Washington. D.C. — The body President Barack Obama, who on Tuesday succumbed to an injury from a golfing mishap on Martha's Vineyard, was put on display in the Capitol Rotunda, and viewed by thousands of solemn, often weeping mourners in a line that stretched for over a mile outside and showed no signs of shrinking. Hundreds of the mourners returned to the end of the line to view his remains again, according to reports. "I can't get enough of him," said one mourner, Joanna Beech from North Carolina, as she took her place at the end of the line again. "I like how the embalmer guy left a smirk on his face. That was Michelle's touch, I heard. He was such a cheerful, outgoing man, you know."
Hostile pundits remarked in discreetly-worded columns that the multiple viewings reflected the means by which the late President achieved two terms of office in 2008 and 2012. However, Attorney General Eric Holder quickly advised the pundits and their publications that they were risking government action if they continued making such discourteous insinuations.
President Joe Biden, who succeeded Mr. Obama to the presidency, this morning even attempted to open Mr. Obama's casket to stick a pin in the President's body, but was stopped by Secret Service men. Mr. Biden, flustered by the intervention, explained to reporters as he realigned his hair plugs after the tussle with the Secret Service: "I still can't believe he's gone. My pal. My friend. I just couldn't believe it, I just wanted to make sure he's really gone. It's such a f**king big deal, his passing. I hope I can just fill his pants…I mean, his shoes."
The serene face of the late President was visible under the glass shield of the bullet-proof, solid burnished oak casket, resting in a gray-bluish velvet interior. Mr. Obama seemed to be smiling at Mr. Biden's incontinent but puckish antic.
Although the sequestering of funds in 2013 continues to close the White House to public tours, many visitors and mourners appeared at the White House, thinking that the late President's remains would be on display there. One visitor quipped, "What did he think it was, Superman's Fortress of Solitude? Hitler's Wolf's Lair? You really gotta give the guy points for hubris." The visitor was immediately arrested by Park Service police and handed over to federal speech monitors for interrogation and possible charges of treasonous expression.
Capitol Police, augmented by National Park Service employees, drafted FBI agents, and members of the independent Rapid Deployment Law Enforcement Force (RAPDLEF), formed a human corridor through which the mourners passed before ascending the Capitol steps, with a TSA checkpoint at the tail-end.
The late President's body will remain on display for public viewing for another two days before being taken to Graceland Cemetery in Chicago for burial in the family plot. Yesterday Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited with Michelle Obama, the grieving ex-First Lady, in the White House amidst the hectic packing of the Obama family's personal things to make room for President Joe Biden's occupation. Their expletive-sauced exchanges could not be reported by the press for reasons of public decorum. Observers of the exchange could not determine if the widow was angry or sorrowful at the prospect of relocating back to Chicago.
She was asked this morning what epigraph her husband wanted engraved on his tombstone. She swept aside the bangs covering her eyes, looked thoughtful, and answered, "'I want to be significant.' That's what he'd want, that's what he told me years ago. It's so simple and selfless, don't you think?"
"She was in good form," said one reporter, who asked not to be named, "and could heft a fifty-pound moving carton just as easily as a professional moving man. Goes to show what a good diet and selective chow-downs can do, things she promoted all the while in the White House."
Another veteran White House Press Corps observer noted that things were missing from walls, mantles, and sideboards that are listed in the White House inventory as government property, but he would not elaborate for fear of repercussions.
Mr. Obama's casket is being attended by a rotating honor guard of Marines. For the first time, a presidential honor guard is not exclusively male. Members of the guard are clearly identifiable with plastic badges hanging from lanyards as being male, female, gay, or transgender. Ever since passage of the Gender Neutral Military Recruitment and Training Act earlier this year, eagerly signed by the late President, it has been the policy of members of all the armed forces to "show and tell" on formal occasions.
Behind the honor guard, the Children's Choir of Montclair, New Jersey alternates with the Soulful Mozart Sextet of Buffalo, New York to provide the appropriate background music. The choir, adorned in shimmering purple and scarlet gowns, delivers a heavenly rendition of "Mmm, mmm, mmm! Barack Hussein Obama!" swaying back and forth in time with the perfectly synchronized snapping of their fingers, reciting all the lyrics of the worshipful chant which once scandalized the nation. The choir also performs upbeat numbers such Steven Greenburg's "Funky Town" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller."
