Imagine a 500-car train with radioactive cargo jumping the track at a high overpass near a nerve center switch-station, traveling through the air over a treacherous swamp and a commercial office complex, then landing at the edge of a cliff with the lead locomotive and a few cars dangling over the edge.
The runaway train, the second worst train wreck of the century, occurred because lobbyists got the restrictions removed from speed limits. The damage is so severe and the financial liability so great that thousands of stockholders lose their fortunes, thousands more individuals lose their jobs, and the staggering debt incurred for the cleanup threatens the very survival of the nation’s transportation system.
You step up to be the overseeing conductor charged with cleaning up, getting the useable cars back on track, and repairing the damage.
There are big obstacles in your way, however; you have to fight tooth and nail with the private landowners just to get your equipment onto the private property between the cliff and the tracks. And at the behest and frantic urging of the stockholders and government officials you arrange a loan of billions of dollars to keep the railroad company afloat.
The lawyers and judges who oppose you are in the pocket of the landowners, as are the politicians. It takes years, but gradually you succeed a few feet at a time until not only do you get the train cars off the cliff, but you get most of them near the track and you get a new lead locomotive into position. The public is still very worried, but some are beginning to think the railroad will recover and some of the former employees are being rehired.
You are getting close to success, in spite of the nearly insurmountable odds against you when the lawyers for the landowners, in collusion with your political opposition, serve you with court papers: You are being sued and blamed for the wreck.
You weren’t the conductor in charge of the train when the accident occurred, but they say that doesn’t matter now. You asked for the job, you haven’t restored the system as fast as was expected, you spent too much, even though the railroad and your political opposition thwarted your efforts at every possible juncture. Now they say it’s time to admit that the whole damn thing is your fault. If you were John Galt, they would let it slide. But you’re not. Your name is Barack Obama.