Enemy of the Week

Happy Birthday, Mr. Presidents

Forty-four turns 48 -- and 42 crosses the 38th parallel.

By 8.5.09

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Some of you seemed irked that we gave insufficient coverage to our president's All-Star Game pitch. Relax, please. We advise patience. It is a virtue, after all. Which in turn is its own reward. We're now happy to confirm that, after a turbulent three-week 60-foot, six-inch flight, the president's historic toss has finally arrived at home plate. Didn't exactly cross it so much as trickle over it, pushed along on its final leg by some eager-beaver ants, who were grateful for the work. Having checked with Rahm Emanuel, they credit the stimulus package for their unanticipated burst of speed. 

What a nice birthday gift for our president. There were other presents. Visiting businessmen wouldn't let him pay for lunch. Helen Thomas accepted a free cupcake. The Cambridge Police didn't card or arrest him. And the starstruck New York Times confirmed it's in the habit of doodling his name. In the paper's crossword yesterday, the clue for 71-Across read: "President born on August 4, whose name can be found backward in 17-, 31-, 47- and 63-Across." We don't make this stuff up. How could we? We've never been in love like that.

Here are the winning entries: 17: Dreamabout. 31: Pajamabottoms. 47: Alabamaborder. And 63: Beamaboard. We suspect something else is going on -- Obama spelled backward could resolve the birth certificate contretemps. Have investigators been sniffing after the wrong surname? What if it is actually Amabo? Forget Kenya. He's owned by Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.

But how sad that Kenya is out of the running. We rather liked the notion that Mr. Obama might be a British subject, and as such a future prime minister of Great Britain and regular visitor to the British Museum. Never too late to improve one's Marx!

Not to spoil the party, but can it be a presidential birthday without major participation by the original August birthday boy? Bill Clinton has resurfaced just in time. Though his birth date is August 19, it used to be that nearly the entire month was set aside for celebrations of his aging process, as if it had taken as long for him to achieve birth as it had that all-star pitch to land in St. Louis. As often as not, his entire summer vacation was a endless string of birthday parties on Martha's Vineyard. Lots of beautiful people would bow to him, and he sailed with Walter Cronkite, who provided more anchor than his boat required.

Bill and Walter had much in common. We learned from Tom Brokaw's recent farewell to him that Walter was a big fan and friend of the The Grateful Dead's drummer (which makes you wonder what was in the pipe he innocently smoked). As it happens, Bill is a fan of his brother Roger, who is no mean rocker himself, as we discovered when he took his band into North Korea in 1999. (His hosts even wrote some of his lyrics: "I have received a message of peace from Pyongyang, which I will correctly convey to our people," he was quoted as crooning.) Roger was also skilled in the pardons game, and his advance work came in handy on Mr. Obama's birthday. Hillary was unavailable, so Obama sent in the boy to do the man's work. Bill Clinton traveled into North Korea unescorted and emerged with pardons for two American journalists held hostage by the NK regime. Perhaps he was doing this to embarrass Al Gore, who had abandoned the two journalists, or maybe he just wanted to meet them. They were reportedly women, if you must know. 

What we can't understand is the dour look on Mr. Clinton's face on the release of the two women. After all, the three of them would be flying back on the same plane. Maybe he was worried about how he'd explain it all to Hillary, or to Jesse Jackson, whose monopoly it once was to lead such rescue missions. Or maybe he simply felt used and ashamed of himself. According to his NK hosts, "Clinton expressed words of sincere apology to Kim Jong Il for the hostile acts committed by the two American journalists." Not even Kenneth Starr dared put words like that in his mouth.

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