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LAce Posted Monday, September 7th, 2009
Cash for Clunkers
Nick Taylor

TRANSCRIPT - President's Press Conference
U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Monday, August 24, 2009

MR OBAMA: Thank you all for being here this morning. As you know, today is the last day of the federal "Cash for Clunkers" program. (applause). I know, I know. We are victims of our own success with this thing. Who knew? So anyway, last week I gave the members of my Cabinet an assignment. I asked that each federal department come up with at least one program, inspired by "Cash for Clunkers," to set an example for the American people of how we can work smarter--not harder, but smarter. Now, some of you might ask how paying $4,500 to every, you know, Joe Sixpack for the rusted-out Dodge Ram he's got up on cinder blocks in front of his trailer is working smarter. But I think my team is going to answer that for you here today. So--are we ready? They drew straws in the green room. (smiles) Eric, I believe you drew the shorty?

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: That I did, Mr. President. First of all, I want to thank you for the assignment. It was a real brain-teaser. I have to say, over at DOJ we were seriously scratching our heads all weekend on this one...

MR OBAMA: Good to hear. Let's hear what you've got.

MR HOLDER: Of course. (clears his throat). We call it, ah, "Cash for Your Stash..."

MR OBAMA: (laughing) Okay...

MR HOLDER: Allow me to explain. It's no secret that, well, people get older. And when they do so, they outgrow certain habits. Marijuana use, especially, is something that, while attractive in your twenties, sort of loses its appeal when you reach thirty-five. We have demographics on this, Mr. President. I'm not just pulling this out of my, ah...

MR. OBAMA: Personal experience?

MR HOLDER: Exactly. But the problem we're seeing over at Justice is that older Americans almost never remember to get rid of the little baggies they have stashed all over their houses. Which, you know, can be discovered by children, or the weed can get moldy--

MR OBAMA: Big problem there.

MR HOLDER: You're telling me. So anyway, we've set up a plan to pay real money--street value, basically--for these bags.

MR OBAMA: "Cash for Your Stash."

MR HOLDER: Precisely.

MR OBAMA: Sort of makes me want to check the closets in the girls' rooms

MR HOLDER: In case the Bush girls...?

MR OBAMA: Yeah. (awkward pause) So who's next? Bob?

DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: Yes. Thank you, sir. I would first like to echo what my colleague Mr. Holder said about the assignment--

MR OBAMA: Remember what we talked about, Bob? Work smart. And talking is what?

MR GATES: Working, sir.

MR OBAMA: Right.

MR GATES: So I will be brief.

MR OBAMA: Atta boy.

MR GATES: (shuffling papers) Let's see....oh yes, here we are. Ahem. It's no secret that over the past sixty-four years, several dozen nuclear devices have gone missing from Defense Department facilities.

MR OBAMA: Hold on. When were you going to tell me this?

MR GATES: I thought you knew, sir.

MR OBAMA: (whispering) We'll discuss this offline? (looks at the camera, then back at Gates) Go on, Bob.

MR GATES: Well, sir, we call our program "Cash for Rogue Nukes."

MR OBAMA: (shaking his head) No, that won't work. Needs to be alliterative. How about "Knuts for Rogue Nukes"?

MR GATES: Knuts, sir?

MR OBAMA: Wizard money. Knuts, galleons, etcetera. Aren't you in the Cabinet book group?

MR GATES: Pardon me, sir. I'm a bit behind on my reading.

MR OBAMA: Anyway. "Cash for Rogue Nukes." It could work, I guess. Tell you what--take Janet and, ah, I don't know, Biden? You three form a working group and report back in 72.

MR GATES: 72 hours, sir?

MR OBAMA: Smart, Bob. Work smart.

(Mr. Gates bows awkwardly, returns to his seat.)

MR OBAMA: Who else? Kathleen, do you have something to share?


MR OBAMA: Better be, girl. You're on my list, you know.

MS SEBELIUS: Roger that, Mr. President. But listen, expired prescription drugs are a big problem in America. Medicine cabinets from sea to shining sea are filled with old--

MR OBAMA: Wasn't this Eric's program?

MS SEBELIUS: Well, these are legal drugs, sir.

MR OBAMA: How about this--why can't we just pay people not to get sick?

MS SEBELIUS: Seriously?

MR OBAMA: Hear me out. Know how sometimes, when you feel yourself coming down with something, you can just, like, will it away? Mind over matter type of thing?

MS SEBELIUS: You are serious.

MR OBAMA: Michelle uses it on the girls all the time. Say one of them--Sasha--comes into our room first thing in the morning, says she's not feeling well, etcetera. Michelle just looks her in the eye, real stern like, and says, "No, you're not." Just like that. Works every time.

MS SEBELIUS: We could try it.

MR OBAMA: It's libertarian, actually. The Republicans will love it. We can call it, ah... Someone help me out here.

MR GATES: (raising his hand) How about "Dough to Blow"

(all eyes on Gates)

MR GATES (cont'd): ...Your Nose..

MS SEBELIUS: But they're not sick, Bob. That's the whole point.

MR GATES: I know, but it rhymes...

MR HOLDER: Ooh! How about "Money for the Runny.."

MR GATES: ...Nose! Well done, Mr. Attorney General.

MR HOLDER: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

MS SEBELIUS: Guys--same problem. Not sick, no runny nose.

MR GATES: I suppose I wouldn't know. I have never been sick a day in my life.


MR OBAMA: Okay people--I appreciate your creativity here. And so do the American people. Names are vital, as we all know, but we can work out the details later. In the meantime, I think this has been a productive session. Don't you?

ALL: Yes! Absolutely!

MR OBAMA: I would like to thank the Chamber for having us. I believe that streaming video will be available later today--isn't that correct? Well, at any rate, if you have any questions about the programs we've discussed, please direct them to the appropriate department head. Any other concerns, as you know, go to Rahm. All right. Thank you, everybody. Be well!

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  • Nick Taylor's novel, The Disagreement (Simon & Schuster), is now available in paperback. Visit him on the web.

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