The CEO of a leading media conglomerate slams a single sheet of paper onto the polished, mahogany conference table.
"Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have a situation on our hands," he begins. "Less than three weeks after McCain saved our lazy asses by bringing Governor Palin into the game, the sideshow is over and we're nearly back to where we were after the Democratic convention."
He holds up the paper again.
"Today's Gallup Poll has Senator Obama leading by 4 percentage points. That's statistically significant!"
He pauses, allowing the gravity of those two words to sink in. Executives around the table shift uncomfortably in their seats, while some look down at their shoes to avoid meeting the CEO's rock-hard countenance.
"Now," the CEO continues, "I don't want to overstate the case, and I didn't rise to this position by over-reacting. But it sure looks to me like our network is starting to lose control of this election."
He rises from his chair and begins to pace. The other executives steal nervous glances at one another. It eventually becomes clear that the CEO is waiting for one of them to speak.
Finally, one executive -- the new guy -- speaks up.
"But...we're doing everything we possibly can. We cannot ask our anchors to downplay John McCain's foreign policy gaffes any more than we've already been doing, or they'll start making noise about journalistic integrity. (Let's remember, some of our writers and newscasters still believe they are impartial observers.) And, you must admit, Governor Palin is not making our job any easier lately. Every time she opens her mouth, the ticket loses another point. Meanwhile, Obama is building GOTV operations in the battleground states that McCain is not even really trying to counter. I think we have to accept that Barack Obama may just run away with this election."
At this last remark, the other executives around the table sink down low into their chairs. Some even literally put a hand over their eyes, awaiting the inevitable fury from the front of the room.
"Maybe you missed that day in business school when they talked about business," the CEO begins in a rage, "so let me enlighten you, and let me be absolutely fucking clear! We are here to make money. I don't give a pig's ass who wins this election, and neither do our shareholders. Our job is to ensure that this election is as close as humanly possible. Do I need to remind you how much money is riding on our ability to create a palpable sense of suspense? We only get this opportunity once every four years...and you want to just give up, and let "the people" have their way? Well...that's very patriotic of you buddy, but our company cannot afford to let the country believe that a genuine consensus is forming. Christ! I can't believe I have to explain this to you people."
Silence descends once again. Suddenly, the filet mignon he had for lunch feels like a lump of coal in the new guy's stomach.
Another executive -- who had remained calm during what she knew to be just one in a never-ending supply of "motivational" tantrums from the CEO -- speaks next.
"OK, here's what we do. President Bush's approval ratings have been hovering around 30% for a long time now, right? So the question on everybody's lips should be: why isn't Obama leading by more than 4 points? Why can't he 'close the deal?' This is also a sneaky way for us to bring race back into the national conversation. Is Obama's skin color keeping the polls close? If we don't make this argument soon and forcefully -- if we don't absolutely knock people over the head with this -- then the polls really won't be close for much longer, and then we won't be able to make the argument that Obama is not doing as well as he should be. We have a short window on this."
Her speech lets the air back into the room, and people begin to breathe easier. The CEO maintains his stern countenance but says:
"Finally someone is talking sense. Now, you heard the woman. Everyone get to work on this. And if Obama's numbers go up by more than 5 more points in the next thirty days, rest assured that certain changes will be made around here."
The executives shuffle out of the boardroom, the wheels spinning rigorously in their corporatized brains.
The last thing the fly on the wall hears before the door slams shut is the CEO whistling a breezy tune.