"Mister President! Mister President!"

"You're with the press, aren't you? I see you've got a pen in your pocket."

"Yes sir, local press, The Times-Picayune."

"Picayune? That's a pretty darn racially insensitive name for a newspaper to use. And you're a black man yourself if I'm not mistaken."

"Yes sir, I am... And I think the word you're thinking of is pickaninny."

"That's where you're wrong, son. I never thought of that word in my dang life. Go on, ask me your gotcha question."

"I was wondering, Mister President, if you..."

"You were wondering if I hate black people, weren't you? Well that's just an untrue fallacy. You see who I'm talking to right now."

"The dalmatian?"

"No, the black guy standing behind me. His name is James, but I like to call him Jimmy. The dog I just rescued from a floating house. Poor feller hadn't eaten in two weeks, at least that's what he tells me. Might be tryin to trick me into giving him another sandwich."

"Would you..."

"Stop it. Stop it right there. I'm going to answer your disrespectful question right now. Would I have acted quicker if the city of New Orleans had been full of rich white people? Let me tell you first off that that's a hypothetical question. For one thing, to be perfectly honest, if the city was full of rich white people the story might have gotten just a little bit more attention from the national press. That's what we call an institutional bias."

"Not to be argumentative sir, but there was plenty of press coverage."

"I don't get my news from the press, son, it's too slanted. I get summary sheets from my staff. They boil it all down for me into an easy to read format - politics, sports, entertainment, world events, the whole shebang."

"I..."

"I know what you're getting ready to say, and the cold hard truth is that I usually skip over the weather section."

"But couldn't..."

"Couldn't someone have personally told me? Yes, in theory, they could have done that. But they don't like to do that, cause I get real cross with 'em and start yelling. Look, you ever hear of Newsweek magazine? I was reading one on the flight down here and they had an article about the situation. Says my people are scared of me, don't like to give me bad news. Says that I didn't even know the gravity of the situation till Thursday night when we had our staff meeting."

"So I..."

"That's right. You shouldn't blame me, you should blame my messenger."

"Do you..."

"No, I don't like playing the blame game, but since you state it so eloquently, I do think it's time someone stepped up to take responsibility. My messenger is Becky Higgins, a former GS-11 from the Defense Logistics Agency. Busted her all the way down to a GS-7, and if she thinks she's gonna get a performance award this year, she's got another thing coming."

"How can..."

"How can you possibly thank me? Don't worry about it, son. It's part and parcel of being the president."

 

2005, Mark Hoback