December 06, 2010

President confined to couch, not allowed on rug

from today's Washington Post (Dec. 6)

Incoming Speaker of the House and Republican Bully John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader and Republican Bully Mitch McConnell continued their Oval Office occupation today with even more onerous restrictions on President Barack Obama's use of his West Wing quarters. Obama was forced to sit on one of the sofas with his feet flat on the hardwood floor and not touching the large oval area rug in the office. Last week the President was allowed to use his desk occasionally to take telephone calls, but that privilege was revoked today. Senator John McCain of Arizona was the only politician allowed to sit behind the President's desk.

Obama is allowed to walk around in the Oval Office, provided he does not step on the rug or touch any of the stuff on the desk. The President was upbeat in his assessment of these new restrictions.

"Mitch and John have been here for about a week now," the President said, smiling. "They've made some demands, such as telling me where I can walk, and of course the rule about not stepping on the rug."

(As he spoke, the President appeared to step on the edge of the rug with his right shoe. Both Boehner and McConnell were quick to point emphatically and yell "Hey!" in unison. The President stepped quickly off the rug.)

"Working with the other side is part of the job," Obama continued, stepping backwards toward his desk. (McCain reached out and poked him in the back with a ballpoint pen, causing Obama to jump forward and almost step on the rug.) "It's made running the Executive Branch a little harder in this case, but I just don't think, with the country needing cooperation from both sides of the aisle, that this is the time to play politics. So I'm working with my friends in the Republican Party."

Obama returned to his seat in the corner of the sofa by carefully walking heel-toe along the edge of the rug and sat down facing Boehner and McConnell. "Can I go to the bathroom now?" he asked.

McConnell checked his watch. "In another twenty minutes," he said.

Since the midterms the Republicans have seemed to flex their political muscle and grow in confidence about their ability to extract concessions from Obama, such as the amazing coup of gaining a Democratic President's agreement to extend the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which were only temporary and would have expired without Congressional action in another 25 days; thus, the Democrats only needed to refuse to take a vote, an easy task when they currently control both houses of Congress. Nevertheless, the Democrats and Obama capitulated, completely unnecessary as it may have seemed.

Some White House observers believe that this show of weakness on the President's part may be part of the reason the Republicans have upped the ante and are now restricting Obama's use of the Oval Office. A high White House official, speaking off the record because he is afraid of his own shadow, indicated that starting tomorrow Boehner and McConnell may not allow Obama the use of the sofa, confining the President instead to a side chair in the hall.

"It's one of the options we're looking at," the President said. "Right now, the Republicans are refusing to allow me back to my desk, but politics is the art of compromise and it's possible a bipartisan consensus can be reached which allows me to use my office, at least for a while."

McConnell was less optimistic about reaching a deal. "I think we've made our position plain," the multi-chinned solon drawled. "We're open to suggestions, but I just don't see a compromise where the President uses his desk or starts walking on the rug again. I think the American people need a clear position from us on that."

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