POTUS #4: Diary Entry
April 30, 2012
At exactly 10:30pm, the POTUS entered the Oval Office; grey suit jacket slung over his shoulder, and walked to the coat rack and hung it up. He loosened his tie and rolled up his sleeves one quarter of the way up his forearms. He both hated and like this look. It had become, literally, written protocol for the POTUS to affect this look when ever touring a storm scene or any scenario where ruination had occurred. According to sources, it made him look like he was ready to dig in and help out. It was bullshit, and he knew it, but he did it to appease his chief of staff, Jacob Lew, who recently had replaced Obama’s controversial choice of Bill Dailey, who himself had replaced current Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel.
Can’t these dudes hold a steady job?, he thought, sitting at his expansive desk and turning on his computer.
He began typing almost immediately.
April 30, 2012
“Hookers? In Cartagena? WTF?
Good Grief. Or as Rahm might have said, back when he was still my chief of staff, “Mother******”. With his voice growing higher almost one octave per syllable.
FOX News isn’t letting go of this controversy, as if it has any direct reflection on me. They’ll try to spin it that way. Who cares? Even they are bored with Romney.
The Secret Service does an incredible job. Most of what they do never sees the light of day. But if you asked any ex-president, they would rave about the Service. It’s not a thankless job, as most of them are paid very well, but there is a high level of security and most of their comings and goings are considered ‘classified’. Anyway, to those in the know, a few bad apples enmeshed in a Columbian hooker-fest will not change the opinions of most people. They work their asses off, and they put their lives on the line, every day. Hero is a word I don’t toss around lightly. They are heroes.
These days find me recognizing for the first time the lull between now and the GOP convention in late August in Tampa. Sure, when Mitt picks his sitting duck for a running mate, the media will swarm like jackals, hungry for anything resembling political news. But right now, my focus is pushing things through in spite of the Republican road blocks. How do I intend to do that?
The term executive order is most commonly applied to orders issued by the President, who is the head of the executive branch of the federal government. They have the full force of law, and are typically made in pursuance of certain Acts of Congress, some of which specifically delegate to the President some degree of discretionary power,
When confronted with a stubborn partisan Republican party with obviously no intention of compromising or reaching cross the aisle, I am left with little recourse but to use, and even abuse, this executive power. I’ve put it off for almost four years. I may have been naïve initially, affording more trust and good faith to the GOP than they had earned or deserved, but the gloves are off now. ‘Fuck ‘em’, as my boy Rahm would have said.
So, as we move forward with these efforts, there will be indignant howling from the Republicans, who never met a vat of hip deep hypocrisy they wouldn’t wade in. They will howl about ‘abuse’, about breaking the law, or circumventing the constitution. There have been, historically, legal battles involving presidential executive orders, but only two have been overturned by U.S. Courts.
The first was an order in 1948 by Harry Truman to integrate the armed forces, and then in 1995, Clinton had one overturned as well. I forget the specifics for Clinton’s order, but Truman’s order took until the end of the Korean War before there was full integration in our armed forces.
Anyway, it’s a hammer in my belt, and now I am going to use it.
Michelle has been goading me to exercise this right for some time now. She is less patient than I, and she has little or no faith in the GOP to put what’s right for American’s ahead of their own right wing, dangerous agenda. I am beginning to think she’s right. Stale mates have turned me cynical and even a little cranky. Just yesterday, Speaker Boehner attempted to reach me; about what, I do not know. I dodged the call. At this point, I want to tell the SOB to kiss my ass. I figured it best not to get that sentiment on the record over the phone.
It scares me to think he’s second in line for my position. If something happens to me or Joe, Americans should consider a move north to Canada.
What else is going on?????
The Tayvon Martin scenario will now play itself out in an American court room, as it should. I will stand by and hope justice prevails, like most other Americans.
My girls, Sasha, 10, and Malia, who turns 14 on July 4th, still provide me with the succor I need at the end of each day, just by being able to have dinner with them. We hold the same semi-mundane conversations over dinner that many families do. Children give a desultory report on their day at school, and parents deflect any penetrating questions from their children.
There is a comfort in the familiarity of it. We don’t need substantive discussions with our girls on any regular basis. That makes the rare occasions when we do need one that much more impactful.
