Photographers captured grainy images of Romney arriving in a black SUV, from which he emerged unassisted and unguarded. Reporters received only the homophonically ironic luncheon menu in response to queries about what transpired in the presidential dining room: White turkey chili and chicken salad.
Alas, where there is a White House, there is always someone willing to whisper a few tidbits in the interest of national curiosity. According to Mr. Fly, who happened to be nearby feasting on a grain of salt, the meeting began with small talk, during which Romney took a stab at self-deprecating humor, while the president remained Rushmorian.
President: Governor, nice to see you again. Welcome to my Oval Office.
Romney: Thank you, Mr. President. Love the way you’ve decorated the place. Very understated, but where’s the bling? Heh-heh.
President: Mitt, you always know just what to say. Jay (press secretary Carney), could you please let the chef know we’re ready?
Romney: I don’t suppose your chef speaks Spanish, eh? Just a little immigration humor there. You know I never did employ any illegal aliens, despite what they said. Wow, is that the Churchill bust? I thought you gave it back!
President: No, that’s Alfred Hitchcock. I’m a fan. You like turkey chili?
Romney: Love turkey chili! Of course, I love everything, especially America.
President: (Smiles while reaching down to pat Bo on the head.)
Romney: Hey, who let the dog out? Heh-heh.
Carney: Mr. President, lunch is served.
President: This way, Mitt.
(Seated, the tone becomes more reserved.)
Romney: Mr. President, first I want to thank you for extending this invitation. I’m honored to be here and hopeful that I can continue to serve my country in any way you see fit.
President: Thank you, Mitt. I really appreciate your willingness to come here today. I know it can’t have been easy and, by the way, my apologies for your reception outside.
Romney: Oh, I’m used to hecklers.
President: No, I mean the media.
Romney: No, that’s what I meant, too.
President: Very good.
Romney: Well, what can I do for you, Mr. President? Not to be presumptuous, but I think I have some ideas for turning around the economy.
President: So I’ve heard, but I’m really not that interested. I mostly invited you here because I said I would. Team of rivals and all that, blah, blah, blah.
Romney: Oh. Well, since I’m here, could I just say, Mr. President, that you really must cut discretionary and entitlement spending. Seeking $50 billion more in stimulus funds on top of raising tax rates will break the country. You will decimate the small business community.
President, stifling a yawn: So I’ve heard, but again, I don’t really care that much. I was re-elected and elections matter. Legacies matter even more. I have to raise taxes on the rich and I can’t and won’t cut spending on the less fortunate. Obviously, closing loopholes and capping deductions won’t produce enough revenues to cut the debt and deficit.
Romney: Well, no, it won’t, not unless you also significantly cut spending. Moreover, as you know, you’re already raising taxes across the board with Obamacare. What happened to your saying you’d go anywhere and do anything to reach a compromise with Republicans? If we go over this cliff and enter another recession, the American people are going to be hurting and eventually they’ll understand why.
President: All true, Governor, but by then my agenda will be entrenched and most Americans — your benighted 47 percent among others — will be content with the nation’s new organization. Eventually, even the middle class won’t mind coughing up more in taxes to finance what I’ve put in place. By the time I leave office, everyone in this country will have equal access to health care; the rich won’t be so rich and the poor won’t be so poor. What’s wrong with that?
Romney: Nothing much, Mr. President, except the reality is that not everyone can have everything. Equal outcomes, which you seem to see as desirable, inevitably means coercion. Moreover, what you’ve just described is not free-market capitalism.
President, looking bemused: Your point?
Carney: Excuse me, Mr. President, sorry to interrupt, but your next appointments are here. Gov. Christie, Gov. Jindal, right this way.
Kathleen Parker is a columnist for The Washington Post.