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POTUS (President of the United States) Diary Entry #3

Short story By: Bill Rayburn
Literary fiction



Late at night on Friday the 13th, President Obama writes in his secret journal, and then joins his trusted Porter for cocktails and conversation, focusing on race relations in America. (approx. 3675 words)


Submitted:Apr 14, 2012    Reads: 10    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


The acronym below is useful, pragmatic and goes all the way back to Thomas Jefferson, who coined it. Potus is Latin for 'eagle', and coincidentally stands for 'President of the United States'. Jefferson, a Latin aficionado, used it in reference to his political foe John Adams. In theory, that would make it an anacronym, which simply means an older acronym that most people can't remember what it stands for.

POTUS (Diary Entry & Cocktail Hour)

(Late Friday night, April 13, 2012)

Friday the 13th. BFD, say I. The POTUS has little or no time for superstition. And that fits me perfectly, as I've never been superstitious. So, upon waking this morning, I forged on, not heedlessly, but with a forthrightness to show anybody on staff that may have been harboring Fri. 13th shit that it would not even be an issue. It was an uneventful day, save for a rare, but quite satisfying 45 minutes alone, midday, with Michele. And I'm not talking about lunch.

So, a lot has gone on since my last entry here. Sanitarium is out and Mitt is finally established (not 100%, but it's him) as my opponent. I would like to thank old Rick for his efforts. He did two things for me, unwittingly. Of course, if you ask me, most of what he did, does and will do, are sans wit. First and foremost, his continuous shots at Mitt, up till he suspended his campaign, were like found money for me and my camp. We didn't have to spend a dime attacking Romney. Sanitarium relentlessly poked holes in the vulnerable Romney facade, and we just sat idly by loving it. Don't worry. The gloves are now permanently off. But Rick has set the tone, and laid the groundwork, planted the seeds, whatever your metaphor, and we will just roll over that tilled soil like Patton's tanks in North Africa in WWII, during that long victorious road from Casablanca to the heart of Germany.

Forgive me; I sometimes like to show off some of my historical knowledge and insight. I love that shit. Sue me.

So, Romney hardly puts the fear of God into me, or anyone else, for that matter. He is still incapable of rallying any significant support in his own party, let alone what seems an impossible task for him, to sway undecided moderates to his side.

We will be aggressive and not back down to any of his bullshit, which is sure to fly, whether through misleading ads or during the debates, but it really is my election to lose. If I can avoid any serious screw up, I should be fine. It won't be a Nixon vs. McGovern-type beatdown (520-17 for you electoral vote junkies), but a repeat of 2008 is not out of the question (FYI 365-173, I doubled McCain up). Mitt is playing possum about his running mate, and my guess is he will choose poorly here. My strategy, were I him? What the hell, no one will read this for years, so I'll tell you.

Mitt is so non-descript, colorless and uninspiring, what he really needs is some star power as his VP. But his ego won't allow that, in my opinion. Though incredibly reckless and misguided, McCain's choice of Palin was at least a stab, however wild, at shaking things up, at fighting his own un-exceptional, old-guy image. Mitt is not an old guy, per say, he's just a stiff, sometimes awkward rich guy who, in response to his inability to connect with people on any level other than superficial, simply comes across as trying too hard. Pathetic is the word I use to describe it.

So, was I him, I'd pick Gingrich. Newt has balls, he's got more brain power than 3 Mitts, and he at least has some of the far right Republican base that actually listens to him. Will Mitt do this? I would be shocked. And the funny thing is, I think Newt would leap at the VP like it was a court order cutting his alimony payments in half (POTUS humor). Newt likes the stage, the spotlight, and the attention, even when it's negative. I actually think he could be a good president. He's got some of that moxy that a guy like NJ Governor Christie has. In fact, I'm surprised Christie hasn't Carpe Diem'd this election cycle. He's zesty and tough enough to take on anybody, and this pallid group of GOP candidates has provided the perfect 'open' ring into which he should have tossed his hat. My guess about old CC of NJ? He's got some skeletons in the closet, quite possibly literally, that would not pass scrutiny when viewed through the ubiquitous 2012 media microscope.

Christie and Gingrich have been on our (my staff's) radar for a while now, looming as the only real threats, in our humble opinion, to another four years. And both appear to be marginalized and not in the picture. More good news for me.

