waste of time. My uncle’s been drinking like a fish for decades and he holds down a job. So what’s the point?”

“This has got to be scripted,” Weistler said between guffaws. “She’s not smart enough to come up with that.”

“How about stupid enough?” Townsend tossed in, but was ignored.

“You’re looking at reality TV there,” Monsoon told him. “God help us.”

“So, anyway, that’s behind you for now. Any future plans we should know about?”

“Well, it looks to me like the Secretary of State gig is easy to snag. I’m thinking of marrying some famous guy and going to secretary school.”

Townsend thought Weistler might wet his pants over that one, but the show clicked off as “Cadillac One” coasted to a regal stop. He couldn’t see much outside the one-way windows, but motioned the older men to proceed him. Both gave him canny smiles and big apres vous waves. He stepped out of the limo right into a clot of Secret Service men surrounding Barak Hussein Obama.

Townsend was cool as they come, practically from birth, but was taken aback by suddenly standing in the presence of his Boss In Chief. He froze up, staring as Monsoon and The Weasler exited the other door and walked around, grinning. He was impressed in spite of himself. Had to admit there was more to the guy in person. Much less reminiscent of that little stuffed sock monkey he’d had as a kid. But still, a lawyer.

He could see an expectant look on the prexy’s face, so he cautiously extended his hand, wishing there was photographer around. Start a collection of presidential flesh-pressing shots to rival his father’s.

Obama smiled, did a sort of yuppified black fist salute.

Townsend shrugged, flashed a peace sign that he quickly lowered to waist level.

“Rock breaks scissors,” he told the President. “You win.”

He nodded then moved quickly away from the clump of prezbiz.

Obama glanced after him, shaking his head, then entered the car. The door was promptly closed by guys who made it look like hermetically sealing the fate of the world, but the window whispered down. He shot a quick eye at his re-election honchos.

Weistler was laughing. “Stone, paper, scissors. I like him.”

“Pain in the butt,” Monsoon groused. “Like his old man.”

Obama nodded. “Who used to get it done, right?”

The window hummed back up as the Cad ghosted out of the building like a mafia sting ray.

“Fucking brat,” Monsoon muttered, but Weisler didn’t ask who he meant.

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Monsoon leaned over the monitor shaking his head like a bulldog confronting a marzipan bone. His whole dejected posture mimed the word, “Why?????” What he said out loud was a variation, “He must be out of his ever-loving mind.”

Rodney, his AV guy was careful not to touch any controls and piss the network guy off again, but pointed to the monitor, drew a nod, watched deft fingers on the sliders remove the offending dazzle from the host microphone. Giving a commiserating glance at Monsoon he said, “Could have been way worse. He actually wanted to film live from the real Oval Office.”

“Why am I not surprised.” Monsoon muttered. “Aghast, but hardly surprised.”

“It’s not easy working for a guy who thinks being out of the envelope is a winning virtue in itself.” He caught a glare from Monsoon and hastened to say, “Hey, I’m telling you, right? We have envelopes for a purpose.”

“So you built him a fake Oval Office set.” Monsoon eyed the set with obvious loathing. There was an arch of lights over head, but the camera showed only a reproduction of the Presidential office, complete with a mockup of the desk with authentic seal, the national colors behind the chair, even the window with a fake outside view. Except there was a couch next to the desk. For guests and his second banana. Disgusting.

“Which was a pain in the butt to do here in the studio, considering there must be a dozen copies and replicas of the Oval around town. Not to mention back sets at Warner Brothers and such. We could have picked up the old West Wing flats for peanuts, I’ll bet.”

“They’d have made you take Martin Sheen in the deal.”

“Careful, you’re talking about a rainmaker and contributor.”

Monsoon snorted. “I heard they’re going to start that series back up with Will Smith playing the President.”

Rodney smiled, “That must be why he changed his name to Akbar.”

“Okaaaay, readddddy…” the network guy said into his headset mike. “And… cue.”

“Here it goes,” Rodney said, excitement of an historic moment replacing his cynical pose.”

“Fucking bloody wonderful,” Monsoon groaned, “The Presidency’s finest hour.”

The theme music blasted out, instantly igniting feverish applause in the studio audience. Live studio audience, Monsoon winced. Great idea. We should charge extra for assassins. I thought Stevie Wonder wrote the theme, he was thinking. This sounds like the Pointer Sisters meet K-Mart ad. But then an announcer’s voice rode over the whole works:

“And now… Give it up for…”

He didn’t really say ‘give it up’, did he, Monsoon grumped silently.

“The hardest-running Chief of State in show biz today…”

Oh. My. GAWD! Monsoon thought. Or perhaps screamed unheard.

