Friday, November 30, 2012

What Really Happened in President Obama's Private Meeting with Mitt

Yesterday, President Obama welcomed Mitt Romney into his private dining room at the White House at exactly 12:30 in the afternoon. One hour and eleven minutes later, Mr. Romney departed the premises, and the luncheon was supposedly one-on-one, with even elite members of the press corps not allowed inside. In the day and a half since the luncheon, speculation has run rampant about what actually went on, and official statements from both camps have been released.

All of it is wrong.

So today--after lingering long and thinking through my decision very carefully--I have decided to come clean. To confess. To spill the frijoles. To open the can of worms (even though many of you, like me, wonder why certain people derive joy out of canning worms; there's plenty else we could can: peas, carrots, perhaps thick marmalade, heck, even toe nail clippings--but worms, really?). To play the pied piper's tune (because I learned to play the pied pipe long ago (it's not much more difficult than learning to play a normal pipe)).

I was there.

I was there for the entire hour and eleven minutes, and after living with the knowledge of what those minutes held--caressed, nuanced, delicately balanced--I have decided to tell all.

First, the reason I was invited by both parties anyway. Many readers of this blog aren't aware of the fact that I am Ryan Gosling. Details of my life--like the fact that I "live" in York, England, am "married" and am a "father" to a four-year old son named "Tyler," am a "writer" and a "teacher" and I have a "real life history"--have all been invented in order to give me some level of secrecy. (As you can probably guess, I work harder than most other actors because of this need for a highly detailed fake life.)

But I am the Ry-master. And even though revealing that fact here (now) will undoubtedly make my life a heck of a lot more complicated, the Obama / Romney meeting yesterday has forced my hand (and I'm not even a card player).

Now, the meeting.

I could have tape recorded the entire thing on a tiny device that I happen to carry around with me everywhere. But I didn't. I don;t need that device, and I only carry it for purposes of establishing humility because I don't like to admit that I have a perfect photographic memory (which, in case you didn't know, also means I have a perfect phonographic memory (which, in case you didn't know, means that I can recall sounds and images at a moment's notice back to when I was three months old)).

Since one of the fake-details of my life is that I am a "writer," I decided to coat the big reveal with the cloak of my writerly self. Thus.

President Obama: Mitt, welcome.

Mr. Romney: Prez, thank you. Thank you very much. [Mr. Romney's hair is slicked back with copious gel, and I wonder if--perchance--he and I are consumers who zero in on the same gel brand at the store.]

President Obama: I hope you don't mind that I asked Ryan to join us? Members of your campaign staff assured me it wouldn't be a problem. [President Obama smiles wide enough to make me faint, and I don't faint easily.]

Mr. Romney: Members of my campaign staff assured me of a lot of things, too, Prez. [Mr. Romney pauses and when I gaze into his eyes, it looks as though he is lost in thought about why people ever decided to start canning worms, only to open up those cans at inappropriate moments. The more he thinks about this, the more he looks like he could cry, and it suddenly seems like his casting via media as a man without empathy might--perchance!--be wrong. Any man who can feel deeply enough about worms to practically tear up over their canning is an empathetic man in my book.]

President Obama: So, were members of your campaign staff correct? [President Obama shirts from foot to foot, and then finally throws his arm around me--a gesture of solidarity, for which I am thankful at this point. Because you can only think about the poor worms being canned for so long before you start to lose control.]

Mr. Romeny: About Ryan?

President Obama: About Ryan.

Mr. Romney: To be honest, I should have chosen Hilary Clinton. You and I both know that. We would have wiped the floor with you. No disrespect, of course, Prez. That Ryan guy--all he did for me was make me go to the extreme of Extreme Makeover.

President Obama: None taken. After all, this is still my private dining room, so you have permission to mourn your loss in any way you see fit. As long as it doesn't interrupt our agenda for the day. [President Obama winks at me. I wink back. Then I turn towards Mr. Romney and wink his way as well. I hate for anyone to feel left out. Mr. Romney winks back at me--the empathy this man has! And President Obama must interpret Romney's wink as directed at him, because he winks back at Mr. Romney and then Mr. Romney eventually winks at President Obama--only after a long, subdued, awkward silence.]

Me: My eyes are hurting.

Mr. Romney: [laughs]

President Obama: What's so funny, Mr. Romney. Haven't your eyes ever hurt before?

Mr. Romney: Never more than 47% of the time.

President Obama: Look, Mitt--I'm gonna call you Mitt from now on, okay?--I am really hungry and we're having an amazing Southwestern salad, so can you just tell me if it's alright if Ryan stays?

Mr. Romney: Yeah, yeah, the kid's alright. Bet he could eat fifty eggs and knock down a few parking meters if he wanted.

Me: I love that movie.

President Obama: Me too.

Mr. Romney: Well, let's get down to gold tacks and brass knuckles. The agenda. Does the kid know about it? [Mr. Romney wags his thumb at me and I feel slightly affronted. After all, I'm not that much younger than him, and we both use the same gel, and we both feel badly about the canned worms.]

President Obama: Mitt, Ryan is okay. In fact, he's solid. he's extremely solid in this area. That's why I asked him here in the first place.

[We all sit down at the table, on which glasses of water are already poured, seven pieces of silverware aligns the cloth in front of each of us, and chocolate Santa Clauses sit on each of our plates.]

Mr. Romney: Nice touch, Prez. [Holds up his personal chocolate Santa Clause.]

President Obama: You like that, do you Mitt?

Mr. Romney: I do, Prez.

[Awkward silence.]

[Continued awkward silence.]

[I decide to eat my chocolate Santa.]

[Awkward silence.]

