The Story of O
What if Tom Friedman, Rahm Emanuel, or Helen Thomas wrote that anonymous new novel about Barack Obama?
As Simon & Schuster prepares to release O: A Presidential Novel, based on the Obama administration and starring a thinly veiled Barack Obama as the character "O," the publisher is trying to keep the identity of its anonymous author under wraps. Slate imagines a few possibilities.
O, by Joe Biden
O faltered. He couldn't focus. Read, dammit, he told himself. The words danced on the page. Inauguration Day, and he was already in above his head. The parties, the briefings, the constant congratulations. It was too much, even for someone as used to the limelight as O. Now he was about to screw up his first Inaugural Address. O looked over and saw his family. He looked the other way and saw … Jack. Ah, Jack, thank God. Jack was smiling that big, reassuring grin of his. And then, as if he had read O's mind, Jack winked. That was all it took. "My fellow citizens," O began. "I stand here today humbled by the task before us…"After the speech, he beelined over to his vice president. "I couldn't have done it without you, Jack."Jack smiled. "I know," he said. "Get used to it."
O, by Rahm Emanuel
"Let me get this straight," said O. "You threatened to staple his nuts to the Senate bulletin board.""That's correct, Mr. President.""And he backed down.""Yes, sir.""And now we get health care reform.""Yes, sir."O paused. "You know that's not the tone we're trying to—""I understand that, sir. But I told you I'd play hardball.""Yes, you did," O chuckled. "I just didn't realize you meant that literally."
O, by Thomas Friedman
The situation room was dark and shadowy. Five-star General Donald Patroclus was explaining the new Afghanistan strategy to O."Afghanistan is like a burrito," he said. "When you bite one end, a little bean juice is gonna come out the other."O looked intrigued. "Go on.""So you need two things. First, you need to make a better tortilla. Wheat instead of cornmeal. Then you gotta wrap it tight. And then, just in case, you need napkins—lots and lots of napkins.""That makes perfect sense," said O."But really, it's all about India. See, India's like a giant bag of Funyuns …"
O, by Christopher Buckley
O slammed the door. He turned to face his press secretary, Richard Biggs."That's it, we're settling this once and for all.""Are you sure you want to do this, Mr. President?""Of course I'm sure. I've got nothing to hide. Release the birth certificate.""Well sir, there's a small problem … We lost it."O looked down at the rug. Its design was an Escher-like spiral staircase. He pictured himself falling down it, infinitely."You what?""It's gone. It was with all those Burning Man pictures you told us to destroy—""Dammit, Biggs, what do you think I pay you for?"You don't, sir, the taxpayers do.""Shut up, I'm thinking." O brooded out the window."I'm sorry, sir, I'll make it up to you."O looked up. His face brightened. " 'Make it up ...' That's it! Biggs, you're a genius! We'll make a fake birth certificate. Put it on the Internet. What could go wrong?""Nothing, sir. Nothing at all."
O, by Helen Thomas
O turned to David Axelbaum. Axelbaum had connections to the Washington power structure that ordinary Americans could only dream of. He would know how to keep the truth—that the 2008 elections were part of a global Zionist conspiracy—a secret."David, can you get your people to fix this?""Is the Pope a child molester? Of course I can. For a price.""Name it.""A hundred pints of Christian blood—I mean dollars. A hundred dollars.""You're on."
O, by Aaron Sorkin
"OK, we've got time for one more question. Jimmy.""Mr. President, your poll numbers are the lowest ever. Are you letting down the American people?"O paused for a moment, then loosened his tie. He took off his jacket and laid it over a seat."Jimmy, let me ask you something. When you do a show about Britney Spears, how many people tune in? Roughly?""Millions, sir.""Millions. And how about when you do a show about how inner-city schools don't have enough money to buy textbooks? How many then?""I don't know, sir. Maybe a few thousand.""Does that mean you only cover Britney Spears?""No, sir.""Why not?""Because we have a responsibility, sir.""Exactly. See, Jimmy, we're not running a Britney Spears administration here. We're not trying to please as many people as possible. We've got a responsibility, too. A responsibility to the American people. We'll do the Britney stuff here and there. But it's the less popular stuff that makes the most difference. Does that answer your question, Jimmy?""It does, sir. Thank you."Cameras flashed as O started to walk toward the door, then turned. "Oh, and Jimmy? You've got something in your teeth."
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Photograph of Joe Biden by Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images. Photograph of Rahm Emmanuel by Scott Olson/Getty Images. Photograph of Tom Friendman by Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press. Photograph of Maureen Dowd by Amy Sussman/Getty Images. Photograph of Christopher Buckley by Scott Gries/Getty Images. Photograph of Aaron Sorkin by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images. Photograph of Helen Thomas by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images. Photograph of Sarah Palin by Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images. Photograph of Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Time Inc.