Monday, January 13, 2014

Obama, Joe Biden, & Me

President Obama--the man who once saved my life in 'Nam--and I go way back, so it was no surprised to me when he called me out of the blue.
     "Jim... ah... it's B.O." he told me, as if I wouldn't recognize his voice. "You got some time?"
     "Not really," I told him, trying to be polite. "I'm in the middle of taking down my Christmas lights."
     "Good. I'm sending Air Force One."
     Well, the President doesn't understand politeness, so that's how I found myself sitting in the Oval Office waiting for my old friend. Waiting, because he always likes to make an entrance, even to those of us who aren't impressed by entrances.
     But I didn't mind. It gave me an opportunity to take a stroll down memory lane. It was no special memory, just the two of us driving in a jeep on our way to "reclaim" a briefcase from a North Vietnamese Major by the name of Brett. That briefcase belonged to Marsellus Wallace, a private contractor, and he wanted it back because there was something special inside. His soul. That was the theory, at least. Whatever it was, we were sent to retrieve it "with extreme prejudice."
     On our drive I was explaining to B.O. that in Amsterdam they don't call a McDonald's Quarter Pounder with Cheese a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. They call it a Royale with Cheese.
    "You see," I told him, "they use the metric system there. They wouldn't know what the heck a Quarter Pounder is."
     "A Royale with Cheese," he repeated. "What do they call a Big Mac?"
     If there was one thing my friend B.O. always had, it was curiosity.
     "A Big Mac's a Big Mac, but there they call it Le Big Mac."
     "Le Big Mac. What do they call a Whopper?"
     Sometimes his curiosity got a little tiresome.
     "I don't know," I told him, trying to think of a way to derail this conversation. "I didn't go into a Burger King. Do you like foot massages?"
     "Me? I'm the foot frakking master!"
     "Would you give me a foot massage? I'm kind of tired."
     B.O. just looked at me a long moment, knowing he'd been set up.
     But I digress...
     When Obama walked into his office he caught me chuckling to myself.
     "'Nam?"
     I nodded, and he chuckled too.
     He sat down behind his big desk, and put his feet up. His subtle way of showing me who, between the two of us, was President of the United States of America.
     "Remember that time..." he said.
     "...when we were..." I said.
     "...and there was..."
     "...who offered us..."
     "...'too boo-coo,' she said. 'Too boo-coo'..."
     "Yeah, too boo-coo. Good times, my friend, good times," I said, trailing off and just letting the silence settle in.
     I didn't press. I knew he had his own way of getting to the point. He wanted to decompress, and having me up here just to shoot the breeze was one of his ways to do it. Another way was "taking selfies" with hot, blonde Danish Prime Ministers, but that's another story.
     "You hear about that book coming out?" he asked me, finally dipping his toe in to test the water.
     "The one by Gates?"
     The Gates I was referring to was Robert Gates, the 22nd United States Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011. He was a Bush hold-over. President Obama didn't replace him as Secretary of Defense when he first took office, and even awarded him the Medal of Freedom, and the former Secretary of Defense repaid B.O. by criticizing him in "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War." A memoir of his time in office.
     "Yeah, that's the one."
     "You know, I never did understand why you kept a Bush appointee after you took office."
     He shrugged.
     "Who else did I have? Anthony Weiner?"
     "I see your point. I hear Joe Biden got the worst of it, though."
     The particular quote I was thinking of was: "I think he (Biden) has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades."
     The President gave me a hard look.
     "What the former Secretary of Defense couldn't see was how Biden's an intregal part of my decision-making process."
     I looked at him, skeptically.
     "No, really," he told me. "He's invaluable to me. A man who is always wrong is more valuable than a man who is always right. For one thing, he'll be consistant, and, for another, he'll never be a threat."
     I continued to look at him skeptically.
     "You're talking about Joe?" I wanted to clarify. "Joe Biden?"
     "That's right," he insisted. "Joe Biden. Do you remember 'Wrong-Way' Woo in Saigon?"
     "Yeah, he was the Chinese guide who always got us lost."
     "Yeah, until we learned that whichever way he told us to go, if we just went in the opposite direction, we'd be okay."
     "Yeah. Whatever happened to him?"
     "He drowned in a bowl of soup after a hard night of partying with Hanoi Jane."
     "Drowned in a bowl of soup?" I was shocked. "How'd he do that?"
     "He passed out, face first, into a bowl of soup he was eating."
     Good old "Wrong-Way." If he had just fallen backward instead of forward when he was eating that bowl of soup, he'd be alive today. Obama must have been thinking the same thing.
     "His bad sense of direction stayed true to the very end," he told me. And then he told me, "And Biden's the same way. Like Gates said, he's been wrong on every point of policy since he's been in office, so I use him as my personal compass whenever there's a decision I need to make."
     "You do?" I said, still skeptical, but it was beginning to make sense.
     "You bet I do. Whatever Biden tells me I should do, I do the opposite, and it hasn't failed me yet. I remember when I was trying to push through the Affordable Care Act. There were times when I felt it wasn't going to happen, but when I asked Biden his opinion, he told me, 'I don't see it happening, boss. After all, if Hilary Clinton couldn't do it, it can't be done.' After that, I knew I had it in the bag."
     He could see I had my doubts.
     "Watch," he told me, and then yelled out toward the door. "Joe!"
     Biden's head poked through the door almost immediately. It was as if he spent his day just waiting outside the Oval Office for Obama to call him.
     "Yeah, boss?" he asked like an eager puppy.
     "Are the Cowboys gonna make it to the Super Bowl this year?" the President asked him.
     The Vice-President broke into a big smile. He reminded me of Batman's Joker.
     "You bet!" he answered. So loud, you would have thought he was on an airplane talking on his cell phone. "Yes, sir, this is their year, boss! Romo's never looked better!"
     "Thanks, Joe," the President said, dismissing him.
     "You bet," Biden said, and then his head disappeared behind the door again.
     "See what I mean?" the President asked me.
     Sadly, I did.








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