Dateline: Washington, D.C., Christmas Eve, 2008
I fully admit I would rather be at home now than covering the annual "sit on Santa's lap" photo-op for politicians, but I seem to have annoyed my editor, so here I am -- your intrepid holiday reporter. While I fully admit that I did spike the punch at our annual holiday party, I explain this away in traditional Washington fashion -- by stating that I was young and irresponsible when this occurred. Last week, I was much younger and much more irresponsible than I am now. Ahem. Besides, nobody got hurt (much) and I think everyone had a much better time at the party as a result... the "Elf Incident" aside.... Anyway, this explains why I was assigned to cover this particular event -- instead of being snug at home in my bed, wondering what a sugarplum looks like (in case one should dance in my head tonight).
So what can I say about this annual event that you don't already know? Santa Claus arrives from the North Pole for this very special lap-sitting event once a year on the night before Christmas. All the politicians flock to get their photo taken on Santa's lap, and ask him for their biggest wish for the coming year. We have received word that Santa's sleigh has been escorted in to Andrews Air Force Base by an honor guard of F-16s and his motorcade is approaching the building.
The jolly old elf enters the ballroom to great applause and cheerful greetings. Because I'm lazy and didn't want this assignment in the first place, I'm just going to transcribe the proceedings for you here.
SANTA: Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas! [Santa seats himself and addresses the long line which has formed at one side of the stage] Who's first? Who wants to sit on Santa's lap first?
GEORGE BUSH: [Pushing to the front of the line] I'm still president! I get to go first! Everybody else stand back! [Leaps into Santa's lap with a grin]
SANTA: What do you want for Christmas, Georgie?
BUSH: Well, Santa, this year's been pretty rough, and I'm out of here soon, so Dick told me to ask you for... a legacy.
SANTA: A legacy?
BUSH: Yeah, I had to look it up too, big guy. It means "something you leave behind that people remember you for."
SANTA: [Rolls eyes] Oh, I don't think that'll be a problem. I think we'll all remember your administration for a long time to come.
BUSH: No, no! Something GOOD they remember me by!
SANTA: Um, well, I'll work on it George, but I really can't promise anything... [Hands Bush off to the elves distributing candy] OK, who's next?
BARACK OBAMA: Hi, Santa!
SANTA: Well hello there, Barry! What do you want for Christmas?
OBAMA: I want my supporters to keep their shirts on for a few more weeks, and judge me by what I actually do -- rather than rampant speculation about what I'm going to do.
SANTA: You said that just to get the "keep their shirts on" joke in there didn't you?
OBAMA: Well, hey, can you blame me after that photo hit the tabloids? [Flexes abs] OK, seriously... what I want is to pass most of my agenda intact. I want you to make Congress do what I want them to next year.
SANTA: Um, well, like I told George, I'm not sure I can promise anything, but I'll try [Hands Obama off] ...and look at these two adorable girls! Have you been good little girls this year?
SASHA AND MALIA: Yes! Of course we have, silly!
SANTA: And what do you girls want for Christmas?
SASHA AND MALIA: A puppy!!
SANTA: Well, I think you'll be getting one soon [turns and winks at Barack Obama], but Santa's got to find a hypoallergenic one -- so it might not arrive until after you move into your new house. I hope that's OK...
SASHA AND MALIA: That's OK, we understand. [They exit]
SANTA: Have you been a good girl this year, Michelle?
MICHELLE OBAMA: As good as I could manage.
SANTA: And what do you want for Christmas?
M. OBAMA: As normal a childhood as possible for my girls next year.
SANTA: I don't blame you. Well, I'll try my best, I promise. Who's next here?
DICK CHENEY: OK, fat man, this is how it's going to be. You're going to give little Georgie his shining legacy, or we're going to lean on your elves.
SANTA: [Sighs] Dick, every year I have to explain I live in a magical realm and you simply cannot threaten me.
CHENEY: I'm telling you, any elf without a green card is going straight to Guantanamo... [he is removed by Santa's Elf Security]
SANTA: [turns to Head Elf] Thank goodness this is the last year we'll have to put up with that!
HEAD ELF: The usual stocking of coal?
SANTA: No, he just uses it to convince the EPA to approve mountaintop removal in West Virginia. Put him down for all the Obama photos and cheesy merchandise we've got. Stuff his stocking full of that! Ho ho ho! [Turns back to the line] Next!
CAROLINE KENNEDY: Hello, Santa.
SANTA: OK, I don't even have to ask. Here's a piece of candy, and please tell your friends to stop faxing the North Pole with press releases making your case for your uncle's Senate seat. I'm running out of fax paper!
KENNEDY: Well, I never!
SANTA: That's the problem, Caroline, you never... oh, forget it... who's next?
HARRY REID: Are you ready for me now Santa?
SANTA: That's right, Harry, come on up and sit on Santa's lap!
REID: Oh, I don't know, are you sure it's OK? Maybe I should let someone else go first...
SANTA: Harry, there are a lot of people waiting, you've got five seconds or you go to the back of the line.
