This column was first published today at CONSTRUCTION.
Who’s Doing Fine?
“The private sector is doing fine.” —Barack Obama, June 8
Mitt Romney’s senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom is choking on a cookie from the Bethel Bakery in Pennsylvania.
“A gaffe!” exclaims Fehrnstrom. “Gaffe, oh, glorious gaffe! I did it! I gave Obama a gaffe!”
He rewinds the DVR and listens again to President Barack Obama’s June 8 press conference on the economy at the White House following a disappointing jobs reports and announcement that U.S. unemployment ticked up to 8.2% in May from 8.1% the previous month.
“We’ve created 4.3 million jobs over the past 27 months,” Obama repeats on the DVR. “The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing problems is with state and local government. Often with cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help they’re accustomed to from the federal government.”
Fehrnstrom grabs his phone and tweets: “The private sector is ‘doing fine’? President Obama is not only distorting his opponent’s record, he’s distorting his own.”
Then Fehrnstrom dials Mitt Romney, who has miraculously avoided any gaffes of his own in the past two months since ridiculing an elderly gathering for serving him cookies that appeared to be “from the local 7-Eleven bakery or wherever.” (Such is the reason that Fehrnstrom was still snacking on cookies, as the campaign purchased a huge order as apology). Romney, who is in fact a human cyborg for reasons that Construction has yet to divulge, has been operating more smoothly thanks to an upgrade of his Etch A President programming.
“Yellow,” Romney says into his phone.
“Obama had a gaffe!” Fehrnstrom says.
“Joseph Smith be praised!”
“To hell with Smith, I gave Obama the gaffe,” says Fehrnstrom. “How about a little credit where credit is due.”
“You gave him a gaffe?”
“Yes! I used the Etch A Sketch programming in reverse on him.”
“But I thought that I was the only non-human presidential candidate?”
“You are, don’t worry. But I was able to recruit a few White House insiders to stick a computer chip up Obama’s ass that sends electric signals to his brain and actually shakes him out of order.”
“How’d you get a chip up his ass?”
“Nevermind that, we’re wasting time,” Eric says. “I’ve already tweeted about Obama’s remark, now you’ve got to jump on this, too.”
“But Eric, you know that Barack is kinda right here,” says Mitt.
“No, no, no!” exclaims Fehrnstrom. “You need to say that the remark reveals how out of touch the president is. You need to say that you can’t understand where the president is coming from. Say that it makes you scratch your head in bewilderment.”
“But it does make some sense, Eric. The job picture in the private sector is brighter than in the public sector. Since the recession officially ended in June 2009, private companies have added 3.1 million jobs while local governments have cut 601,000 jobs. Corporate profits have risen 58 percent since mid-2009. Meanwhile, the median net worth of families plunged by 39% from 2007 to 2010, to $77,300 from $126,400. Hasn’t been so low since 1992.”
Fehrnstrom picks up his Etch A President iController and shakes furiously. RoboMitt’s face goes blank on the other end of the phone.
“Now what were you saying, Mitt?”
“This remark from the current president defines what it means to be detached and out of touch with the American people,” says Mitt. “Such a comment will go down in history as an extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding.”
“Exactly,” says Fehrnstrom. “Now go tell that to the American people.”
And Mitt did.
For the next five days, Fehrnstrom and Romney—two men who know the power of a gaffe from their own series of stupid remarks—would use the statement to assail the Obama campaign as “really out of touch with what is happening across America.”
Fehrnstrom’s mind continues racing. We need a commercial, he thinks. We need to repeat this gaffe four times within a 30-second spot. We need to repeat it as we flash the following phrases over ominous scenes of long-lines and empty homes: 23.2 million Americans are in need of work. 40 straight months over 8% unemployment. Middle-class struggles deepen under Obama. Millions of homeowners underwater on mortgages. The president’s response? “The private sector is doing fine.” The private sector is doing fine? ‘The private sector is doing fine.’ How can President Obama fix our economy if he doesn’t know it’s broken?
Ferhnstom’s next task: Find another gaffe. The computer chip up Obama’s ass was only good for one slip-up. The campaign was short on funds to invest in the longer-lasting computer chip that might ensure them gaffes throughout the campaign season. An idea comes to him: Perhaps this gaffe can be leveraged for new campaign donations to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. He hears the distant sound of ringing slot machine.
“Sheldon,” he whispers.
Fehrnstrom dials the phone.
“Yellow,” answers casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire who helped keep Newt Gingrich’s failed presidential campaign alive during the Republican primaries.
“Sheldon, do you think the private sector is doing fine?”
“Could be better,” says Adelson.
“I think you know how to make it better,” says Fehrnstrom.
“Is $10 million good for now?”
“It’s fine,” Fehrnstom says, grinning. He takes a bit of a cookie.
“Well it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’m worth $24.9 billion. Do you know how much 5% percent of that is?”
Fehrnstom chokes on the cookie. “It’s better,” he says between coughs.