Being Barack Obama

President Barack Obama reviews his prepared remarks on Egypt at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, Feb. 11, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)




The room is oval. The carpet is plush. The desk is very large. Behind it sits a lean black man in a perfectly fitted shirt and perfectly knotted tie, his graying hair close-cropped. On his desk lies a confidential memo detailing the latest tactical moves and strategic plans of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, which according to the memo, sees itself as an agent for the hastening of the Apocalypse. A white paper waits to be read: it lays out the worse-case scenario for unchecked climate change, which by 2050 could produce a world with a carrying capacity far below 9 billion people and diminishing thereafter, decade by decade. The man looks quickly at his calendar for the day: next up is a briefing on the consequences of an adverse decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in King v. Burwell, where the issue is whether the IRS may permissibly promulgate regulations to extend tax-credit subsidies to coverage purchased through exchanges established by the federal government under Section 1321 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.


Meanwhile, in the background buzzes the sound of voices from a television set tuned to Fox News … “Deneen, your thoughts on President Obama’s use of tne n-word and the dignity of the office?” “It’s outrageous, David, I think he has absolutely lowered the standards in terms of being president of the United States. He made no mention of racism in America when he ran for office not once but twice, and I have dubbed him today Rapper in Chief for using such language … What are young children thinking, what are people thinking that this is coming from the president of the United States. It’s outrageous.”


The man behind the desk picks up a pen in his left hand and scribbles a note in the margin of the memo he is reading. Meanwhile, somewhere in the sands of the Middle East, the clock is ticking backward toward the seventh century. In the Arctic, water frozen for time out of mind is set free to wash in waves against a few stray sheets of ice. And somewhere in Middle America, a mom is taking her son for the first time to a pediatrician for a well-child exam.

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