REID: [Hastily jumps on Santa's lap] I've been an awfully good boy this year, Santa! I've been ever so nice to everyone this year, even Joe Lieberman and the Senate Republicans! I could have been mean, but I let them have their way most of the time!
SANTA: Which is why I don't really care what you're asking me for this year, Harry, because I've already picked your present out... a brand new backbone. It's made of titanium and if you would only use it, President Obama could get some things done next year.
REID: Wow, a shiny new backbone! I'm going to keep it in its original packaging and never use it, so it'll be worth more in the future!
SANTA: [Sighs.] Well it was worth a try... who's next?
NANCY PELOSI: What I want this year is for Harry Reid to use his backbone!
SANTA: I just gave him a new one, but he said he's not going to take it out of the package.
PELOSI: [lapses into very naughty language which, no matter how many times I type it, magically disappears from this transcript]
SANTA: Get her out of here, elves! [Turns back to line] Next! [A minor scuffle breaks out in the line]
JOHN MCCAIN: [emerging from the scuffle] I get to go first! What is the matter with you, woman? [Shoves Sarah Palin out of the way, climbs on Santa's lap]
SANTA: John, you're being naughty!
MCCAIN: But I'm not! I'm a lovable maverick! Didn't you get my press releases on the subject?
SANTA: [Rolls eyes] What do you want for Christmas, John?
MCCAIN: I want to live long enough to see her defeated in 2012! [Points to Sarah Palin]
SANTA: That's not a very nice thing to wish for. [Santa beckons, and Elf Security removes McCain]
MCCAIN: [Kicking and screaming, as he is dragged away] I want a recount! No, wait, a do-over!!
SARAH PALIN: [Climbs on Santa's lap] I want respect, Santa, from all the press, so I can get my 2012 campaign together.
SANTA: Well, Sarah, you have to earn the press' respect.
PALIN: Don't give me that, maybe that worked in some 50s version of reality, but we're talking about today's press here, Santa.
SANTA: Well, which newspapers in particular?
PALIN: [Eyes suddenly going wide and blank] Gotta go, you betcha! [Exits quickly]
SANTA: [To Head Elf] Are we almost done here? [Tina Fey climbs onto Santa's lap] Tina! What do you want for Christmas?
TINA FEY: Absolutely nothing, Santa, I just dropped by to say "thank you" for not having to impersonate Sarah Palin for the next four years. I mean, I had to take a shower after every time, just to be able to breathe again afterwards...
SANTA: Ho ho ho! That was a good one, Tina! I tell you what, I'll try to get your show better ratings next year, OK?
FEY: Thanks, Santa! [Exits]
SANTA: Hey, what the... [thousands of Democrats pile on his lap] Who are all of you?
DEMOCRATIC MOB: We're the Democratic Party!
SANTA: Um, OK
HEAD ELF: [leans in close and whispers to Santa] We're trying to move the line faster by doing whole groups at a time...
SANTA: Well, what do you all want for Christmas?
DEMOCRATIC MOB: Change we can believe in!
SANTA: But that's what I got you last year!
DEMOCRATIC MOB: But this year we can actually get it done!
SANTA: Well, OK, I'll see what I can do. [Mob leaves, only to be replaced by a similar, but smaller, group of Republicans]
REPUBLICAN MOB: [Talking all at once] Hi Santa! Hey, move over! I want to ask first! Stop pushing! He's not the real Santa! Tug his beard! I hafta go to the baa-aaa-aathroom!!
SANTA: So what do you folks want?
REPUBLICAN MOB: [Talking all over each other, starting to squirm and shove] We want to become more conservative! We want more social conservatives! We want Sarah Palin! Good Lord, no, no more of that woman! We want Bobby Jindal! We want to have our Congress ba-aa-aa-ack!
SANTA: I can't hear you people if you're all going to talk at once. What is the one thing you want next year more than any other?
REPUBLICAN MOB: [All together, at the top of their lungs] RELEVANCE!!
SANTA: That's going to be tough, sorry. If you're really lucky, I might leave some cohesion under your tree, or perhaps some new ideas. But relevance you're going to have to do on your own. You've been very naughty, doing nothing but block every idea that comes along, so you're going to have to do better next year if you don't all want a big stockingful of coal, I have to warn you.
REPUBLICAN MOB: [Starts to weep and wail] Waa-aaa-aah!
SANTA: Elf Security! [Mob is removed, only to be replaced by another, except this one is beautifully coiffed to a man and woman]
MEDIA CIRCUS: We're here on this festive occasion reporting live from Santa's lap...
SANTA: We don't have time for this. What do you people want?
MEDIA CIRCUS: [in unison] An exclusive!!
SANTA: Talk to Mrs. Claus, maybe she can do a video tour of the North Pole for you. But I'm not giving any interviews. I'm very disappointed in you people, since I gave you an election chock filled with ideas and issues and serious things to report on, and what did you do? Lipstick on a pig? Hair styles? Bill Ayers? You people are just going to have to do a better job if you want an exclusive with me. [Media Circus leaves, dejectedly] Who's next? [David Gregory sneaks away from the crowd, jumps back on Santa's lap]
DAVID GREGORY: Please, Santa, please make my version of Meet The Press a success!
