Steven Spielberg and the Temple of Obama

Because it’s a trick question: conversations about Obama’s future are really cues to celebrate his past. To cheer his accomplishments, list the ways he has changed this country, explain his historical and geopolitical importance, lament the obstacles he’s encountered from recalcitrant conservatives, obstructionist Republicans, nativist, racist, sexist, backward elements of the population, recount how he overcame them, joke about how he deserves a vacation, mention the best courses he has yet to play, ponder the work of social justice and transformation that must still be done, affirm that history is, indeed, on the side of progress.

And this conversation goes on—on and on and on—with digressions into the latest fads in Silicon Valley and the nuttiest invention Khosla can come up with after two Manhattans, with genuflections at the altar of Elon Musk, explications of the markets from Doerr, Lasry, and Hoffman, mysterious oracular pronouncements from Toni Morrison, bird-like regurgitations of the latest Paul Krugman and Fareed Zakaria columns (how envious Fareed must be that he wasn’t invited!), tedious on-the-one-hand-on-the-other lectures from the president on the lead story in the Times, the most recent editorials in the Washington Post, late night comedy he found unfair, clever “This is Sportscenter” commercials, episodes of Game of Thrones and Homeland, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michael Jordan’s handicap—and with caustic put-downs from Michele, partisan bromides from Longoria, witticisms spiced with anecdotes from academic studies no one besides Gladwell has read, and bottle after bottle of wine, course after course after course of chewy overcooked hard to swallow smugness.

And then, when you’ve grown tired, when the Grenache is making you sleepy, when all you want to do is retire to the Oprah suite at the Ritz Carlton for a dirty movie and shuteye, the president forbids you to leave. You can be one of the most powerful people in the world, manage thousands of employees, but he won’t let you go. You’re stuck! Around midnight, we learn, Reed Hoffman said kindly to President Obama, “Feel free to kick us out.” And the president replied, snidely, “I’ll kick you out when it’s time.”