The Common Good
May 2009

On Obama's Short List

by Ed Spivey Jr. | May 2009

I hold in my hand a printout of the e-mail I just received from Barack Obama.

I hold in my hand a printout of the e-mail I just received from Barack Obama. Yes, I know it’s not green to use paper, but how else can I display it on my desk so co-workers can express awe, surprise, and most important, envy? The point is, I received a personal communication from, depending on which blog you read:

• A foreign-born Islamic extremist

• Socialist-in-Chief

• President of the United States

That’s right, President Barack Obama. The most powerful man in the most powerfully indebted nation in the world. Addressed to me, personally, and printed out by me, personally, so I can hold it in my hand and feel the power of being on The Inside. Not just inside the Beltway but below the Beltway. Wait, that came out wrong. Anyway, I am ... one of The Chosen.

Chosen to be in contact with the man who could be the most pivotal person in the history of the 21st century after Rush Limbaugh, a president not afraid of crisis. Because he knows the Chinese character for crisis is made up of the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” Or possibly “turtle.” I can’t figure it out myself. To me the characters look like a guy reading under a tree with this huge fingerprint coming after him, which seems dangerous and he should stop reading and get the heck out of there. But I digress.

FOR SEVERAL MONTHS I’ve been incessantly checking my cell phone for a Blackberry message from the president, hoping that I’d be one of the half- dozen people on his speed dial. I was, after all, a major contributor to his campaign, and I enjoyed watching my $25 help correct an electoral system that has for two centuries discriminated against left-handed Hawaiians.

Then it occurred to me the president might not be getting through because my $12 RadioShack cell phone isn’t equipped to get his secure messages. Granted, it does flip open, but that appears to be the extent of its features, other than ringtone volume, which has two settings: off, or extra loud when people are praying.

But now, as an e-mail buddy of Mr. Obama, I can personally help guide the young president on the important issues that affect Americans. For example, I think the president may be premature in calling for a new age of responsibility and an end to over-consumption, since I wasn’t finished yet. I still don’t have a flat-screen television, or a jet ski, or one of those artificial fireplaces with the built-in video of an actual fire. Now that’s classy.

I am also concerned about his commitment to bipartisanship, considering that Republican leaders are proposing that Rush Limbaugh’s radio show be piped into elementary schools in the morning. I understand this would provide a needed balance to the liberal propaganda being taught the rest of the day—such as science—but I just e-mailed him back suggesting he hold off on this whole bipartisanship thing.

Naturally I’ll use my new­found influence to praise as well as critique. President Obama’s commitment to help the deficit-ridden states, for example, is admirable, although the only way I can figure California has a $50 billion deficit is because it waged an unnecessary war in the Middle East. And we shouldn’t encourage that kind of thing.

In particular, I tried to talk him out of his sweeping American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which I feel should be renamed to reflect its true nature: Expect Delays. We all know that when infrastructure is rebuilt, you can’t get anywhere. No matter where you’re coming from or where you’re going, there will be large trucks and short-tempered people with hard hats standing in the way.

This happened in the 1990s when somebody decided to bury miles of high-speed fiber-optic cable under the streets of Washington, D.C., just so we could download talking baby videos at work. This construction greatly interrupted my well-practiced shopping routine, which is as follows: I write down the shopping list very carefully, so as not to forget anything, except for the list itself, which I forget. Then I arrive at the store and shop from memory, getting two things I don’t need and forgetting four that I do. I then return home, driving slowly to delay dealing with the spouse, who is holding the shopping list in a manner I would describe as accusing, not to mention churlish. Then I take the list and go back.

But soon I’ll encounter workers from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Grant­ed, they’ll be building a Bridge to Somewhere, but not to the RadioShack where I apparently need to go, because my phone won’t stop vibrating. Maybe it’s the president. (I really should upgrade, but $14 is a lot of money these days.)

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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