[I decide to eat Mr. Romney's chocolate Santa.]

[Extremely awkward silence.]

[I decide to eat President Obama's chocolate Santa.]

President Obama: Ryan, please. I only had three of those, and they were especially made by a rare species of gnomes off the coast of Finland who work tirelessly day and night and produce a dozen chocolate Santa Clauses each decade.

Me: [Awkward.]

Mr. Romney: Aw, Prez, let the kid here off easy this time. He was famished after knocking all those parking meter heads off.

Me: I'm not Paul Newman.

Mr. Romney: Geesh, I know, I know. I'm, just saying.

President Obama: Salads please!

[A waiter rushes into the room carrying a tray on which sit three of the most perfect Southwestern salads I have ever seen in my entire human existence.]

Me: President Obama, were these made by those same gnomes off the coast of Finland? [laughing. Come on, it's funny.]

President Obama: Yes.

Mr. Romney: Checkmate.

Me: I don't play chess.

Mr. Romney: But did you ever think about the fact that maybe chess plays you? Bet you didn't. Maybe give that a think or two the next time you want to go our knocking parking meter heads off.


President Obama: Okay, gentlemen. It's about time we start with the real agenda for this meeting: Mitt's reading choices.

Mr. Romney: Look, when the guy from Time Magazine asked me, I didn't have time to prep--I couldn't think on the spot. You had time, Prez. You could expertly choose a few American classics, a few independent-spirit stuff, some Pulitzer winners. I didn't have the luxury of a whole team helped me narrow down my options.

President Obama: Look, Mitt, I didn't choose your campaign team for you--

Me: And I didn't choose to eat your chocolate Santas. It's a condition.

[Awkward silence.]

Me: But the thing about the reading choices--look, that's the real reason I'm here. And I'm here for BOTH of you.

Mr. Romney: [Aside] That and to knock off a few parking meter heads. [Laughs.]

Me: [Standing, flexing pectorals, biceps, and triceps] Cool it with the COOL HAND LUKE ALLUSIONS, MITT, OKAY!

Mr. Romney: [Sweats]

Me: [Suddenly this image comes to mind and I feel real bad about what I just did. The image is all these worms--nice, friendly, well-meaning worms--trapped in some can solely for the purpose of some rhetorical device in some silly blog post.] 

President Obama: Ryan, take a breath. Good, Now, can you just give us the reading list already?

Me: [I devour my Southwestern salad, and if there were any more of those gnomish chocolate Santas, I'd be hard pressed to not...] Okay. You ready?

President Obama and Mr. Romney: Yes.

Me: Well, you've got to check out MOCKINGBIRD  by Kathy Erskine. It'll seriously amaze you. And, yup, no way you want to miss THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK by Matthew Quick. Awwwwwwsome. And, you need to get your hands on a copy of Francisco Stork's MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD--it'll blow you away.

Mr. Romney: [Aside] The way you blow away those parking meters?

Me: [Deep breath, deep breath, deep--]

President Obama: Can we get the last secret chocolate Santa Clause out here for Ryan please?

Me: You've got to get Mike Jung's GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES--hilarious and deeply moving. And Lynda Mullaly Hunt's ONE FOR THE MURPHYS. Whew. Be ready to cry though, and to change your life. And, let's see...

[Waiter brings chocolate Santa and I devour it on the spot, while stealing a forkful of Mr. Romney's Southwestern, gnome-made salad.]

Me: Oh! A.J. Paquette's NOWHERE GIRL is freaking marvelous, as is Mitali Perkins' RICKSHAW GIRL and if you somehow missed Jonathan Kozol's SAVAGE INEQUALITIES and Ross Greene's LOST AT SCHOOL, man, you guys need to get yourself to your closest indie bookstore yesterday and pick them up, too.

Mr. Romney: [Aside] Bet there are a few parking meters en route to the local indie, ey Ryan?

Me: And can't miss Cynthia Lynch Williams's MILES FROM ORDINARY and Gary Schmidt's OKAY FOR NOW and--yes! yes! yes!--Emily Bronte's WUTHERING HEIGHTS.

Mr. Romney: You mean Charlotte Bronte?

Me: No.

President Obama: No.

Mr. Romney: Oh.

Me: And by all means, you have got to read Jackson Katz's THE MACHO PARADOX. Got to, gentlemen, got to.

[The room ebbs with the flow of my wisdom. It pulses the air in semi-equal reverberations of beauty and joy and truth.]


Me: And Natalie Diaz Lorenzi's FLYING THE DRAGON is a can't miss--as well as Johan Harstad's BUZZ ALDRIN, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU IN ALL THE CONFUSION? and definitely Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich's EIGHTH GRADE SUPERZERO.

Mr. Romney: Who are you talking to right now?

Me: You.

President Obama: [Clears throat.] And me.


Mr. Romney: Sounds a little dramatic.

President Obama: Is it about testing?

Me: Yes--specifically about standardized testing and the pressure it entails and the way it forces teachers, students, and schools to focus on memorization over skill, rote learning over creativity is kind of like, kind of like...throwing a dozen gnome-made chocolate Santas right onto the cold, hard floor.

President Obama: [Gasps.]

Mr. Romney: [Considers the canned worms. The man does have empathy, so I decide to forgive him on the spot for his parking meter references. we're all human, after all.]

Me: That's probably good for now. Until our next secret luncheon?

President Obama: [Winks at me.]

Mr. Romney: [Winks at President Obama, whom he thought was winking at him.]

President Obama: [Winks back to Mr. Romney.]

Me: [I wink as fast as I can at everyone, including the waiter who now comes to clear the dishes]