SANTA: You know what I'm leaving you under your tree? A memory that works. Seriously, Davy, you can't just pretend to be Timmy Russert with quotes and prepared questions and stuff. You have to actually listen to what the person you're interviewing is saying, and then use your new memory to remember whether they are flat-out lying to you or not, and then you have to actually ask a follow-up question or two to call these politicians on their reindeer poop. Just reading the next question on your list is not going to do it. So, unless you want to kill the longest-running show in television history, please, for everyone's sake, use this new memory well. [David Gregory, in shock, is escorted off Santa's lap]
SANTA: Oooof! [as hundreds of thousands of people, all clutching résumés, pile on his lap] What do you all want for Christmas?
INSPIRED DEMOCRATS: We want a job in the Obama administration!
SANTA: Um, well, seeing as how there's only a few thousand jobs to hand out, and you feel like about a half a million people, I'm afraid not everyone's going to get what they want.
INSPIRED DEMOCRATS: We don't care! We'll take any job! Or we'll volunteer for the party during the next election cycle! Hey, everyone, let's start planning for the 2010 midterms... [crowd exits exuberantly, making future plans]
SANTA: [Watches them go] Amazing... just amazing. [Turns back to line] AUUUGH! [Two and a half million people pile on Santa's lap] Who are... urk.. you all?
JOYOUS THRONG: We're the crowd that's going to show up for the Inauguration!
SANTA: OK, well what do you want?
JOYOUS THRONG: INAUGURATION TICKETS!
SANTA: Well, we've got a problem with that. There are only 250,000 and they're being handed out by members of Congress...
JOYOUS THRONG: But some Congressmen are handing them out only to their big donors! There's no rules! Only the favorites get to go! And the Presidential Inaugural Committee is offering them up in a package deal with Inaugural Ball tickets for $50,000! No fair!! This is not change we can believe in! This is nothing but cronyism!
SANTA: Is this true? I'll have to check my naughty/nice list. Um, what else would you like instead?
JOYOUS THRONG: Inaugural Ball tickets!
SANTA: How about a nice, springlike day in D.C. on January 20th? Would that make you happy?
JOYOUS THRONG: Sure, Santa! We'll happily stand in freezing rain, but some sunshine would be great! [The teeming millions exit]
SANTA: [Turns to lonely blogger, assigned to cover the festivities against his will]: I've got time for you, son.
CHRIS WEIGANT: Me? But I'm supposed to be a disinterested observer... well, OK, Santa. [Climbs on Santa's lap]
SANTA: What do you want for Christmas?
WEIGANT: How about some press passes for Inauguration events?
SANTA: You really think they're going to give you that after what you just wrote about them half a page ago? And after the "Elf Incident" last week?
WEIGANT: [Sighs.] Well, one can dream. How about an Al Franken interview, the day after the announcement that he's won the last Senate seat?
SANTA: Ho ho ho! I will see what I can do, that's all I can promise.
[Santa, at this point, turned to his Head Elf and whispered intensely, after I climbed down from his lap and put my "reporter" hat back on. I turned to the line, which was almost done. I could see several people still waiting, although there were a few at the back I probably missed. There was Rod Blagojevich, Eliot Spitzer, Ted Stevens, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards, Jay Rockefeller IV, William Jefferson, Jesse Jackson Sr., Mark Penn, Rick Warren, and what appeared to be all of Wall Street.]
SANTA: [Stands up and addresses remaining people in line] Give it up, all of you! You're all getting a big fat stocking of coal this year, and you all ought to be ashamed of yourselves! You don't even get the chance to ask me, because I'll tell you right now, you're not getting what you want. It's lumps of coal all around for you folks! If you want a pardon, go ask Georgie on his way out of office! That's it, show's over folks... [Exits the stage, followed by Head Elf with a clipboard, and the shadowy Elf Security, professionally maintaining a perimeter.]
SANTA: [To Head Elf] This just gets harder and harder every year. Call Mrs. Claus and tell her to have some hot chocolate ready for when I get home, and...
AL FRANKEN: [Standing just outside the door] Santa?
SANTA: Al! Why weren't you inside? Oh, that's right, you're still waiting to join the club, aren't you? [Puts a finger aside his nose, twinkles his eye] I'll see what I can...
FRANKEN: [Grinning] Actually, I'm Jewish, Santa. Don't worry about it, though. I think we're going to win without your help, but thanks for the thought.
SANTA: Well, good luck anyway, Al!
Santa was bundled into his red and white limousine at this point, and no more was to be heard. Although later that night, looking at the skyline over towards Andrews, I could have sworn I heard a merry laugh and a "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
[I got my own wish earlier this year, on November 4th, so in reality I didn't ask Santa for anything this year. If you feel I've been a good boy, you can always make a contribution towards the "Help Send Chris To The Inauguration" fund, so I can afford to travel next month. But to ALL AND SUNDRY a Merry Happy Whatever this year! Hope that whatever you wish for you receive! Program Note -- No column tomorrow, but join us Friday for Part II of our annual "McLaughlin Awards."]
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris Weigant on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ChrisWeigant