The White House announced Wednesday plans for a private lunch between President Obama and Mitt Romney on Thursday.
Fortunately I managed to travel forward in time and discover what would happen, after a brief detour when I wound up in the past at the Jefferson/Burr Victory/Defeat Lunch, where the two just glared silently at each other throughout the soup course and then Burr got up and said, “You know what, I’m going to go shoot Alexander Hamilton now,” and Jefferson coolly replied, “Okay, you do that.”
But I made it there eventually. Here is how it goes . . .
Mitt Romney follows President Obama into the private dining room of the White House, looking intensely relaxed, yet nervous, as always.
“Well, Mitt,” President Obama says, “you finally made it to the White House.”
“Ha ha,” Mitt says. “Great to be here. Great place.”
“I like it too,” President Obama says. “In fact, I live here.”
“Terrific,” Mitt says. “Just terrific.”
They sit down at the table. Mitt fidgets with a fork. There are so many of them, arranged neatly in order of use.
“Like the forks?” President Obama asks. “I use them every day I eat here. With Michelle and the girls. They say hi.”
“Why are you doing this?” Mitt asks, very quietly.
“Doing what?” President Obama smiles. “Look out the window. That’s my plane that I ride around in as president of the United States. The people elected me. “
“Ha ha, terrific,” Mitt says. If you had just arrived from another planet and were totally unfamiliar with English, you might assume that “Ha ha, terrific” was an unspeakably terrible insult, given the look in his eyes as he says it. He steels himself.
President Obama smiles. “I wanted to learn from you,” he says. “There is so much I could learn.”
“About the Olympics?” Mitt asks, his stomach sinking.
“Not the Olympics,” the president replies. “Well, Mitt, frankly, after the election, there are still a lot of questions I feel haven’t been answered. The American people don’t care any longer. If they never saw you again, they’d be fine with it. But I figured the only place to hear what you really thought was to surround you with fancy tablecloths and small forks and people making more than $250,000 a year. You seem to open up in those settings. Tell me what you really think.”
Mitt fiddles with a dessert spoon. “I dislike Iowans,” he says, finally, in a whisper.
The president smiles. “I suspected as much.”
“Are you recording this?” Mitt asks, suddenly jumpy, like a horse that has been carefully trained in the art of dressage. “I have to ask. After — you know.”
“No, I get it. I get it. I’m not.”
Mitt frowns at the soup. “Mitt’s not my real name,” he says. “Tagg’s real name is Leroy. I’m not a cyborg, but Ann is. The reason I wouldn’t release more of my tax returns is that if you see any more of them it becomes immediately clear that I am Jon Benet Ramsey’s killer.”
President Obama chokes a little on his soup.
“I was hoping you might have something to tell me too,” Mitt says. “Since we’re being so open. What exactly are your plans for the next term?”
“Oh, you know,” President Obama says. “Just socializing the means of production and killing free enterprise. Like you said! You were right all along!”
Mitt Romney chokes a little on his soup.
“And apologizing!” President Obama continues. “Can’t forget the apologizing!”
Mitt coughs into his water glass.
“Kidding, kidding,” President Obama says. He gets up and claps Mitt on the back to stop his coughing.
“Ha ha ha,” Mitt Romney laughs. “Ha ha ha ha ha ha.”
“Actually I have no idea what I’m doing this term,” President Obama says. “I was hoping you’d know.”
“No, seriously,” President Obama said. “You had that whole transition Web site, and everyone says you’re a good manager, and I just thought — I mean, you had some plan, right? I know you didn’t want to tell anyone what it was. But you must have had one.”
“I was going to fix the economy and make America great again,” Mitt Romney says.
“I know you kept saying that,” President Obama says. “But you never had any specifics.”
“I don’t need specifics,” Mitt says.
“I mean really, though. You can’t just wave a wand and do that.”
Mitt reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wand. “Can’t I?” he asks.
President Obama’s eyes widen.
“Kidding,” Mitt says.
“No, wave it.”
Mitt shrugs and puts it back into his pocket. “Sorry, you guys,” he says. “Mitt’s Prosperity Wand is going to stay put.”
“That sounds like a weird euphemism,” President Obama says, trying to lighten the mood.
“What’s that?” Mitt says.
There is a silence.
Mitt and President Obama simultaneously realize that they have run out of conversation.
“Uh,” President Obama says.
“Er,” Mitt says.
“You sure have a lot of sons,” the president says. Dang it, Barack, he thinks to himself, what a stupid thing to say.
“Yup,” Mitt replies. “I guess I’m pretty virile, ha ha.” He blanches immediately. “Some soup,” he says, quickly. “Top-notch.”
“Top 47 percent?” President Obama tries.
Mitt sighs heavily.
“Sorry,” the President says. “Too soon.”
In silence, the main course arrives.
“I just thought of a fun fact,” President Obama says suddenly. “We’ve both been elected by Massachusetts!”
Mitt sighs. “Nice tablecloth,” he says. “Ha ha.”
Silence falls over the table.
“How about those pro sports?” Mitt says.
“It’s okay,” President Obama says, pressing his hand. “You don’t have to force it.”
Mitt glances at his watch. “I have to run pretty soon,” he says.
“Last eight years not enough?” President Obama asks. Mitt looks puzzled. “Joke,” the president clarifies, quickly.
“Ha ha,” Mitt says. “Terrific.”
He excuses himself to go to the men’s room. When he gets back, the president excuses himself to go to the men’s room.
“I just remembered that I was supposed to have coffee with Paul Ryan,” Mitt lies, unconvincingly, when the president gets back.
“Sure, sure,” President Obama says, rising and following him to the door. “Well. Enjoy. Sorry about that ad that implied you killed that lady.”
“Ha ha ha,” Mitt says, running towards his car. “Sorry about slipping you an Ambien before the first debate.”
“What?” President Obama says.
“Bye, now!” Mitt shouts, already on the sidewalk. “Thanks, you guys!”