Inside the Obama Team’s First-Pitch Preparation

By
Photo: Getty Images

[Once again, Daily Intel has been allowed inside the White House to witness a private moment between the president and his advisers.]

It's early Tuesday afternoon. President Barack Obama is in the Oval Office, the sleeves of his white dress shirt rolled up to his elbows as he practices for the night's big moment — throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the MLB All-Star game in St. Louis. The furniture has been pushed to the side of the room. Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" is playing on the stereo.

[Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Senior Adviser David Axelrod, and Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett enter]

Valerie Jarrett: How's it going, Barack?
Barack Obama: [Pitches] It's going. [Pitches]
Robert Gibbs: Dmitry Medvedev is on the phone; he wants to talk about the nuclear arms reduction treaty. He sounds very eager.
Obama: [Pitches] Not now, Gibbs, I need all the time I have left to get this down perfect for tonight. Can't take any chances.
Gibbs: Right, sure.
Obama: Hey! We're not stopping, Hillary, get back in your crouch.
[Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, standing across the room wearing a catcher's mitt and mask, sighs and returns to the crouching position]
Hillary Clinton: [Grumbling beneath her breath] Whatever you say, Barack, you're the boss. For now …

David Axelrod: There's something else, Barack.
Obama: What is it? [Pitches, almost misses a purposefully low return toss from Clinton]
Jarrett: We were all talking earlier, and we're worried that you might get booed a little tonight.
Obama: [Pitches] What do you mean, booed?
Axelrod: There's no denying the fact that your numbers have dipped a little lately. The economy isn't picking up as quickly as we'd hoped, the deficit just passed $1 trillion, and the death of Michael Jackson has left a lingering pall over the collective mood of the nation. Plus, let's face it, you did lose Missouri in November.
Obama: By 600 votes! [Pitches; Clinton yawns]
Axelrod: Look, all we're saying is we have to consider the possibility that we could be looking at a less-than-perfect public-relations moment here. I don't think anybody wants to risk that.
Obama: [Stops pitching] Okay, what did you have in mind?
Gibbs: We were thinking that you could wear your White Sox jacket.
Axelrod: Show your hometown authenticity and cover your ass at the same time.
Gibbs: If there's a smattering of boos, we can blame it on the St. Louis–Chicago rivalry, even though it's really a Cubs thing, but whatever.
Obama: Hmmm, okay, I like it. Good idea, guys. [Pitches] Oh, and Gibbs, did you set it up so that the Fox cameras will inexplicably manage to not capture my pitch if it's off the mark?
Gibbs: Yes, they agreed in exchange for the exclusive rights to the next Bo Obama scoop.
Obama: Perfect.

[Obama, Axelrod, Jarrett cackle among themselves. Clinton spits some tobacco on the Oval Office carpet.]