Widgets Magazine


A White House of Cards

Campus has been unusually quiet for the past two weeks. It would make sense to chalk it up to a protracted midterm season, but I have a feeling (and a Facebook newsfeed to back it up) that Netflix’s release of the entire second season of House of Cards has something to do with itheck, I even updated Microsoft Silverlight for the occasion.

 Indeed, I’d be a little suspicious of anyone who claimed immunity to Frank Underwood’s honeyed Southern charm, which is why I’ve decided to pay homage to this fictional icon. So with my considerable power as a Stanford Daily columnist, I’ve arranged for a little meeting between two of the most powerful people to grace our laptop screens and our nation.

Frank Underwood, meet President Barack Obama.

NOTE: This is best enjoyed with a little imagination and a slow, syrupy South Carolinian accent.

 Barack Obama knocks on the front door of a small, stately townhouse somewhere in D.C. The door opens and Obama is standing face-to-face with Frank Underwood.

UNDERWOOD: Mr. President, how nice of you to visit.

OBAMA: Frank. Good to see you. Beautiful home.

UNDERWOOD: Oh, it does its job. Come on in, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Call me Barack.

UNDERWOOD: Maybe after a few drinks, Mr. President. Now, what can I help you with? Actually, let’s start with what I can’t help you with, because that’ll go by a lot faster.

OBAMA: Listen, Frank—

UNDERWOOD: I can’t help you with your Healthcare.gov website. I have absolutely no idea how the Internet works, which is why I hire people who know people who can make a damn website. My God, man—if a Harvard dropout who wouldn’t know a bespoke suit if he saw one can create Facebook, I’m pretty sure my 15-year-old neighbor can make a better healthcare website.

OBAMA: Agreed, but I’ve got my best guys on it.

UNDERWOOD: I’m pretty sure you just have Sasha and Malia on it, bless them, because they probably set up your LinkedIn profile for you a year ago and you were impressed. Speaking of, I also can’t help you get that dog of yours to look more photogenic in pictures. I mean, I can get rid of the dog if you’d like. It’s just such a poor choice of pet.

OBAMA: Is that all?

UNDERWOOD: Yes. I can probably help you with anything else at this point, since I’ve wielded more power from my bathtub than you currently do in the Oval Office.

OBAMA: Right now I’m concerned about Karzai—if he doesn’t sign the Bilateral Security Agreement soon, we’ll lose useful territory in the Middle East when he leaves office.

UNDERWOOD: Karzai is never leaving office—he’s moving next door to the Presidential palace once his term is over. He’s holding onto the last ace in his hand—the BSA—give himself a little leverage. So hit him where it hurts.

OBAMA: Iraq?

UNDERWOOD: Family. He’s got his little brother, Abdul Qayum Karzai, up to bat for the coming elections. Make sure he knows we won’t stand by a nepotistic, fixed election. Unless, of course, he signs the BSA, at which point we “get distracted.”

OBAMA: I don’t plan on working with Karzai after his term expires—it’s a waste of time. Plus, I really do hate the guy.

UNDERWOOD: Don’t. Invite him over to the residence, you and Michelle, for some BBQ ribs and sweet tea. He’s in for the long haul.

OBAMA: Ribs, Frank? Really?

UNDERWOOD: Exactly. Shake with your right hand, but hold a rock in your left.

OBAMA: Well, in this case, a pork rib.

UNDERWOOD: Less poetic, but fine.

OBAMA: How about surveillance reform? It’s one of the biggest issues pulling my approval numbers down.

UNDERWOOD: I’m a huge fan of what you’ve done with the NSA. Claire and I look through phone records during breakfast. Sometimes we just check each other’s phone records instead of communicating.

OBAMA: The American people don’t like it, and I can’t blame them. Plus, I made a promise to find an alternative during my State of the Union speech.

UNDERWOOD: Which was tame, by the way. I was able to paint half my Civil War diorama while listening to it—that’s how boring it was.

OBAMA: Fine, but what am I supposed to do about—

UNDERWOOD: Just get some private phone companies on the phone, tell them to keep the records we make and allow the government to periodically search them.

OBAMA: How do we know the phone companies will agree to comply with our orders when we need them?

UNDERWOOD: It’s the government, Mr. President, not the AT&T CEO’s daughter who wants to check her boyfriend’s phone record. If the Pentagon asks them to bend for national security purposes, they will. And if they don’t, make sure you store the records with multiple companies.

OBAMA: Edward Snowden.

UNDERWOOD: Should’ve gotten rid of him years ago. Blame it on the Chinese.

OBAMA: He’s a thorn in my side, Frank. He undermines every move I make in good faith.

UNDERWOOD: Even Achilles was only as strong as his heel. Find a way to make Snowden disappear. He’s not “opening the debate about national security and privacy.” He’s opening the floodgates of the Potomac to watch the White House drown.

OBAMA: That’s a little dramatic, don’t you think?

UNDERWOOD: Mr. President, have you even seen my show?

OBAMA: I have, and I gotta say, Frank—I’m very glad you’re fictional.

UNDERWOOD: Me too. If you’re the president reality has to offer, then I’d rather just stay with Netflix.

OBAMA: I don’t have much time left in office, Frank. I know I’ve been disappointing, but it hasn’t been an easy eight years. I inherited a terrible economy and a pack of vengeful Republicans that don’t want to do anything but tear me down.

UNDERWOOD: Well, I inherited high cholesterol, a weakness for sweet tea and a mild intolerance for lactose. So I run, drink more sweet tea and forbid milk from coming within a 10-foot radius from my office.

OBAMA: Not sure if that’s relevant.

UNDERWOOD: Me neither, I think I’m just hungry. Point is, you’ve got a Congress that’s so rogue it would put that crazy tiger in India to shame. And you’ve showed your frustration, you’ve kicked doors, you’ve belittled them in speeches but you haven’t drawn blood. Or at least, when you have, they’ve drawn yours as well.

OBAMA: Bills need to get passed, Frank. It’s a matter of diplomacy.

UNDERWOOD: In Gaffney, we have our own brand of diplomacy—

OBAMA: We’re not in Gaffney, Frank, so whatever crazy saying you have about holding rocks and shaking hands and drawing blood isn’t going to cut it.

UNDERWOOD:  Fine, Barack, FINE. You have Iran’s disarmament bill you have to get past Congress and the P6. Don’t mess this one up by doing something as stupid as hosting another damn fundraiser with Jay-Z and Beyonce instead of meeting with Netanyahu. Get Republican staffers to the table, brief the senators about what happened in Geneva and don’t you dare lift one sanction—Iran hasn’t shown a single act of good faith.

OBAMA: I think I liked it better when you called me “Mr. President.”

UNDERWOOD: I think I don’t like you either way. But if there’s one thing for sure, you are not going to spend the rest of your presidency as the lame duck you have been for the past six years. You can fix this.

OBAMA: Thanks for the drink, Frank.

UNDERWOOD: Come back again when Claire’s home. You like ribs, right?

OBAMA: Love ‘em.

UNDERWOOD: Well now, that’s a great step in the right direction.


Note: this column was inspired by Maureen Dowd’s 2008 column in the NYTimes in which Dowd arranges for a fictional meeting between The West Wing’s President Bartlet and the real President Obama.

Contact Uttara Sivaram at usiv@stanford.edu.

  • Candid One

    Re: “Note: this column was inspired by Maureen Dowd’s 2008 column in the NYTimes in which Dowd arranges for a fictional meeting between The West Wing’s President Bartlet and the real President Obama.”

    Well, some inspirations are better than others. Unemployed scriptwriters are myriad.