McCULLOUGH: A new presidential retreat

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama and a group of students made a phone call to the International Space Station to talk to astronauts.

The group asked about all sorts of scientific topics, such as artificial gravity and what structures the astronauts can see from space. The president ended by telling the astronauts how proud we all are of them.

But now, thanks to crack White House correspondent Elrod Fontana, I have it on good authority that the president waited until all the students left and then made another call into space. Also thanks to Elrod, I have obtained a transcript of that call, which I now reprint for your perusal.

Space station astronaut: Hello?

President: Hi, guys. It's me aga-

Space station: Ha ha! Tricked you! It's just the machine. We're not home right now, but if you'll leave a message at the beep, we'll call you back.

President: This is President Obama. My number is-

Astronaut: (Click) Yes, sir, Mr. President. Sorry, sir. The caller ID is on the fritz again up here. Plus, McIntyre forgot to pay his Visa bill before we launched. The collections calls have been relentless, so we just let the machine pick up. Sorry for the inconvenience, sir. Do your students have more questions?

President: Nope. It's just me this time. Listen, you said you could see the Great Wall of China and the Golden Gate Bridge from up there. I was wondering what else you can see.

Astronaut: Uh, well, you can see the Grand Canyon, Mount Everest. The captain says he can see the national debt.

President: That's not really that funny.

Astronaut: That's what I told him. You have to know what side your bread is buttered on. People don't get too fired up about spending billions on space exploration when they can't pay the rent.

President: But we need you guys. Your research leads to all sorts of advances.

Astronaut: Preaching to the choir, Mr. President. Preaching to the choir.

President: So anyway, what's life up there really like? Is there, you know, stuff to do?

Astronaut: Uh, well, it's ... different. You never really get used to floating around all over the place. And no matter what gadget NASA comes up with, going to the bathroom is a pain. But they give you all the Tang you want to drink out of the air through a straw, which is pretty cool. And the view is spectacular.

President: What about the stress? Anything to bother you?

Astronaut: You mean other than the alien spaceship that shadows us all the time?

President: There are ALIENS?! No one told me-

Astronaut: Ha ha! Sorry, sir. A little space humor. No aliens. No, it's not very stressful. It's peaceful, actually. You just do your job, try not to float into something important.

President: Sounds great. Got room for a few more?

Astronaut: Sir?

President: I need a vacation. No one likes me down here like they used to. Reporters ask me all sorts of questions I don't have answers to, my own party won't listen to me, and the Republicans are split — half think I'm a foreign-born terrorist sympathizer, the other half thinks I'm the anti-Christ. Changing Washington is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I need a break. Someplace a loooooooong way away. I figure you can't get farther away than space.

Astronaut: Uh, well, you've got me there, sir.

President: I promise not to get in anybody's way. It'll just be me and Michelle and the kids. And the dog. And Michelle's mama. Gotta drag her everywhere we go. Then there's Joe, of course. No telling what he might do with me off the planet.

Astronaut: Sir, we're really not set up to handle that many people. We've only got so many beds.

President: We'll bring our sleeping bags. Ooh! We'll sleep in our sleeping bags floating in the air! The kids'll love that. So will Joe.

Astronaut: Sir, we don't ...

President: So how's Tuesday work for you? We'll stay a week. Maybe two. Who do I call about a special shuttle mission?

Astronaut: Sir, you're being a little bit unrealistic.

President: Sigh. That's what everyone down here keeps saying.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.