Monday, October 11, 2010

Obama urged to get new metaphor

"So, Philly, it comes down to the metaphor of the economy as a car, which is a good way to visualize it, since the automotive industry is a vital component of our economy. Many of the Republicans who are running right now, these are the exact same folks who spent the last decade driving our economy into a ditch. Now you're probably saying to yourselves, how could they spend a whole decade driving the economy into a ditch? Good question. The short answer is that what they actually did was engage in reckless driving. Were they drunk? They might have had something in their Slurpees, that's for sure, because they were driving too fast, too hard, ignoring all the rules of the road. They would drive through yellow lights, ignore railroad crossings, and ride right along the edge of the ditch, so it was inevitable that sooner or later they would go in. And then one day in September of 2008, their luck ran out. They hit that ditch and crashed the living hell out of that car." - President Obama, 10/10/10

Attempting to gin up enthusiasm in the final two weeks before the mid-term  elections, President Obama address an energetic crowd of 18,000 at Fulton Park in Philadelphia. Media coverage of the event was minimal, consisting entirely of the story of the fat white streaker and the story of the paperback book tossed in Obama's general vicinity.

"The streaker story was pretty interesting," says adviser David Axelrod, "but it hardly furthers the message the president is trying to get out. The book, well, maybe if it had been 'Mein Kampf' or a Koran that would have made the news cycle, but 'Love's Blazing Desire'? Please. What the president need most right now is a new metaphor."

"And once we were elected, Joe and I, we put on our work boots - and these are Chippewa work boots, made right here in the USA -  and changed out of our suits and ties into something more appropriate, and we went down into that ditch. It was a good thing we put on those Chippewas because it was muddy and dusty down there and it stank. And we started pushing on that car to get it out of the ditch. Rocked it back and forth trying to get it free cause it was stuck pretty good no matter how hard we tried to push it. And then along came Joe Sestak, and he said, 'Hey Mister President, why don't I help Joe push it, and you get up front with a rope and pull it'.  And I said, thanks Joe, that's not a bad idea."

"Don't get me wrong," continues Axelrod. "The car in the ditch is a really good metaphor. The president came up with it himself, and everybody at the White House loved it. Hence the problem. Once the president finds a metaphor he likes, he wants to squeeze every last ounce of life out of it."

"Every once in a while, we'd look up at the Republicans. They were up the hill, leaning on a white picket fence. They were the ones who had driven the car into the ditch, but they had gotten out and they were kind of taking a break, plotting ways to prevent us from calling a tow-truck. These guys were all fanning themselves and sipping on Slurpees, watching us do all the work. Mitch McConnell, as I recall, had a lemon-lime Slurpee, and wouldn't you just know it, John Boehner had an orange one, heh heh heh. Eric Cantor didn't have a Slurpee. He was drinking a Dr Pepper, cause he's a young gun.  They asked if we could turn the radio on, and we did, but they still weren't happy because we wouldn't turn it to the station that Rush was on. Every once in a while they'd say, why don't you push harder? You're not pushing the right way, Obama. But they didn't try to help. Boehner walked down to the car once. I thought he was going to help us but he just wanted to use the cigarette lighter. I had to ask him, 'John, don't you realize your lighting your Winston with the American economy?'"

"See, every time he tells the story, it gets longer and more elaborate," explains Axelrod. "In the President's mind, it keeps getting better. Which it does, but that's beside the point. How's the media supposed to cover it at this point? We try to offer him new metaphors to try out, but it's a pride of ownership issue."

"And after pushing and pushing over these last 20 months, finally we've got that car out of the ditch. What's left of it, anyway. I don't know what you're supposed to expect when the wheels fall off. It's going to need massive infrastructure work to get it back in good running shape, so it's a pretty good thing we saved the auto industry. Now I've got to be honest, the fuel lines are so messed up that I'm not sure how long it will still be able to run on gas, so we better be looking at a new fuel source. But the good news is that the motor still turns over. It's moving, it's capable of moving forward, but if you try to put it in reverse you're going to be looking at utter disaster..."
"Hey, I'm going to slip out for a quick cup of coffee. Want to join me?" asks Axelrod. "It's going to be another twenty minutes before the part where the Republicans ask for the keys back."

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