Appears originally at A Prairie Home Companion
The Old Scout
A Few Words for the Happy Couple
November 4, 2008
A golden November day under a blue sky and an air of sweet amiability at the polls and at the end of the day, we elected the right guy, no doubt about it. Yes, we can and we did. A nation spread its wings and achieved altitude.
Bravo, Barack, Mr. Steady, who cheerfully did the rope lines, made the phone calls, answered the same questions fifteen thousand times, bounded up the stairs, delivered his lines with warmth and wit, ran a tight disciplined army, and that, plus $700 million and an 80 mph wind at your back, is all you need to win the prize.
One is electrified by the historic moment, of course, but I will let Great Minds chew on that, and simply wish him and his marvelous lady all the best as they bear up under the tsunami of adoration from Democrats whom he has led out of Egypt. His picture goes up in the kitchen shrine alongside FDR and JFK — BHO elevated to sainthood and now expected to walk on water and turn it into wine. Meanwhile, everything he said about the national mess is utterly true and a lot more. And now it is Barack’s mess. Yikes.
A good shingle for the new administration to hang out, rather than The New Covenant or A Fair Exchange or English Spoken Here, would
be Keep Seat Belt Buckled. Happy days are not here and the sky above is not clear. One bright light in the marquee is Michelle Obama, that witty, jumpy woman with the quicksilver smile who said, “How does Barack prepare for a debate? He just talks to me and he’s ready.” The good mother who said, “People ask me how I am, and I say, I’m only as good as my most sad child.” Come January, we will have a president whose wife calls him Baby. Good for you, Mama. And now she becomes America’s No. 2 celebrity, the object of giddy curiosity.
Enjoy the people’s house, Michelle, and cruise along gently and do not read anything written about you, and don’t watch the news. Enjoy the pageantry (you look good, Baby), bring up the family, and don’t take the show too seriously. Don’t do too many interviews. Think Laura Bush, a cool First Lady. People like Laura Bush a lot, a Texas Democrat who married a Republican and stuck with him through thin and thinner. She’s smart and we know that because she never tried to show how smart she is. Do not let the mister put you in charge of health care legislation. Your great challenge is to make a genuine life in the midst of the heavy surf of publicity. God willing, be happy and live your life. When life gets too unreal, sit down with a good book.
As for President-elect Obama, he can now stop dancing, which he’s been doing for twenty months — in a democracy we want candidates to really, really, really want to be president — and get down to the business of patient, focused, rational deliberation and calculation, starting with the formulation of a Cabinet and a White House staff. Have them write up a presidential order for January 20 saying that America will not employ torture, and maybe issue a blanket presidential pardon for your predecessor and his vice, and then set about the business of disappointing your followers and astonishing your enemies and doing what is right for our country.
Be good to yourself. Hire smart, stable people who can tell you things you need to know and not copy Bob Woodward. Keep some Republicans around. You’re the man. You make us proud. You let us get to know you. You have the gift of speaking clearly and forcefully, whole sentences and paragraphs, while thinking at the same time, a good gift. You don’t need a staff of writers to create a persona for you. You need engineers. Problem solvers. You’re inheriting a raft of them.
Get on that treadmill every morning. Keep a daily journal. Let us see those darling girls once in awhile. Please don’t play golf. Don’t get a dog. Enjoy Camp David. Be happy. Don’t hire people to tell you how to dress or who to be; you’re a grown-up. Don’t do crap that someday you’d have to go on TV and make cheesy apologies for. This job is one you were cut out to do and a big part of the job is to keep up the national morale and you are already doing that big-time. And thank you, sir. All those cheap motels, all those flights, all of that chip dip. We are deeply grateful.
© 2008 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, INC.