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Declan Lynch: If you want the real truth, your best bet is the bookies

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Whenever there is an international incident these days, if you are looking for the truth, there is only one place to go.

Obviously you can't go to any official sources, because they are either lying, or telling some garbled version of the truth in an entirely self-serving way. And you can't go to your rolling news service, because in the early stages at least, they are only reporting what the official sources are saying.

So the only place to go is to the bookies. Only there will you find the kind of sober analysis you need, from a source which actually has a vested interest in the truth. As it was, and as it will be.

Here is one piece of information on which we can rely -- after whatever happened in Pakistan, Barack Obama was available at 1/2 to be the next president of the USA.

In some places he was at meaner odds of 2/5, but last Tuesday you could still get a bit of that 1/2. Which is... interesting. For a stake of €100 you would receive a yield of €50, along with the return of your stake. Which is not quite like backing the winner of the Grand National -- but is still a lot better than what you're getting from the Bradford & Bingley, I'll warrant.

The CIA doesn't have a bureau which analyses the betting markets, but thankfully we have one here. And while 1/2 at first glance might suggest that Obama is home and hosed in election 2012, with his nearest rival Mitt Romney at 10/1, a closer analysis might suggest a more ominous interpretation.

Less than 24 hours after the killing of Bin Laden, with the president's version of events being celebrated all over America, and even Fox News high-fiving him, telling him he is their main man, bookies were still offering you a 50 per cent return on your investment in Obama for a second term. Which is actually more than interesting. It is intriguing.

Put it like this: you wouldn't have been surprised to see him, not at 1/2, but at 1/10 on such a day. It couldn't possibly get any better for him, in those euphoric hours.

Besides, he is the incumbent. And many of his prospective opponents are demonstrably incapable or insane.

Certainly his own supporters may be a tad uneasy about the killing of any human being, even if, in the words of a Texas judge long ago, "he needed killin'". But they're hardly going to desert him for Mike Huckabee.

And his natural enemies may not hate him and campaign against him with such intensity, now that he has slain Satan.

Yet he could still be backed at a price that is probably longer than the one George Bush Snr had in the spring of 1991 when the Gulf War ended, and in the haze of victory he seemed unbeatable in the election of 1992 -- which Clinton won. So, apart from taking into account all the things that can go horribly wrong from day to day, we must conclude with great regret that our bookmaker friends, with their gritty realism, are pricing in the assassination issue.

Of course, they are not so vulgar that they'll actually give you a straight number on that, but they have their ways, and they've done it before -- when Obama was certain to beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, you could still get a decent enough price on Hillary to be the next president, which could happen only if Obama was suddenly indisposed. Indeed...

So as we await the visit of Obama, are we nervous? Is Paddy waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat?

Darn right he is.

Even before Pakistan, the voices of various important people could be heard on the radio, quietly imploring the gods to preserve us from some terrible event which might befall either the president or The Queen on their impending visits. For Paddy at this delicate stage of his island story, these visits have become an appalling responsibility. And he does not take well to any responsibility, let alone the appalling kind.

Denial is what he favours, in these situations. And frankly, denial sounds like the only sane course at this juncture.

A bit of luck, as well, would be appreciated. And for a change, the baleful gods have smiled on poor Paddy in one respect at least -- Rangers will not be in the final of the Europa League at the Aviva Stadium.

Imagine, if you will, a battalion of The Huns from Glasgow sailing into Dublin in the same week as Her Majesty, determined to display fealty to their Queen in the only way they know how, and I don't just mean their insistence on being served their afternoon tea in official William and Kate mugs -- and imagine too, a horde of deranged Celtic types confronting them on the quay.

We have dodged that bullet, as it were.

Can we also somehow, even at this late stage, save ourselves from some terrible display of eejitry? I have in mind the very high risk of some casual racism directed towards Obama, quite inadvertently, but embarrassingly enough to elicit an inappropriate apology, which only makes things worse. Nor are we ever free from the spectre of Obama or indeed the Queen being forced to drink a pint of stout, while apologies are made all round for wrongs of which they were entirely unaware until they landed that morning

But is it necessary for them to land at all? Certainly Obama's schedule seems to be fluid. For a while there was talk of a four-day trip, like JFK; then it was down to four hours, which was a tremendous relief; now it's back up to 24 hours... which is a long time.

I mean, would we all not sleep a little easier if he just did some sort of a video link-up?

Let us be honest -- we'd be happy enough, at this stage, with a text.

Sunday Independent