“Welcome to Bed, Bath and Beyond Democracy,” says the impossibly cheery sales clerk. “What can I do for you today, Mr. President?”
“Well,” President Obama says, checking out the price tag on a set of flatware before moving on to a set of the collected writings of James Madison. “Egypt is getting a new government and Michelle and I thought it would be nice to get them a democracy-warming present.”
“I’m sure we can help you find something,” says the clerk. “Do you know if they’ve registered?”
“It all happened fairly suddenly,” President Obama says. “I don’t think they had a chance.”
“Not a problem. We have many great things for a fledgling democracy. If you would just follow me.”
The clerk leads the President over to a wall of rolled-up parchments.
“This is what we call Constitution Corner where we keep all sorts of founding documents to help a nation set up a government. We have everything from the U.S. Constitution to the Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown also known as the English Bill of Rights to the rules governing the Soviet Politboro to Robert’s Rules of Order.”
President Obama looks at a copy of the Magna Carta. “I think the constitution is something people there are going to have to come up with on their own. What else do you have?”
“Oh, plenty. Our free press starter kit is very popular with new democracies. It helps them transform a state-run media operation into privately run system and you can get attachments so they can have a public broadcasting component and social media network.”
“That could be interesting,” the president says. “Does it come in any other colors?”
“We also have — and this has proved very popular in Central America and Chicago — a rig your own election kit. Though it does tend to work better for more advanced democracies.”
The president looks at the box. “Recommended for countries 100 and older as well as military dictatorships pretending to be governments of the people,” he reads. “Yeah… I think this is what they’re trying to move away from. Let me look at the free press kit again. Does it come with freedom of information laws or are those sold separately?”
The president keeps walking through the store, finally stopping at a very large display case with people inside. “What’s this?” he asks.
“Oh, these are political consultants. We have all sorts of political persuasions and you can even get a sampler box that comes with one of each.”
The president looks at the price tags. “Kind of expensive, no?”
The clerk smiles. “Political campaigns aren’t cheap. But I guess I don’t have to tell you that.”
The president efforts a half-hearted smile. “No. You don’t.”
At that point, Michelle walks over and joins them.
“Did you find anything,” her husband asks her.
“All sorts of things. They have that internet kill switch I know you’ve been wanting.”
“We’re not here for me. Did you see anything for Egypt?”
“There were a couple of budget-balancing kits that I thought were nice but you know what I really liked?”
The president waits.
“Cuisinart has a really nice new mixer.”
She whispers in his ear.
The president smiles.
“We’ll take it,” he tells the clerk. “Do you ship?”