They hold up very well with both the stigma of their father’s job, and the fact he is not home all the time. Michelle’s mom helps a lot. She is a wise woman, and I see where Michelle got much of her sagacious manner.
All in all, given the extraordinary circumstances, I think we are a helluva family coping nicely with our unique, yet short term, lives.
I’m still playing hoops about 4 mornings a week, sometimes 5. I need it. Much like dinner with my family, these crack-of-dawn endeavors on the hardwood clear my head and give me a blank canvas to start the day. Of course, being the POTUS means that canvas will be covered with shit usually by my third cup of coffee, but I’ve grown used to that.
I don’t normally write in here on Mondays, but today was a very quiet day, and those don’t happen very often. Dinner was pleasant and I have the rest of the evening to think about whatever I want to.
And I hear the door opening now. Hasty has arrived. Till the next time. It’s Happy Hour, even though it’s 11pm.”
As my grinning Porter wheeled in the presidential drink cart (The PDC, I like to call it), I got up from behind my desk and walked over to Hasty, right hand extended. Hasty stood straight and shook my hand.
“Hastings, my man. Congratulations. Thirty six years ago today you began work here at the White House.”
He chuckled. “Sounds like we need to re-visit this ‘term-limits’ thing, Mr. President. We might could use some fresh blood.”
I laughed. “Nope Hasty. You’re fresh enough for five senators.”
“Thanks, I think. I just don’t want to become the Strom Thurmond of the White House.”
I laughed. “How about a cocktail to celebrate?”
“I hear good things, Suh. I’d like that.”
“The usual for me.”
I sat back down and picked up the remote. TNT was showing the NBA Playoffs again tonight. Hasty and I have been keeping an eye on things. We both grew up in Chicago and are big Bulls fans.
Hasty handed me my gin martini, dry, up with an olive and an onion sharing a toothpick leaning seductively down the side of the classically shaped glass. He appeared to be having the same.
I raised my glass. “To thirty five more years.”
He laughed, nodded and we took that first evocative sip. That first journey down the throat of good, ice cold gin and the resulting warm splash and spreading warmth. Satisfying.
On the big plasma screen behind Hasty, the Thunder was putting a hurt on the Mavericks. So much for the defending champs.
“Suh, if I may, I’d like to go on the record with you. Of course I am rooting for you this election, and I’m confident you’ll win. But if you don’t, this will be my last year here. If you get re-elected, I’ll stay with you four more years.”
I watched him as he took a long pull on his martini. Our eyes met.
“Well Hasty, if anyone has earned retirement, it’s you.”
“It’s not like that, Suh. It’s a black thing. It can’t get any better for me than having you here runnin’ things. You being black, and from Chicago and all. Anybody else would be a big step backward. And I don’t think these old bones can move backward.”
I grinned. “I’m flattered Hasty. And the loyalty you’ve shown has not gone unnoticed.”
“I know Suh. That was a real generous pay raise you gave me last year. I didn’t even ask for it.”
I waved my hand. “Hell, you should have already been making that. You were underpaid.”
“Suh, did you hear what happened to Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum today?”
“No, what have those two fools said or done?”
“Suh, they were caught red handed trying to blow up a condom factory.”
I laughed so hard I had to set my drink down. Hasty sat back fatuously, enjoying making the POTUS laugh.
“There’s a pun in there somewhere, Hasty.”
“Yes Suh, I believe there is. Have you thought about your retirement, Suh?”
That question caught me by surprise. If I win this year, I’ll be 55 when my second term ends. Who retires at 55? Then again, why the hell not? I’ve got plenty of things to keep busy with. Family, my library, books to read and write, and I’m gonna play basketball until I can’t run. And golf.
“I haven’t thought about it, Hasty. But if I do retire, it’ll be a pretty damn busy retirement. I won’t be in a hammock too often.”
“No Suh, you aren’t really the retiring kind, I’d say. But you are set up to have a pretty nice back nine of your life, you must see that?”
I nodded though, to be honest, I don’t think much about life after the White House. That kind of daydreaming is a luxury not really afforded the POTUS while in office. I know I won’t be like Reagan who, once out of the spotlight, and no longer getting the daily adrenaline rush afforded the most powerful man on the planet, he basically lost what was left of his mind.
