January 27, 2009 Issue 45•05
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama expressed frustration Wednesday after members of his cabinet failed to recognize his allusion to the 24th issue of the comic series Savage Sword Of Conan during their first major meeting together.
Obama, whose upcoming challenges include organizing a massive effort to rebuild the nation's infrastructure, was reportedly unprepared for the confused silence he received upon suggesting that his cabinet "team up with Taurus of Nemedia" to secure the necessary funding from Congress.
"If my inner circle of advisers can't even communicate about the most basic issues, how are we going to tackle the massive problems our nation faces?" Obama said during a press conference. "When I tell my cabinet that getting bipartisan support is exactly like the time Conan got Taurus to help him steal Yara's jewel, they need to understand what I mean."
After receiving no reaction from the assembled reporters, Obama added, "Because a giant spider is protecting this chamber full of precious jewels, just like Congress is protecting its…. God, how are you people not seeing this?"
Obama, an avid collector of Conan The Barbarian and Spider-Man comic books since he was a child, was referencing the 1977 story "The Tower Of The Elephant," written by Roy Thomas. According to administration sources, no one in Obama's cabinet was familiar with the magazine-sized comic, though Labor Secretary Hilda Solis claimed to have once seen Conan the Destroyer.
Aides also confirmed that Obama has refused to lend his copy of issue #24 to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, fearing the former Republican congressman will carelessly bend or rip the pages. The commander in chief is reportedly intent on keeping the comics in pristine condition for their eventual inclusion in his presidential library.
"How am I supposed to effectively lead this nation when [attorney general nominee Eric] Holder has to stop the meeting and ask what the story of Taurus using the black lotus powder to kill the five guard lions has to do with increasing broadband Internet connections nationwide?" Obama said while vigorously rubbing his temples.
Added the president, "For the love of Crom, am I the only one here who wants to keep the U.S. technologically competitive?"
Administration officials said the incident has caused the president to question whether his staff has ever understood any of his Conan references. One such instance he is reportedly reexamining occurred after his loss in the New Hampshire primary, when Obama rallied his staff by reminding them, "There is always a way, if the desire be coupled with courage."
Although campaign workers smiled and nodded at the time, Obama has begun to seriously doubt that any of them connected the inspiring quotation to the story line in which a Kothian rogue informs Conan that it is impossible to climb to the top of the Elephant Tower because the sides are more slippery than glass
While Obama has not scheduled another meeting with his cabinet this week—a respite the president hopes they will use to brush up on the 235-issue Savage Sword series—he is expected to meet with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Friday to discuss Afghanistan. A holdover from the Bush administration, Gates told reporters he may have gotten off on the wrong foot with the new president, citing an occasion when Obama asked him what he knew about 1984's Secret Wars, a 12-issue limited Marvel release. Gates then handed a visibly confused Obama 1,400 classified pages on covert CIA operations in El Salvador.
Later, the defense secretary attempted to find common ground with Obama by making casual references to the comic book Spawn. But the 44th president reportedly brushed him off with an abrupt laugh, saying, "no one in [his] administration likes Spawn."
Minutes from the first cabinet meeting indicate it lasted just under 35 minutes, coming to a standstill during a discussion of minimizing public waste. When Energy Secretary Steven Chu failed to understand the president's instructions to "be like the barbarian wielding his steel to cleave flesh from bone," Vice President Joe Biden attempted to clarify the president's thoughts.
"I think what the president is trying to say here is that this is just like the time when Barney had to put Fish on restricted duty because of his health exam results," said Biden, a longtime fan of the late-'70s police sitcom Barney Miller. "It's pretty straightforward when you look at it like that."
When asked by the press corps if this week's hiccup has caused him to rethink any of his appointments, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton interrupted the president to assert that she and her colleagues have already begun educating themselves about comic books, and will soon be "an invincible team of Supermen and Wonder Women working to save America."
"Wonder Woman? That's not even Marvel," Obama responded before storming out of the press room. "Who are you people?"