[The Manti Te'o events of this past week have caused your scenario planning consultants to think bad thoughts about the future. Here are exactly 400 words of them…]
WASHINGTON, DC (Dissociated Press) 18 January 2023
The newest senator from Pennsylvania was the American Dream: a part-Asian, part African-American, part-Jewish, part-Mormon Special Forces trauma surgeon. He won 67% of the vote running as an independent candidate, promising to find a "third way through technology and dialogue", and charming the electorate in broadcasts of him with his family.
There was just one problem, and it did not occur to anyone until Senator-elect Eldrick Liebowitz-Stewart failed to show up to be sworn in.
He didn't actually exist.
"Of course, we should have known something was up," said one political insider. "No one I knew had met him. But his entire shtick was 'the outsider,' so we corrupt insiders assumed we wouldn't know him.
"Then the debates. Most are virtual nowadays. But that background of African children that he was treating during it. And is there even a country called Spensagon?"
Spokespeople for the senator-elect deny everything.
"He's been detained by a very sensitive medical case," his spokesperson, Ari Carney, insisted.
"And an automobile accident."
The Pennsylvania electorate doesn't know what to make of this turn of events.
"We're a laughingstock," said Symbolic Analyst Sean Perrottet.
But other Keystone Staters were more forgiving.
"I still believe," said Anita Street, mother of two. "He spoke to me, and until they prove he doesn't exist, I support him."
"He's a veteran who understands the need for a strong America," said Jim Kennedy, central Pennsylvania hunter. "He knows his AR-15 from his 375 Holland & Holland. Until I hear otherwise, he's my guy."
This mixed reaction is borne out by national polls. A week after his existence was called into question, he still commands 57% approval. Yet 58% suspect that he does not exist. So a nontrivial minority of Americans support him even if he does not exist.
"How do I really know that Barack Obama or Carrie Mathison exist?" asks voter "John Smith." "Mainstream media don't want us to know the truth.
"And if he doesn't exist, so what?" "Smith" continued. "Is he really more bogus than what we have now?"
Negotiations are underway for an interview by Oprah Winfrey as the first step in the "rehabilitation" of the Senator-elect.
"We believe he can surmount this non-existence speedbump and come back from it," an advisor said.
"He's fought terrorists and saved so many children with difficult operations. So I'm sure he can overcome this."
*A conscientious reader has informed us that we skipped from 400-Word Scenario #7 to 400-Word Scenario #9 without an 8. While we ordinarily discourage such linear thinking, we felt we needed to respond to our public. Next one will be #11. Or maybe #23. You can't predict the future.