10/20/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Keeping Obama on Message

[Deep inside a large white house...]

"...and that's when we'll need your final edits, so we can get it loaded on the prompter."

"Final edits. Got it."

"No changes after that."

"Got it. Now all I have to do is write it."

"That's why you get the big desk, Mr. President."

"I knew there had to be a reason. Now, you guys tell me what you're hearing from -- "

"Actually, Mr. President..."


"One more thing before we move off the logistics."

"More logistics? We've already -- "

"This is pretty important, sir."


"Say you're right in the middle of the speech, and you look over to the Republican side, and somebody's got his hand up."

"His hand up?"

"You know, like he's got something he wants to ask you."

"It's a speech! He's supposed to listen -- he's not supposed to be asking questions."

"Exactly! So what do you do?"

"I tell him to put his hand down. Then I go right back to -- "

"Wrong. Absolutely, totally wrong."

"But I -- "

"You ignore him. You don't say a word to him. You don't even say a word about him. You stay on message."

"On message. Got it."

"Slightly different hypothetical: You're not in the middle of your speech when that hand goes up -- you're right at the end of your speech."

"Still a Republican hand?"

"It doesn't matter whose hand it is -- Republican, Democrat, Lieberman. You're right at the end of your speech, and somebody wants to ask you a question."

"I ignore him."

"Even if he's asking about something that really interests you?"

"I ignore him."

"Even if he's asking about something that makes your blood boil?"

"You really think I'd go off on someone and step on my own message?"

"Mr. President, does the name 'Henry Louis Gates' ring a bell?"

"You guys'll never let me forget that, will you?"

"Actually, sir, it's the only reason you're doing this speech in the first place. That whole press conference was supposed to nail down the case for health care, remember? Except that you -- "

"Except that I took that last question about Gates being arrested, and I said the police acted stupidly -- because they did act stupidly -- and that's all anybody heard."

"Like the rest of the press conference never even happened."

"So we -- "

"So we lost momentum, and we lost support among independents and working-class whites, and we lost a month on our schedule, which meant we spilled over into the recess -- "

" -- which meant the town halls."

"Which meant the town halls. Which nearly lost us the bill."

"Which is why I have to do the speech."


"And nothing but the speech."


"Totally on message."

"Now you're talking."

"One hundred percent digression-free."

"You got it."

"'No Drama Obama.'"


"Even if it's a really good question?"


"Can't you guys take a joke?"

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Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at