After a decent interval, the sextet of classical musicians plays a selection of compositions by John Cage, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, serving as a backdrop to the energetic but subdued vocal solo of hip-hop rapper artist Sharaqq "Big Gangsta At U" Diggins debuting "songs" especially composed by him for the Rotunda viewing.
There were moments of miscommunication between Mr. Diggins and the sextet. At one point, Mr. Diggins waited a moment for the sextet to begin the next number. When he heard nothing, he turned enquiringly to the group, whose spokesman said they were playing John Cage's "Silent Spring and a Urinal 4-99," which required the musicians to simply to go through the motions of playing their instruments without producing any sound. Mr. Diggins, resplendent in a tuxedo made of dyed burlap and sporting an oversized green bow tie, shrugged and launched into his next number, with the sextet performing silently behind him.
Interviewed for this article, Mr. Diggins said he has been invited to the White House to give a farewell performance for Michelle Obama, her children, Marian Robinson, her mother, Maya Soetoro-Ng, Mr. Obama's half-sister, and his half-brother, Abong'o Malik Obama, and guests.
A special concert will be given that day by the All Services Military Band for the public in conjunction with the Obamas' last Easter Egg Hunt on the White House lawn.
A Stellar Funeral
The heavily guarded funeral services for the late President held at the National Cathedral on Friday were attended by the firmament of politics, business, and the arts. All of Mr. Obama's cabinet attended, and almost the whole of Congress, and major departmental, bureau and agency heads. Hollywood sent a sizable contingent which included Michael Moore, Danny Glover, and Sean Penn. The Hollywood Reporter noted that "Mr. Moore, dressed nattily in ubiquitous somber, wore his regulation baseball cap, which he was obliged to remove during the services. Sean Penn, similarly garbed, still looked scruffy, anorexic, and only temporarily detoxed. Director Oliver Stone seemed to be preoccupied, as though he were collecting details for a movie he has promised to make about the 'Obama Years.'"
Michael Moore, interviewed outside the Cathedral as attendees left the services, said, "Mr. Obama was a champion, a giant, a great friend of the people. I shared a beer with him when I visited the White House." Stone volunteered that "President Obama's life was the stuff of drama, and I mean to bring that drama to life. People believed that his and my friend, Hugo Chavez, who also died tragically young, would rise from the dead and lead his country on. I mean to raise Mr. Obama from the dead so that at least on the big screen, he can continue to lead."
Sean Penn declined to be interviewed, angrily waving reporters away as he stumbled down the Cathedral steps, "looking like he needed a drink," noted a writer for the Washington Post. Danny Glover, who met several times with Obama in the White House, said, “We all embraced Barack Obama as a social-champion of democracy, material development, and spiritual well-being. Vive la Revolution!”
Onetime TV star Rosanne Barr accompanied her latest flame, TV talk-show hostess Ellen DeGeneres, to the services. Barr said, "Our man hated the upper classes, and even though he was upper himself, he fought to bring them down and spread the wealth taken from the people. I hear Joe the Plumber is still plumbing, or is on unemployment. Serves him right for trying to corner our man." The couple walked away, looking like a distaff Laurel and Hardy.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also attended the services with her constant companion, Humana Abedin. "The situation here is fluid, information is developing, and conclusions can't be reached yet. My condolences go to the Obama family, but I don't want to interfere in their grief. What difference does it make now? It's less important today to look back at the President's record than to look forward to the future."
Obama to be severally remembered
Yesterday, David Axelrod, political consultant for NBC News, and Distinguished Fellow at the Harris School of Public Policy, as well as Director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, announced the establishment of the Saul Alinsky Chair of Constitutional Studies at the University of Chicago Law School. The position was made possible by a $50 million donation by a syndicate of past Obama campaign donors, including Apple, Facebook, eBay, Goldman Sachs, Google, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Nike, Starbucks, and the Walt Disney Company. Mr. Axelrod, who in the past has devoted himself to developing "progressive" educational policies in America's schools, and who introduced his "neighbor" Barack Obama politics during a state senate race, had kept in close touch with the Obamas for decades, some claiming that he even ghost-penned the late President's two autobiographies, a charge Mr. Axelrod denies. "He wrote it himself," he said years ago during an interview with George Stephanopoulos. "I just filled in the blanks. How many blanks there were, I can't say."
