Despite his scholarly eminence, Faust is bored and disappointed. He decides to call on the Devil for further knowledge and magic powers with which to indulge all the pleasures of the world. In response, the Devil’s representative Mephistopheles appears. He makes a bargain with Faust: Mephistopheles will serve Faust with his magic powers for a term of years, but at the end of the term, the Devil will claim Faust’s soul and Faust will be eternally damned.
July 14, 2010. Washington, DC.
President Obama paces in front of his desk in the Oval Office, when his secretary pops in.
“Your 2 o’clock is here.”
“Send him in.”
Dressed in an Armani suit, Mephistopheles appears. He can pass for a lobbyist, despite the faint whiff of sulfur.
“Mr. President,” Mephistopheles smiles – but the president’s manner is brusque.
“You’ve probably already gathered why I called this meeting,” Obama says. “I’ve spent 18 months in office, and I can’t help but notice – you’re not holding up your end of the bargain.”
Mephistopheles sits, uninvited, on an Oval Office sofa. “What ever do you mean?”
“I mean we had an agreement that I would be given transcendent powers of persuasion and an unprecedented mandate to transform our fractured national discourse, resulting in positive political gain and reaffirming the resilience and greatness of our nation.”
“Oh, but you have,” Mephistopheles insists. “How quickly you forget that you were nothing! A community organizer in Chicago, who despite coming from a racially-mixed, peripatetic and fatherless childhood rose above circumstances and all manner of plausibility to become a senator, electrifying a flatlined Democratic Party, redeeming the very principles of democracy in the eyes of a jaundiced electorate, whose historic presidential campaign has also helped restore the world’s faith in the United States as a global leader! You’re the first post-racial president! Your middle name is ‘Hussein’ for Satan’s sake!”
Mephistopheles stops to draw a breath.
“Don’t you remember, ‘Yes, we can?’”
“Yes, I do,” Obama says, his voice clipped. “But the arrangement we made covered 8 years in office, and I can’t help but notice you’re slacking off on your end of the bargain.”
Mephistopheles rolls his eyes. “Would you stop saying ‘bargain, arrangement?’ You sold us your eternal soul.”
“And what am I getting in it for return?” Obama says, his voice rising, striding around the Oval Office. “We’ve got an ongoing financial crisis thanks to the rampant greed on Wall Street, we’ve got would-be terrorists in Times Square, we’re still in Iraq, the question is only how badly we’ll fail in Afghanistan, closing Guantanamo’s a bitch, and we may be losing the House in the fall.”
“Oh, so now health care - and excuse me, but the Nobel Peace Prize – don’t count for anything?” Mephistopheles’ voice is laden with sarcasm.
“And don’t think I haven’t noticed that some of the biggest problems are coming from underground. The Haitian earthquake? Oil pouring out of a hole in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico? The volcano?”
Mephistopheles looks up – clearly surprised.
“You thought you could slip that by me by putting it in Iceland? Don’t think for a second that I don’t recognize your handiwork.”
“Fine!” Mephistopheles stands up. “But the boss and I have problems, too!”
“We’ve been losing ratings to cable and the internet like everyone else! It takes a critical mass of belief in the Devil, the Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, Lucifer, a Corporeal Manifestation of Absolute Evil for us to sustain original programming! I mean, Come on – Oprah? Dr. Phil? Lifetime? Susan Boyle? All this happy do-gooder self-affirming nonsense is putting a dent in our bottom line!”
It’s Mephistopheles’ turn to start pacing.
“Even the pedophilia scandal across the breadth of the Catholic Church, the cover-up to which implicated the Pope – the Pope, for Satan’s sake – didn’t give us the ratings bump that we deserved.”
“Yeah – well, I feel your pain,” Obama sneers.
“No, you don’t,” Mephistopheles shoots back. “That was your Democratic predecessor.”
Obama looks taken aback. “I’m not your first president?”
“Don’t be absurd,” Mephistopheles shoots Obama a withering look. “And have you ever wondered why Dick Cheney just won’t die?”
Obama looks down at the floor for a moment and exhales. “That all may well be. But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re not holding up your end of the bargain. Unless I see some performance changes, you’re simply not getting my eternal soul.”
“Fine.” Mephistopheles prepares to leave. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Obama stands in front of him. “That’s not good enough. Let’s start with the Gulf of Mexico, financial reform, and then take a look at the mid-term elections. If those go well, then we’ll talk.”
“All I’m saying is, I’ll take it to the boss,” Mephistopheles grumbles.
“You do that.”
And with just that hint of brimstone in the air, Mephistopheles goes.
President Obama buzzes his secretary. “Ok, what’s next?”
July 15, 2010
– The Washington Post. “Congress gave final approval Thursday to the most ambitious overhaul of financial regulation in generations, ending more than a year of wrangling…”