Mitt will, I believe, choose someone even more milquetoast than himself, so as to not be threatened. Kind of the opposite approach I took 4 years ago. Sure, Joe Biden can be a loose cannon, but that's EXACTLY where you want to have a loose cannon, 2nd in command. Joe is tough, has not hesitated to disagree with, or challenge me, even in front of others. That's why I chose him. Mitt will pick a "yes" man, and everyone will see through it.

If I'm wrong, I still maintain Romney's lack of a backbone will be his ultimate downfall, even if he exhumes Reagan's corpse to run with him.

Must comment on the cover story in this week's TIME Magazine, about a "special club" that is being loosely defined as home to the current POTUS and surviving ex-Presidents. The five of us have been together a few times, but usually in a formal setting where nothing substantive gets discussed.

There are no fraternity handshakes, no secret decoder rings. The article makes more of it than what is really there. It has been a tradition for about 60 years now, for a sitting POTUS to seek out the counsel of former presidents. Hell, Clinton used Nixon extensively for foreign policy advice, and if THAT'S not reaching across the aisle, I don't know what is. I've mentioned before that Bill Clinton and I spend a decent amount of time together, and not always talking shop. Golf is a great escape for both of us. Policy Wonk Clinton stays almost as busy "retired" as he was in office, so he needs his downtime, and he clearly understands that I do as well. We've buried the hatchet from my beating Hillary in 2008, and we are what I consider good friends.

The other three members of this "club" are, obviously, Jimmy Carter and the Bush Men. There is a lot to like about all three men, I have discovered. My biggest surprise was W. Away from the cameras and free of jet lag and stress, he is surprisingly sagacious, even wise. As is his father. And they both are man's men from Texas, and legitimate ones at that.

Jimmy Carter, though remembered as less stout-hearted and resolute based on his four years in office, is a man that radiates dignity. Even Jimmy admits he's been a better ex-president than president, and I agree with him. He is a good, honorable man and, let's be honest; there is little room for that type of person inside the Beltway. He got a bad rap then, but his reclamation effort rivals that of Richard Nixon, bouncing back, in Carter's case, from a feckless, weak image to become a proud statesman that every president since Reagan has called upon, at one time or another, for help. I know Jimmy is always just a phone call away if I need him.

We've only gathered, the five of us, a couple of times, preferring, I feel, to keep our rendezvous more broken up into twos and threes. Less media that way, and easier to conceal our comings and goings. Once I'm out of office, assuming they are all still alive, I would like to see us gather more often. Barbecue, beer, and bombastic ranting of how successful we were, historical fact notwithstanding. In other words, just five guys getting together to shoot the shit. Could happen. I hope it does.

North Korea won't go away. And the Pop 'n Fresh Dough Boy "running things" (air quotes mine) just screwed up a missile launch, though it was still a serious breech of an agreement that is in place. We'll talk tough (already have, actually), vaguely threaten this and that, always using such media-friendly phrases like; "the use of force will not be taken off the table". But that rhetoric has little or no effect on despots, at least that's been the case historically. Look at Ahmadinejad (Iran's leader, in office since 2005, 55 years old), and even Hugo Chavez (Venezuela's leader, in power since 1999, 57 years old, and he has SEVEN vice-presidents), two of the loudest assholes on the current world landscape. Neither of them truly wants a piece of the USA. Especially since we've recalled so many troops and are now retooling our military, building it back up, freshening our legs, so to speak, for the next one. And there will be a next one. Maybe with Iran, but definitely not Venezuela, never a big player in world politics, and now led by a blowhard whose anti-American rhetoric really doesn't ring true, except at election time when he tries to rally his sordid base in uniting against the Devil incarnate, the gold ole US of A.

Iran is a threat, make no mistake, but if they move beyond words to action, it won't just be us (me) who will spring into action. Democracy, in all its faulty, yet still sexy forms, continues to try to break out across the Middle East. Iran is not going to self-immolate, in my opinion. Total alienation, or almost total, is not Iran's goal, but that's what would probably happen if they went nuclear. As most people know, both in and out of the world's political spectrum, the THREAT of nuclear weapons is almost as effective as the weapons themselves. I think Ahmadinejad knows this all too well. He's crazy like a fox. At least, that seems the most prudent way to approach him these days. Always safer to over-estimate an opponent.

Saber rattling has been around forever. The Jews aren't going anywhere. There may never be a peace accord between the Arab's and Jews (I haven't given up), but a lose-lose nuclear conflict, or war, is usually avoidable, or has been thus far.

Enough politics. This shit can be addicting.

