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Secret Service men move into position outside the door. Obama closes it behind you with a neat click.

"Sorry, John. Just thought things could get done a bit better this way." The president moves to an end-table and raises a crystal caraffe. "Scotch?"

"I'm a bourbon man, myself, Mr. President," you tell him. "Never much cared for peat."

Obama stops, surprised. "Okay," he grins. "It'll have to be Basil Hayden's. Woodford sent me a case of this special batch they made, but Gibbs took it on his way out. He's being followed right now," Obama tells you as he pours. "Oh, and if that can stay between us ..."

"Of course," you agree. You think you might like where this is going.

"Listen, John, I know you're in a tough spot here."

"It's these tea partiers," you begin.

"They think I'm from Kenya."

"I know," you say.

"Ridiculous," the president snorts. He hands you a glass.

"All that aside," you tell him, "They're right: We can't keep spending trillions. I'm not going to tell them I agreed to a bill that'll drive us further into debt."

The president motions for you to sit down.

"Look, I'm on board with that. I'm not a big-spending guy. I'm supposed to be a moderate here. But look, when a financial crash happens, you wind up throwing a trillion at it to try to keep people out of bread lines, and now here we are," Obama says.

You both sip your bourbons on the Oval office couches and consider.

"$37 billion," the president says. "I'll tell them you talked me into it. I tried to reason with you, but I didn't have a choice. You threatened to hold us hostage, but we worked it out in the end. You walk away with $4 billion in the Treasury's pocket. You tell them I agreed to talk about further cuts in the future, and that this is what leadership looks like."

Do you:

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Chris Good and Alex Hoyt

Chris Good is an associate editor and online politics writer for The Atlantic. Alex Hoyt does story research for The Atlantic and illustrations for TheAtlantic.com.

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