[Inside a large white house...]
"You wanted to see me, Mr. President?"
"Hey, Tim -- c'mon in. Have a seat. You doing OK? Treasury doing OK?"
"Fine, Mr. President. I mean, we're OK. I mean, nobody's fine when the economy's in such a mess, but -- "
"Sure is, isn't it? Seems to be getting worse every day."
"I've never seen anything like it, Mr. President."
"Well, that's why I've got you over there, Tim, to help us get out of it. Speaking of which..."
"I know, I know -- the bank bailout. I still haven't figured out all the details, and people are getting impatient to know something, and the less they know the less they want to stay in the market, and --"
"Well, we can't afford to have the perfect be the enemy of the good, Tim."
"That's what you keep telling me."
"That's because it's true. Besides, you know as well as I do that a lot of this is simply a question of confidence."
"And people are nervous."
"Actually, they're scared stiff. They need to know that we know what we're doing."
"Is something wrong?"
"You're firing me!"
"I'm -- "
"I didn't do what I was supposed to do, or I didn't do it fast enough, and the markets have fallen off a cliff, and -- "
"Calm down, Tim."
" -- and you need to throw somebody overboard, and I'm -- "
"Calm down, Tim!"
"Larry Summers put you up to this, didn't he? I always knew he was undermining me -- from Day One, he wanted me dead!"
"Well, I don't want you dead. I want you dyed."
"Now just calm down a little, OK? You know what this is?"
"You know what's in the bottle?"
"Well...it looks like one of those hair-coloring things."
"Exactly. You're how old, Tim? 44? 45?"
"I'm 47, Mr. President -- same as you. Wait a minute -- you think I've been coloring my hair?"
"No, I don't."
"Well, good, because I certainly don't."
"And you certainly should."
"Look, you're 47. I'm 47. We've got a lot of pretty young folks doing some pretty important jobs around here. That's great when it comes to energy, when it comes to fresh thinking."
"Not so great when it comes to inspiring confidence. We can look wet behind the ears sometimes, which -- "
"Which makes people think we're clueless."
"I knew you'd get it. There's nothing like having a few wise gray heads around the Cabinet table to ease people's minds. Now, some of us go gray naturally..."
"Like you, for instance! I've been reading all those stories about -- "
"Some of us go gray naturally, and some of us need a little help."
"Out of a bottle."
"You got a problem with that, Babyface?"
"No, no -- it's just that -- no, no problem. No problem at all."
"Better than being fired?"
"What? Yeah, much better than being fired. Thanks, Mr. President."
"No big deal. I'll let you get back to work."
"No, really -- thanks, Mr. President, I really appreciate it. And I'll start as soon as I get home tonight. Let me just grab this thing, and -- "
"Maybe you should have your own bottle?"
"Back to work, Tim."
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at email@example.com.