How about the Trayvon Martin case? Zimmerman FINALLY gets arrested, after over a month and a half. Gotta be honest. Were the color shoes on the other foot, Trayvon's black ass would have been in a cell immediately. I'm not whining here from my perch on top of the world, just stating what every black person knows to be fact.

Anyway, speaking as an attorney, I think once again FLA Law has overcharged, like with the Casey Anthony case. Not that Zimmerman isn't guilty of 2nd Degree murder. But convicting him of that will be very difficult. Manslaughter would have been the more prudent charge, I think. Once again, I believe he's gonna walk.

Think I should replace Joe Biden for 2012?

I'll tackle that one next time. Here comes Hasty with my four-wheeled cocktail hour.

--------------------------------------------------

The President logs off and turns his monitor off.

Hasty always precipates his entry with a 5 knock signal. Three quick ones, a pause, and two slower ones. It is unnecessary, but both men enjoy their rather secretive evenings together, and the signal seems oddly apropos, like the sound of starter's pistol.

"Evenin' Suh." Hasty's smile was wide, all-encompassing and genuine. He really liked this POTUS, and not just because he was black.

"Same to you, Hasty. You hungry? I'm ready to strap on a little feed bag."

The 79 year old black man moved deliberately, stemming more from his calm demeanor and outlook, then from almost 80 years of movement. He brought the rolling cart to a stop in front of the huge, ornate desk.

"Yes, Suh. Snacks are always a nice compliment to a cocktail."

The POTUS nodded and picked up the phone. Hasty made two martinis. Rocks glasses filled with crushed ice, re-filled with Boodles gin, a perfunctory pass a foot above each glass with the vermouth bottle, not unlike a Blue Angel's flyover at a football game, a symbolic but ultimately empty gesture, and a lemon peel and one tooth-picked olive inserted in each drink. Hasty preferred vodka, truth be told, but he preferred even more drinking what the POTUS drank. Something about a vicarious thrill.

Barack finished his snack order to the always open kitchen and hung up the phone.

Hasty handed him his glass, and they touched rims.

"What are we drinking to tonight, Hasty?"

The man in the tuxedo sat gingerly in the chair opposite the huge desk that housed the most powerful man in the world, took a lingering sip of his drink, and said, "How about to that wonderful family of yours, Suh?"

"Amen. To Michele and the girls."

"I've been thinking, Suh. About this murder case in Florida."

"Trayvon Martin?"

"Yes Suh. As you know, they made an arrest the other day. This Zimmerman fella. I was wonderin', if I may, uh, I wanted to ask you, as a lawyer, why did it take so long to get this man in jail?"

Barack thought for a moment, took a sip and set his glass down on his cellophane covered blotter.

"I'm guessing you don't want me to break down the legal statutes, et cetera. You'd like my gut reaction?"

"I would indeed, Suh."

"Hasty…by the way, what is that short for? Or is it a diminutive at all?"

"Hastings, Suh. My daddy was a war history buff. Named me after the Battle of Hastings, 1066, between the English and the French."

"One of the few wars won by the French, if I recall."

Hasty laughed. "Yes, Suh. Do you know what that battle was famous for?"

Barack shook his head.

"It was the first conflict that introduced the use of the crossbow. You see, Suh. My old man was into archery."

Barack nodded. "Back to Florida, if I may." Hasty nodded and sipped his drink.

"Hasty, you've been around and seen a lot more than I have, when it comes to black and white folks. So I'll assume you know exactly why it took over 45 days to arrest that man. And you probably just want to hear me say it. Well, OK. I wrote it earlier this evening in my journal. If Trayvon had done the shooting, his black ass would have been in a cell that very night."

"Yes Suh, it sure would have. And that is what has black folks most upset, you ask me. There is no real personal affinity, in the abstract form, for this young black man beyond his family and friends. He's just symbolic of how far things have NOT progressed."

Barack always enjoyed when Hasty's dialect would suddenly improve in an unpredictable embrace of the King's English.

He'd always suspected there was more than meets the eye with this elderly black man from Chicago. Though only allowed to see or hear this linguistic transformation in snippets, each occurrence added another piece to the still-in-progress Hasty puzzle.

"I agree. Hasty, what do you think about the black leadership in this country?"

Hasty finished his drink. Barack's empty glass was sitting on the front edge of his desk. Hasty made two fresh drinks. There was a comfortable silence. On the far wall, the 52" plasma HDTV silently displayed a late night NBA basketball game from the West Coast. Lakers vs. Oklahoma City. Kobe versus Durant, Barack thought, smiling.

Drinks replenished, the two black men sat once again, facing each other.

