Big Freddy was sitting there, head thrown back, eyes shut, hand on his cup when I began to push my way into the booth.
“Don’t spill my coffee,” he said.
“Inhale,” I said.
“And good morning to you,” he said as he grabbed the cup in two hands.
“Sorry to disturb whatever was on your mind,” I said.
“Harry Truman was on my mind,” Freddy said.
“As in what?” I asked.
“As in how long it took for Obama to learn that the buck really does stop on every President’s desk, which was what Truman had as a reminder,” Freddy said.
“Because he played a lot of poker,” I said.
“Because he knew what goes around comes around, which is what happens when you deal the cards,” Freddy said.
“Truman liked playing poker,” I said.
“And Obama likes playing basketball,” Freddy said.
“So?” I asked.
“Different game, different strategies,” Freddy said. “Poker’s different. You play with what’s been dealt.”
“Basketball, you play with what you and the officials can get away with.
“Right now, Obama’s got more than a hand full.”
“But not enough bucks,” I said.
“Different kind, but that’s not what passing the buck means,” Freddy said.
“In poker, and in politics, it means responsibility for dealing the cards. You can look it up. Presidents can’t pass the buck for what goes haywire, which is what has happened for Obama.
“And heads have to roll,” I said.
“Which is what’s happening,” Freddy said. “Political blood over a lot of desks before it’s over.”
“The CIA and State Department are head to head over the Benghazi deaths,” I said.
“That and who’s to blame for the stupid business of the feds delaying the okay for the Tea Party fund raising,” Freddy said.
“But what’s really roiled the waters is the Justice Department subpoena of the Associated Press telephone lines.”
“Which has Obama calling for a reporter’s shield law, “ I said.
“Good luck for that, but don’t cross your fingers,” Freddy said. “Obama’s no Harry Truman when it comes to presidential politics.”
“Truman was a Washington veteran. He was a last minute VP pick by Roosevelt, but he was no babe in the woods. He knew the ropes, and had the know-how to deal with whatever hand he held.
“That led to winding up WWII by wheeling and dealing with the Soviets over what to do with Germany, and by dropping the Big One to end the War with Japan.”
“So what Obama brings to the Oval Office were two things. One was his personality, his campaigning gifts, intelligence, character, and his race, which was too long in coming. All of that and the hopes for millions of voters - especially younger ones looking for fresh political air.
“But what he didn’t bring was presidential know how. Not many do, and too much is expected.”
“Well he just had three tough lessons in a row,” I said.
“And not much time left for him to leave his presidency on a high note,” Freddy said.
“Republicans smell blood because, this time it wasn’t of their making and they’re not going to let up because we’re only a year away from the next Congressional elections.
“That motto Truman kept on his desk? It’s in the Truman library, but it should have been left in the Oval office as a reminder for all those who follow him.”
Bill Plante is a staff columnist.