WASHINGTON — He's not a dictator and won't entertain the idea of a "Jedi mind-meld" with opponents. There's no "secret formula or special sauce" he can slip foes to make them see things his way. And not to worry, he says, the situation may look dire but won't be an "apocalypse."
So who was the guy in a suit and tie who showed up Friday in the White House briefing room, mixing metaphors and references to "Star Wars" and "Star Trek"?
"I am not a dictator. I'm the president," Barack Obama declared as he rejected the idea of using Secret Service agents to keep lawmakers from leaving until everyone agreed on a budget. He answered reporters' questions shortly after an inconclusive, 52-minute meeting with the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate.
"So ultimately, if (Senate Minority leader) Mitch McConnell or (House Speaker) John Boehner say, 'We need to go to catch a plane,' I can't have Secret Service block the doorway. Right?"
Even if he did bar his office — the oval one — Obama said he wouldn't do a "Jedi mind-meld" with Congress' top two Republicans to persuade them "to do what's right."
Yoda-quoting nerds, Beltway insiders and even Hollywood heroes were instantly abuzz. The presidential mishmash of sci-fi references went viral, turning off geeks who had considered Obama one of their own after a slip of the tongue that was almost as bad as confusing Klingons and Ewoks, or even Democrats and Republicans.
Jedi are from "Star Wars," while mind melds happened on "Star Trek."
Mister Spock of "Star Trek" weighed in.
"Only a Vulcan mind-meld would be effective on this Congress. LLAP," Leonard Nimoy emailed after The Associated Press sought his reaction. Nimoy signed off with the abbreviation for his "Live long and prosper."
Maybe it was the power of the Force or some kind of Starfleet prime directive, but the White House couldn't ignore comments like that, flashing in and out of time and space and mixed metaphors like a Tardis traveling at warp speed in social media. It later tweeted: "We must bring balance to the force," with a link to an Obama photo inside a border designed to look like outer space.
As for the situation that led Obama to the briefing room in the first place, he could have quoted Bobby McFerrin and just said: "Don't worry. Be happy."
Instead, the president went with: "This is not going to be a apocalypse."
AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein and Associated Press writer Caleb Jones in New York contributed to this report.