"Well, Suh. That subject is not as clear cut as it used to be. One big reason for that is sittin' right here. Hard to bitch about a power vacuum when the, uh, self-labeled Most Powerful Man in the World is a black man."

Barack laughed, nodding. "Nonetheless, I am probably too high up on the food chain to help black people all that much, not to mention that appearing to do so could be political suicide."

"Yes Suh, it could. Once Jessie Jackson stepped off the stage, things got even worse. And by 'even worse', I mean, Jessie did more damage than good, Suh, in my humble opinion. He may have meant well, but he rarely got out of his own way. His ego was always first in line. But he was taken seriously by most white folks, just because of his, uh, ubiquitousness. Now things have been relegated to Mr. Al Sharpton, a good man but with many of the same ego-centric flaws that Jessie had. The sooner we as black folks stop playing the race card, and crying 'victim', the better off we'll be. I mean, hell, we got a black president, Suh."

Barack nodded, thinking pensively, then took a long sip of his drink.

"Tell me this Hasty. There are three older dudes, black dudes, who have become marginalized by the majority of black people, for their, shall we say, more conservative views on race. They've been almost vilified for simply stating that black people should become more self-reliant, and take responsibility for not only their actions, but their fate in this country, in spite of the still lingering racism that exists."

"Ah, Suh, would that be a Mr. Thomas Sowell, a Mr. Bill Cosby, and a Mr. Shelby Steele?"

"You've hit the trifecta, Hastings. All three of these men have been called Uncle Tom's, and worse. Yet they seem to me to be the most pragmatic voices out there."

"Suh, black people are scared to death to let go of the white devil as the source for all their problems. If they do that, all they have left is the mirror. And I think we both know enough about psychology, that generations of oppression will ruin a man's self image. Self-loathing remains at the root of the problem for lower class black America, Suh."

Barack was stunned at the insight and felt fearful he wasn't hiding his surprise.

Sensing this, Hasty threw the President a bone. "I's just a simple black man with simple thoughts. And that's what we need to do. Simplify things."

"Hastings, you are right. I don't underestimate you, trust me. But I have men who work for me who are paid a lot of money who would shit their pants if they heard this discussion. Shucking the yoke of victimhood has never even crossed their minds, which makes them part of the problem."

Hasty nodded, nursing the last third of his drink.

There was a knock and Hasty got slowly out of his chair and went and opened the side door, where Raul wheeled in a cart laden with finger food.

He placed his cart behind the drink cart, bowed to the President, and exited without a word. As the door was closing, Barack shouted, "Thanks Raul."

They two men silently filled plates with a variety of food and sat back down. Both drinks sat on the president's desk.

"Suh, I agree with you on these three men, but how do you think they resonate with young black folks? All three of them have, for example, criticized the crassness of rap music lyrics, and the glorification of the 'gangsta' lifestyle."

"Hasty, let's have a nightcap, shall we?"

The presidential concierge stood and rebuilt two more drinks.

Drink in hand, Barack leaned back and put his feet up on his blotter. His food plate was empty.

"We both know there are two groups of black people today that weren't in existence even one generation ago. An upper class of wealthy blacks and the burgeoning middle class of educated and working black families. And those two classes exist now because of one thing. Education. It is through education, and only through education, that the majority of black people in America might prosper."

"Got myself only a 10th grade education Suh, but I do see your point."

The President continued. "You are an anomaly, and you know it. Until our lower class stops associating an education, the use of proper English, and dressing with self-respect with being white, this battle will never be won. And I don't have an answer to how we do that."

Hasty shook his head. Barack moved his gaze over Hasty's shoulder to the television. It was a close game, and the best record in the Western Conference was at stake. Kobe had the ball. Barack couldn't count the number of times he'd watched this scenario. As Kobe hit a three pointer to win the game at the buzzer, he noticed Hasty had turned to watch. Barack clicked the set off and the men shared a grin and final sip of their nightcap.

"Might as well end the evening on that shot, Hastings. Thanks for being so honest. I appreciate it, and I've come to expect it."

"Suh, you make this old man feel proud sometimes. There's not a lot more I could ask of anyone. Don't give up hope. I sure haven't"

As the door closed behind Hasty and his cart, Barack felt saddened.

He realized that on some level, he had given up hope for black people.

He turned out the lights and spun and looked out the window from the center of the universe.

Being the POTUS had made him out of touch not only with black people.

But with everyone.

He closed the door to the Oval Office, feeling alone in the world.

Where was the "Club" when you needed it?





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