“Numero Uno… THE man… Heeeeere’s Barack!

The music jounced into a very jazzy version of “Hail To The Chief” before coming down under the wild applause. And the President of the United States stepped into a spotlight, holding a microphone, and smiled while waiting relative calm to begin his monologue in the first ever television show hosted by a President. The audience was going out of their minds. The network people were floating on their own brand of weird event adrenaline. Barack Obama was smiling serenely and giving a sort of crypto-black-power salute. Monsoon was about to be sick.

“Thank you, thank you, America,” the President said. And the applause rose another notch.

“Thanks so much, for so much,” he went on after a pause. “This is really humbling.”

Oh sure it is, Monsoon thought darkly. But The Man was a step ahead of him once again.

“And humbling me isn’t that easy,” Obama said to a blitzkrieg of laughter. He turned and pointed into the darkness to the right of the set, where Stevie Wonder sat a piano in front of a cheap boombox on a stool. “Now lemme have one for my band leader… Stevie Wonder!”

Stevie reached to turn a knob on the ghetto blaster and the theme faded out. He beamed in his sunglasses, tinkling a few notes of the “Hail to the Chief” variation.

“That’s “Hail to the Chief, right, Stevie? Not “Inhale to the Chief?”

The applause drowned out Monsoon, who stared chanting, “No, no, no, oh sweet Jesus freakin’ Christ almighty, no.”

Stevie smiled wider and leaned to his mike, “It’s all good, Barry. All good.”

“I was going to sing the National Anthem,” Obama went on. “But as soon as I said, ‘Oh, say, can you see?” Stevie took a break. What was it your said, Stevie?”

“I said, ‘If I could see, I’d know you cheap suckahs didn’t really hire me a band, wouldn’t I?”

“Pretty hard to pull the wool over Stevie’s eyes,” Obama went on. “Those budget cuts have to start somewhere.”

He squinted out into the house, shading his eyes. “Great crowd tonight. Not a single vacant seat.”

He gave a beat, then said. “And too bad, because Rod Blagojevich could use the money.”

Monsoon staggered back from the console and collapsed into a metal folding chair, shaking his head in horror. He had to get this guy re-elected in less than three years. The horror, he thought, Oh, the horror.”

On stage, though, the Prez had them in the palm of his hand. “It’s nice being in the presidential ‘honeymoon’ period, so far.”

On the couch, Joe Biden, who had slipped in quietly to take the Ed McMahon spot, piped up.

“Is it like a real honeymoon, Barry?”

“Not really. They don’t screw you until the honeymoon’s over.”

There was an intake of breath in the audience, then a slam of laughter. The Prez gave it the perfect timing pause, then said. “And you don’t suck until later.”

“Maybe we just call it a ‘transitional period’,” Biden said from the couch.

“Exactly. I’m still getting on top of it. Like for one thing, the term White House is going to be pretty passé as soon as I can get any non-union painters to return my calls.”

There was a brief shock on that one, too, but shorter. They’re figuring out he’s not your parent’s prexy, Monsoon thought.

Obama moved around the spot like a pro. “Oh, they’re giving me a new Cadillac, by the way.” He gave a veiled look and said, “No stereotypes around here.”

This time there was no pause, just laughter.

“The good news is, it’s bulletproof, bomb proof, completely invulnerable. A creampuff, one-owner car.”

The waited out his beat, expectantly. He said, “The bad new is, the previous owner was Tupac Shakur.”

Monsoon watched in fascinated repulsion as the monologue ensued.

–“Looks like I have to get some Foreign Affairs experience. Hope Michelle doesn’t find about it. She told me I may be the Black Kennedy, but only up to a point.”

–“Seems there are all these nuclear weapons out there in the wrong hands: Iran, Korea, Pakistan. Well, I think I’ve proved I can get nukes out of the hands of insane dictators. Three months ago the Republicans had The Bomb.”

“Good luck getting bombs away from Bill Ayers,” Biden quipped and the POTUS cringed playfully, bombarded with laughter.

–“We’ve got some good guests for you tonight, folks. And it wasn’t easy. We tried to have Hillary and John Edwards, but they got in a big fight over who had to prettiest hair. Then we lined up Evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, but he said he couldn’t make it. But a dozen teenaged hustlers in Colorado said he can make it, but only if you chew gum and talk dirty.”

–“But seriously people, we’re proud to welcome a very special guest tonight: Camelot Carpetbagger Caroline Kennedy!”

Monsoon lurched out of the chair and dashed into the wings, scattering Democrat hotshots and television techs as he plowed for the door, fresh air, and a really stiff drink.

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