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“The French Disconnection”: A Surreal Reality Show

US President Barack Obama (R) speaks as French President Francois Hollande listens following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 18, 2012 in advance of the G8 and NATO Summits. Obama told French counterpart Francois Hollande during White House talks on Friday that their countries' bilateral relationship is "deeply valued" by Americans. Just three days after being sworn in to replace pro-American president Nicolas Sarkozy, Hollande, a Socialist, held Oval Office talks with Obama focusing on the euro crisis and how to improve growth. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad

OPEN to OVAL OFFICE. DAY. President Barack Obama alone at his desk, gazing at his laptop. His monitor shows activity of the video game “Grand Theft Auto V”. He’s directing Protagonist 1 in a heist.

PREZ: Oh…man…yeah…Oh yeah!…

His phone buzzes. He picks it up.

PREZ: Yeah, what?

SECRETARY: Mr. President, President Hollande of France is on the line. He sounds very upset.

PREZ: Hell, he oughta be. Their economy’s junk! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…

SECRETARY: (unmoved) Mr. President, he insists on speaking to you immediately.

PREZ: …ha ha ha ha…Oh…hell, okay, put him on.

On Obama’s monitor, Protagonist 1 speeds away in the stolen car. Obama responds to that.

PREZ (cont.): All RIGHT!

The phone clicks, admitting Hollande’s call. Obama puts him on the SPEAKER PHONE.

PREZ: (cont.): Franky! How ya doing? How’s tricks in Gay Paree these days? How are the crepes suzettes at Le Jules Verne Restaurant? Is Chef Alain Ducasse still flippin’ the cakes? Still serving that great Beaujolais? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…

FRANKY: Monsieur President, I am very upset…in fact, my blood pressure is rivaling the Eiffel Tower in height!

PREZ: Whoa! Great image, Franky, boy! What’s the problem? The ol’ Folies Bergère cancel its midnight strip show? Ha ha ha ha ha…

FRANKY: No, they’re still peeling their leotards. It’s your National Security Agency that’s the very serious problem.

In the video game, the police show up with LOUD SIRENS AND GUNFIRE.

FRANKY: (cont.) Monsieur President…what’s going on there?

Obama quickly hits the Mute button on his laptop and the video game goes SILENT.

PREZ: What? Oh, nothing, nothing. Just your regular Washington, D.C. police shootout. Nevermind that. What’s your alleged problem with our security guys?

FRANKY: It’s not alleged. Wikileaks just released documents showing the NSA…for YEARS…taping MY conversations. And not only me, but Sarkozy and Chirac!

PREZ: Sarkoosy…Shrek? I don’t get it? We’ve taped a cartoon character?

FRANKY: No no no! My predecessors!

Obama has switched screens on his monitor. He googles “List of French presidents” and sees Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac on the list.

PREZ: Oh…right…Nicky and Jacky…How are they?

FRANKY: They, too, are IRATE! I’m about to go into a national security meeting to discuss this grave affront…

PREZ: Franky, Franky! We don’t do that. We don’t tap phones or offices of allies…

FRANKY: (tired of formalities) Look…B.O….It’s all over the global media! Wikileaks and the world press now have DOCUMENTS showing you do!

PREZ: Franky, Franky! Look…let me quickly check with Mikey over at the NSA. I’m gonna put you on hold…just for a second…Hold on!

Obama puts Hollande on hold. The WHILE-WAITING MUSIC clicks on: It’s the BEATLES singing “Money”.

MUSIC: The best things in life are free
But you can keep ‘em for the birds and bees
Now gimme money (that’s what I want)…

FRANKY: (under his breath) Sacrebleu!

PREZ: (contacting NSA) Mikey! Barry. I’ve got Franky Hollande on the other line. He claims we…meaning you…you’ve been taping his conversations…also those of the head guys before him…he says it’s all over the world media…What? It is? Right now? Well why didn’t somebody tell me!?!…Look…have we been eavesdropping on these clowns?…We have been? How long?…No shit!?! Well, what the hell am I going to tell him?…Oh…We’re not doing it anymore? Okay, thanks, Mikey.

Obama hangs up and clicks back on Hollande.

PREZ (cont.): Franky! It’s me. Look, Mikey indicated this to me: There had been occasional slip-ups at NSA, with his guys accidentally tuning in to your conversations. But here’s the key: I’ve just put a STOP to it. And it’s not gonna happen anymore. Never again. Never. Bureaucrat’s honor!


PREZ: (cont.) Franky?…

FRANKY: Never again?

PREZ: Never! Bureaucrat’s honor!

FRANKY: Look, B.O., I’m not sure that’s good enough…

PREZ: Franky, Franky! Look, we’re allies! What can I do to make it up to you?

FRANKY: Well…we need some compensation.

PREZ: Sure, no problem. I’ll get the CIA to deliver you a couple of billion in cash…euros…straight to your home…

FRANKY: No, no, that’s not what I…hmmm…Oh, okay…thanks, that can certainly help the family. But, B.O., we’ve passed new legislation to increase surveillance here at home. We could use some of your pros to help us refine our snooping.

PREZ: Hey hey! No problemo! We’re allies! I’ll get Mikey to send some guys over to help you out. And, hey…between you and me…they’ll deliver a few bill…as in billion?…to help you get the program set up!

FRANKY: Oh, B.O., merci! Merci! Uh…One more thing…

PREZ: Name it, ol’ ally, ol’ buddy!

FRANKY: All the wars you keep starting…and funding…and supplying weapons to…in the Middle East. It’s creating a huge influx of homeless refugees throughout Europe. We’re seeing them trying to enter by boat, and over land. I want to start a drone program to kill them.

PREZ: (silent, then) You mean…to kill civilians?


PREZ: I can’t support that.

FRANKY: (exasperated) B.O. …for years you’ve had a secret policy with drones. You consider any male adult Muslim killed in a drone attack to be a potential terrorist. And your attacks have killed thousands of civilians.

PREZ: That’s not true. Let me make this very clear…That’s not true.

FRANKY: Everyone from intelligence agencies to research by American universities and by the press have proved this!!

PREZ: Oh…they have?


PREZ: Well…We don’t do that anymore.

FRANKY: Just like you don’t spy on us anymore?

PREZ: Oui…I mean…yes…just like that…

FRANKY (under his breath) Merde!

PREZ: What’s that?


PREZ: Mayor? Mayor who?

FRANKY: (A deep breath, then) Ohh…nevermind. Merci for being an ally. Merci for stopping the snooping and droning civilians. And most of all, merci for financial support…if you know what I mean. I must go now. The security council waits.

PREZ: Awww, Franky! Sure, sure. Any time. Thanks so much for the call! You and I need to do more…(the phone clicks abruptly. Hollande is gone)…talking like this… Yessir. Great for foreign relations. Esprit de corps! That’s French! Well…you’d know that, wouldn’t you. Okay.

Obama gets off the phone and back to the video game, TURNING THE SOUND BACK ON.


PREZ: Oh, yeah! YEAH!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!


Roger Armbrust

Roger Armbrust's articles and columns have covered labor and management, Congressional legislation, and federal court cases, including appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. He formerly served as national news editor of Back Stage in New York City, where he also taught a professional writing course at New York University. His recent book of sonnets -- oh, touch me there: Love Sonnets -- is available from Amazon and other book sites. He is an associate curator of The Clyde Fitch Report. He is also co-founder and co-curator of reality: a world of views.

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