Yesterday, Mr. Axelrod said, "I'm delighted to break this news about the Alinsky Chair. It came right out of the blue, in a call from the CEO of Google the day before. I suggested that the Chair be named after my friend, Barack, and I talked it over with Michelle, too, and she said that her husband wouldn't have wanted it named after him, he was too modest. So, we'll stick with the Sage of the South Side."
From another quarter came the proposal for a different kind of remembrance: an Obama museum to be built somewhere in Washington, preferably in or near one of the city's many parks. A syndicate of George Soros-funded entities, including Think Progress, MoveOn, Forward for Change, and Organize for America announced a collective willingness to underwrite the project. A spokesman said that the total costs of construction, staffing and maintenance would also be complemented by subscription donations from loyal Obama supporters, beginning at the top with the oligarchy created by Obama's policies down to rank-and-file beneficiaries of his largesse, including federal employees and union members.
The museum would collect and preserve things from Obama's busy life: his golfing cap, his golf clubs, basketballs, the raincoat he wore while community organizing in Chicago, books from his library, the blackboard he used while teaching law at the University of Chicago, half-empty packs of Marlboro cigarettes, favorite teleprompters, photographs and videos of defining moments of his administration, souvenirs from his trips to Africa, the Mideast, and Europe, and numerous other artifacts of public interest.
Still another project that will get underway in the near future is the Barack Hussein Obama Presidential Library, to be built in Honolulu, Hawaii, the late President's birthplace. It will house all the official papers from the 44th president's two administrations. Michelle Obama, and doubtless Mr. Axelrod and other members of his White House staff, past and present, will guide historians and cataloguers in organizing the daunting mountain of papers. Rumor points to former information "czar" Cass Sunstein as the likely chief consultant for the project or its permanent director. No date yet has been set for the groundbreaking.
A stern rebuke and warning were issued by Attorney General Eric Holder when Mark Steyn, the controversial Canadian columnist notorious for his Islamophobic bias, remarked cynically in The National Review that the presidential library will "probably wind up fitting neatly into two large storage cartons, so much is expected to be redacted or just plain discarded. The Obama reign so overflowed with scandal, corruption, cronyism, and embarrassing faux pas that it would a violation of the late President's Machiavellian principles to leave much of that sordidness open to public and scholarly scrutiny."
Several members of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party were also in attendance, but declined to be interviewed and were whisked away in their limousines for parts unknown.
The Obama Legacy
As the endless line of mourners continues to file inside the Capitol Rotunda for one last look at their leader in the flesh, the state of the union was on many minds. What does the future hold for the country, they wondered, now that its most flamboyant socialist was dead and gone? With an inflation rate of 25% and rising, unemployment stalled at 30%, and people who have lost their homes and income filling up FEMA camps that are proliferating around the country, the confidence index sits at zero.
The late President's legacy will be seen by some as not a matter of conjecture, but as a stain on the country's history. Others will point to the soup kitchens and ragged lines of people waiting to collect food parcels and clothing and say, "You can't make a nation's omelet without breaking some economic eggs."
Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and fellow Nobel laureate with the late President, opined in today's edition that "the nation can indeed spend itself into a state of prosperity. The trick is to know when spending levels reach a critical mass and which buttons to push when it is reached. It's an intuitive skill and Mr. Obama had it. We can only hope that Mr. Biden receives appropriate advice, and I'm sure he will." Mr. Krugman refused to comment on the speculation that he will be tapped to head the Treasury Department. "There'll be a Cabinet reshuffling, of course, and I know I'm on the short list, but while you may very well think that I ought to get that appointment, I couldn't possibly comment."
As the Children's Choir breaks into reprise of "Mmm, mmm, mmm!" some inspired mourners leave the file to form an impromptu line-dancing performance of their own, their voices merging with those of the Choir. Even Mr. Diggins joins the line.
The confidence index may sit at zero, but the index of affection for the late President may just yet overcome the travails and trepidations that now sour the country's mood.