Remember Joe Btfsplk? I don’t either, but I gather from my father, the sainted “Che” Kahane, that he was the funny little guy with a perpetual cloud over his head in the old Li’l Abner comic strip. Nothing went right for this poor schlimazel, who was also the world’s worst jinx. Everything he touched turned to dreck.
Now, if that reminds you of a certain current president of the United States, you’re probably not alone. Yes, it indubitably has been amazing to see the plunge His Serene Highness Barack Hussein Obama II, Lord of the Flies, Keeper of the Hoops, Master of the Greens, Bringer of Kinetic Military Action, Vacationer-in-Chief, and Protector of the Holy Cities of Honolulu and Chicago, has taken in the polls. The man who promised just before his coronation that this would be the moment when the oceans would stop their rise couldn’t even prevent a little thing like the tsunami that wiped out half of Fukushima Prefecture and wracked up some fishing boats in northern California.
He makes a speech in Cairo, and the next thing you know the poor schnook who invited him there gets ousted in a CNN-led coup. He campaigns for his fellow Democrats in the elections last year and suffers a near-historic wipeout. While he’s away with Michelle, the kids, the mother-in-law, and the nanny, taking in the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio, three backstabbing harpies back home start a war with Libya. He bitch-slaps some dorky Rethuglican congressman who wants to dismantle the magnificent social-safety edifice wrought by FDR and LBJ as a kickoff to Re-Elect ’12, and he promptly tumbles in the polls. He gets punk’d by some Z-team TV reporter from Texas, loses his famous No-Drama Obama cool and goes all snippy and petulant. He even gets dissed by Allen West, who calls Barry’s imperious Mussolinian mien “a Third World–dictator–like arrogance,” and says, “I’m starting to believe that a community organizer is nothing but a low-level socialist agitator.”
Those men in uniform really know how to hurt a commander-in-chief!
Which is why I think the Punahou Kid needs a time out, a rest period. Not another vacation, exactly — a few more fact-finding missions to check out the thong bikinis at Ipanema and even the staunchest lefties, such as myself, Eric Alterman, and the fetching Sally Kohn, are finally going to figure out that Hussein really enjoys only the Head of State part of the presidential gig, and would prefer to outsource the Head of Government unpleasantness to some other, lesser royal, such as Maerose Prizzi of the Baltimore Prizzis, or Horseless Harry Reid of the Rory (No Last Name) Reids, or Bill Ayers of the Weather Underground Ayerses.
No, I was thinking more along the lines of a limited-run Broadway revival/reworking of Li’l Abner, only this time with Btfsplk as the real main character. We keep the score by Gene De Paul and of course the lyrics by Johnny Mercer, except we spread the wealth around, which means giving all the best songs to our title character, Li’l Barry:
The Treasury says the national debt is climbing to the sky
And government expenditures have never been so high.
It makes a feller get a gleam of pride within his eye,
To see how our economy expands,
The country’s in the very best of hands.
To make it work, we’ll have to tweak the plot a little: Barry Soetoro (himself) is a country boy from . . . well, nobody’s quite sure, but one day he appears in Dogpatch (Honolulu), clean and articulate and speaking the native Hawaiian pidgin dialect only when he wants to. The simple natives marvel at the sudden apparition of this handsome stranger, and give him a scholarship to Dogpatch High (Punahou), where he distinguishes himself by riding the pine and hanging out with the structural Marxists. Along the way, he resists the fleshly temptations of both the bodacious Stupefyin’ Jones (Hillary Clinton) and delicious Appassionata von Climax (Samantha Power, understudied by Susan Rice) and finds true love with the simple organic-farm girl, Daisy Mae (Michelle Obama), with whom he is united in joyous wedlock by Marryin’ Sam (Newt Gingrich). Doggone it, he’s even elected president of the United States, for reasons no one can quite fathom.
But it all goes smash in the second act when it’s revealed that Barry Soetoro is not some romantic Saracen cavalier out of Tasso, or maybe Tim Rice’s Blondel, but is actually the long-lost son of Jubilation T. Cornpone (Joe Biden), Dogpatch’s hapless idiot of a founder, and who was kidnapped by Somali pirates as a baby. Furious at the deception, the townsfolk turn the dreaded Evil Eye Fleagle (Jeremiah Wright) loose at a White House hip-hop party to pronounce the dreaded Btfsplk curse. In short order, a perpetual rain cloud appears above Barry’s head where his halo used to be, the economy craters, gas prices soar, the dollar plummets, wars break out everywhere, General Bullmoose (Tim Geithner) sells America’s greatest corporation to the Chinese for ten cents on the dollar and Donald Trump decides to run for president.
The money that they taxes us, that’s known as revenues,
They compound up collaterals, subtracts the residues.
Don’t worry ’bout the principle and interest that accrues,
They’re shipping all that stuff to foreign lands,
The country’s in the very best of hands.
In the end, a beleaguered Barry and Daisy Mae realize there’s no place like home, and so, having run the country into the ditch, off the cliff, and straight down the road to perdition, they deign to accept the lavish lifetime stipend that attends ex-presidents and return to Dogpatch, where they build the Barry H. Btfsplk Presidential Library and Genealogical Center, complete with an 18-hole golf course, a full-size NBA basketball court, and a personal chef.
You might object that the president has better things to do than to spend weeks in rehearsal and then a couple of months in the Richard Rodgers Theatre singing “The Country’s in the Very Best of Hands.” But stop and think about it: Where could Barry Btfsplk do less damage — on stage or behind the Resolute desk? I think the question answers itself.
Here’s the best part: We get Julie Taymor to direct. What could possibly go wrong?
— David Kahane has never written for the legit stage before, but for the right price he’ll do anything, so please send him notes of encouragement to [email protected] or become one of his Rules for Radical Conservatives supernumeraries on Facebook. You’ll be glad you did.