As regular as sunrise
The voice coming through the bedroom door is gentle; the valet’s job, after all, is to awaken the boss, not to startle him. If it becomes necessary, he can always turn up the volume. If it becomes absolutely necessary, he can even enter the president’s bedroom and place a gentle hand on the presidential shoulder.
It won’t be necessary. The boss is awake. His voice—so familiar after almost eight years—is still a bit heavy with sleep. That’s perfectly understandable: Nights seem to end earlier and earlier these days.
“Good morning, sir. It’s 5:15.”
* * *
The president pulls the daily schedule from his bedside table. “7:30 a.m., Rose Garden: Statement on the economy.”
It’s today’s schedule, but it could be yesterday’s, or the day before that, or the day before that. Sometimes the location changes—he’ll be in the Roosevelt Room, or the Cabinet Room, or even the Oval Office, instead of the Rose Garden. Sometimes he appears alone, and other times he’s surrounded by experts, or other officials, or even by foreign leaders. But the subject seldom changes.
“Statement on the economy.”
For more days than he cares to remember, the president has been starting his morning with a statement on the economy. Each morning, before the markets on Wall Street are even open, he tries to be reassuring. And each morning, once the markets on Wall Street are open, they do what they darn well please, while the president hangs on for dear life, the same as anyone else.
Sometimes he’s announcing a new policy to try to set things right, or at least to keep things from getting worse. Other times he’s pleading for patience, for time to let the last new policy he announced do what it’s designed to do. And other times, he’s simply trying to talk the talk all modern-day presidents have to talk: He gets it. It’s bad. We’ll get through it.
* * *
This isn’t what a lame-duck president looks like, he tells himself. A lame-duck president retreats behind closed doors, nursing his grudges and licking his wounds. Not this president: He’s still front-and-center on a daily basis, he tells himself. He’s still able to command the nation’s attention (or the networks’ attention, which is almost the same thing) whenever he chooses.
He’s still making news.
It might not be the news he expected to make, or wanted to make, but it’s something. Something is better than nothing, isn’t it? (Isn’t it?)
And what choice does he have? The economy is the only thing anyone cares about right now—the economy, and the election. He knows he can’t say anything about the election. Not just that it would be “unpresidential”—it would be unwelcome. His party’s nominees, up and down the ballot, have made it clear: They’re running away from him, as far and as fast as they can.
They don’t want him at their rallies. They don’t want him in their commercials. If they mention him at all, it’s to tell the voters how they’re different.
This isn’t how he expected it to end—not at all. But he won’t let them hear him complain. Not a word.
He adjusts his tie, and glances one last time at his remarks. Then he walks out into the Rose Garden and looks toward the cameras. It’s the start of another day.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.