THE SCENE: The Oval Office of the White House
THE PLAYERS: President Obama, a court stenographer and Johnny Ace, White House correspondent for the New York Times
OBAMA: Let the record show that we are about to question reporter Johnny Ace, of the New York Times, regarding articles he wrote in which national security secrets were leaked. The secrets had to do with my administration’s anti-terrorist operations. As a result of these leaks, our operations have been compromised, and some of our agents have become endangered.
Let the record also show that the names of Mr. Ace’s sources were not stated in his articles, and that this interrogation is part of a new investigaton, launched at my direction, to find out the identities of the leakers. If discovered, they will face legal consequences.
Ordinarily the President of the United States would not involve himself directly in an interrogation of a witness, but I have been a lawyer for many years and have never really lawyered. This may be my last chance to practice my profession before I retire to Chicago in January.
Mr. Ace, I will ask you straight out who were your sources for your four articles on U.S. anti-terrorist operations that appeared earlier this year?
REPORTER: Sir, I respectfully decline to answer that question, because I feel duty-bound to protect the person who gave me the information from suffering reprisals.
OBAMA: Aha, Mr. Ace. I think you have let slip more information than you intended. You have unwittingly admitted that there was only one source. I’m not such a bad lawyer after all!
REPORTER: Yes, sir, there was one source. But I decline to identify him.
OBAMA: Better yet, you have further disclosed that the source is male.
REPORTER: That is true, sir.
OBAMA: All right, I’m not going to fart around here. Either you tell me the name of your source or I will have you water boarded. I will have your testicles attached to a generator and send electricity through them while your feet are immersed in a tub of water. I will have your fingernails pulled out one by one without benefit of anesthesia. Then I will hand over a razor-sharp hedge pruner to a militant feminist and let her have her will of you.
REPORTER: Would you really do that, sir? I thought you were against water boarding and other forms of torture.
OBAMA: Don't test me, sucker. This is an election year.
REPORTER: Okay, I give in. Nobody can withstand torture idefinitely.
OBAMA: Splendid! So who is the unpatriotic piss ant that leaked our secrets to you?
REPORTER: It was you, sir.
OBAMA: Stenographer, delete the last question and answer, and please leave the room until I call you back.
(Stenographer leaves the room.)
OBAMA: Johnny, you and I have been friends for years now. Whenever I have a self-serving agenda, you and your colleagues at the Times are always there willing to help me put it across. Why do you want to get me in trouble? What is this offensive bullshit about my leaking national security secrets?
REPORTER: It’s true, sir. Don’t you remember, a couple of months ago, when I was alone in the White House press room, getting ready to leave, and you stuck your head in the door and invited me back to this office? First we did a little weed, then you took down that wall mirror and laid out a little blow. Then we kicked back and spouted philosophy, talked about how our wives henpecked us, and then you gave me one of the biggest stories of my life. You told me all the most intimate details of your anti-terrorism program, and ordered -- I mean asked -- me to write about them in a way that would make you look like a bold military leader. You said that nobody thought of you that way, that everybody thought you were the worst pantywaist ever to be commander in chief -- it was your choice of words, sir -- and that if you hoped to be re-elected this year you had to change that image, and pronto.
OBAMA: I do remember wondering why the wall mirror was lying on my desk, but I don’t recall that conversation at all. Maybe I passed out. You aren’t shitting me, are you?
REPORTER: No, sir.
OBAMA: (Picks up a phone.) Tell that stenographer to come back in here. (Stenographer returns.) Stenographer, you can resume recording this conversation.
I want to officially state that I am terminating my interrogation of Johnny Ace, reporter for the New York Times. The witness was kind enough to point out to me that the United States Constitution -- is that what it's called?….
REPORTER: Yes, sir.
OBAMA: ….The United States Constitution contains a section known as the Bill of Rights, which includes a provision guaranteeing freedom of the press as a right of our citizens. Or at least those who own a press. This is not something they teach in the schools of Kenya and Indonesia. I am still learning this job.
I have therefore concluded that it would be a violation of civil liberties to force this witness to testify further. Also, although I am unclear on the law here, it probably would be a violation to subject him to torture, although I reserve that right for the time being, depending on what appears in tomorrow’s New York Times and in future issues of that esteemed publication.
This session is adjourned.