WASHINGTON—Looting, fires, and mass rioting swept across the nation today when a mild throat infection threw off President Barack Obama's normally reassuring and confident speech cadence, sources in every major city reported.

"My fellow [cough] Americans, please [cough] remain calm," Obama said during a nationally televised emergency address to the nation that caused the Dow Jones to plunge 50 points with every cough, sniffle, or wheeze. "Now is not the time for [cough]…everything's [cough]. Stop it."

Without the president's fluid, almost poetic tone to reassure them, the American people have abandoned all semblance of law and order and descended into a nationwide panic, burning buildings to the ground, disobeying police, and relinquishing all hope for the future.

"Run for your lives! The president no longer has a masterful yet unpretentious command of the English language!" citizens from coast to coast were heard to cry as they abandoned their jobs, homes, and families to forage in the woods for their very survival. "Without Obama's ability to turn even the most dire news into an uplifting and irresistibly quotable rhetorical gem, we'll never make it. All is lost! Nothing awaits now but utter darkness."

Riot police stanch the onslaught of angry upper-middle-class Americans in Boston.

Breaking reports now indicate that, in the absence of the president's soothing eloquence, as many as 85 percent of Americans vacated their towns to seek higher ground, or barricaded themselves in underground bunkers armed with shotguns and old presidential radio broadcasts in hopes of riding out the crisis until Obama's oratorical prowess returns.

"His reassuring but firm cadence has abandoned us!" former office manager Carol Craighead shouted through a bullhorn from the roof of her New York apartment building. "How will we weather the financial slump, escalating tensions with Iran and North Korea, war in Iraq, and our deteriorating health care system if Obama can't make the press corps chuckle with his pithy and endearing turns of phrase?"

Statements echoing Craighead's have been heard in all 50 states, as citizens grapple with the loss of the president's calming verbiage. Many say they fear that without Obama's strong, yet compassionate, vocal cadence, the entire country will crumble into dust—leaving only the ashy remains of a once powerful Western empire.

Although Obama's doctors have attempted to reassure the American public by claiming the apocalyptic throat infection should clear up in three to five days, many experts agree that any recovery will come too late.

"By that time, the damage will be done," said Harvard University's H. Robert McCallum, who was himself preparing to flee to the comparative stability of Mexico when reached by reporters for comment. "It may be decades before the stock market recovers, if it ever does, and all indications suggest that the Midwest is now an uninhabitable wasteland, abandoned by law enforcement and unwatched by God Himself."

"How could we have allowed ourselves to get to this point?" he continued. "Someone should have given him vitamin C or a lozenge or something. Some hot tea. Perhaps future historians, as they piece together the ruins of our civilization, will be able to figure out how such a vile fate could have been avoided."

What personnel remain at the Department of Defense estimated this afternoon that only 15 percent of the U.S. military remains under federal control. The rest are reportedly roaming the countryside in armed bands, looting and pillaging as they go. Those senior officers still reporting for duty have barricaded themselves inside the Pentagon, where they have gradually succumbed to infighting as the chain of command grows more and more ambiguous.

"How are we to find hope without Obama's liquid tenor to distract us?" ousted defense secretary Robert Gates asked. "I can't go back to the way it was two years ago. I'd rather die."

As the crisis worsens, attempts to replace Obama's soothing eloquence with an equally authoritative and reassuring vocal presence continue. Actor Morgan Freeman, celebrated for his voice-over narrations in films like March Of The Penguins, put forth a heroic effort, but was unable to quell the unprecedented civil unrest. Dennis Haysbert, star of Fox's 24, was also slated to make a speech, but is now missing and presumed dead.

White House officials have admitted that their early attempt to temporarily placate the nation with a primetime address by Vice President Joe Biden was a disastrous lapse in judgment, after Biden's numerous gaffes resulted in the dissolution of the Senate and the destruction of the Washington Monument.