In fact, I don’t sit here longing for the seemingly unencumbered days before Secret Service presence, before the microscope of the universe found me on its Petri dish, and before people wanted to kill me. I came into the oval office, with all its benefits and trappings, with an open mind, and very open eyes and ears.
It allowed me to hit the ground running, instead of staring wide-eyed at the specter of it all.
“Hasty, I’m still on the front nine. I haven’t made the turn yet, haven’t had the hot dog and beer before teeing off on number ten. But I’m close. I look at November as my tenth tee. Four more years of grinding, trying not to flinch, trying not to grimace at what seems like a futile task. These first four years have not crushed my spirit, and that alone is worthy of a toast. And another drink.”
I handed him my glass.
With fresh martini in hand for both of us, Hasty switched gears.
“Suh, about this Bin Laden thing going on now. Why are people saying it’s bad form for you to even bring it up? Ain’t it the biggest arrow in your quiver?”
I sighed. “Hasty, I wasn’t bragging when I mentioned it the other day. It’s an accomplishment. It’s an election year. What the hell should I be talking about? My shortcomings? The Republicans grow more hypocritical by the HOUR. I’m going to hammer on about what I feel I have done, what is still to do, and what I can do better than the GOP. I will NOT focus on things that have not worked, because, to be blunt, it mostly is not my fault.”
The elderly black man nodded, sipping his drink. “Suh. If I may. The Republican’s have never given us regular folks much credit for being able to think on our feet. They push fear, they push lies, and they push distortions on us like we’re all blind trusting four year olds. Well, we’re not.”
“True, Hasty. I do my damndest to try to play to the highest common denominator. The Pavlovian crowd that follows GOP dogma will never vote for me anyway, so I simply don’t waste time trying to reach them. That’s reality.”
Hasty nodded, smiling.
“That’s also wisdom, Suh.”
“Thanks Hasty. The level of manipulation that goes on here in the Beltway is staggering, and not just because of the cynical basis for it, but because it works way too often on the people, and that scares me.”
“Suh, I’ve always wanted to ask you. Do you think you sit here today because of eight years of Mr. Bush? Are you simply the instinctive knee-jerk reaction to what may go down in history as eight of the most destructive years in our country?”
“I’d be lying if I said no. I’d love to say I’m sitting here based solely on my own merits, but that’s simply not true. Now in November, when I’m re-elected, then the Bush years are off the calendar, and I am here because of who I am, not because of what someone else did or did not do. And trust me that is a double edged sword. No more ‘W’ to throw under the bus, no more ‘it happened on W’s watch’. It’ll all be on me.”
The two men sat in silence, nursing their drink, contemplating the next four years of their lives.
I pointed the remote at the big screen and turned it off. The Mavericks have the proverbial fork in their backs, down 3-0.
“Hasty, do you think what I can accomplish these next four years will determine whether or not another black man will get a shot at this job?”
“Suh, I think most white folks, both good and bad white folks, are thinkin’ the same thing. They got this monkey off they backs. They done throw us a bone. I think it be a long time ‘fore we see another Negro up in here, no matter what you do.”
I’d discovered that when Hasty devolved into his fractured English dialect, it usually meant he was playing the “dark is the black man’s future” card. Tonight was no exception. I don’t agree with him. I have more faith in people, white or whatever, to do and think the right thing. At least the majority of people. I’m not ignoring history, or abhorrent behavior or obvious signs of prejudice that still exist. I think to paint any large group of people with one wide swath of a label is dangerous and, more importantly, inaccurate.
“I think things are better than that, Hasty. I give people, and yes, white people, more credit than that. Granted, you’re older than me, and have probably seen much more overt
racism in your life than I have, but a lot of that is in the past.”
”Just ‘cause it ain’t out in the open don’t make it benign, Suh.”
“No, it doesn’t. That’s not what I’m saying. Racism in any form, at any level of visibility, is never benign. But it no longer wields the same power it used to. Look at us. Two black men from Chicago drinking good booze in the Oval Office, almost every night. Sure doesn’t look right to be complaining much about racism.”
He looked at me thoughtfully. I couldn’t’ tell if he thought me naïve, or ignorant, or both. Our gap was generational. I’d been here before. I’d had ‘Uncle Tom’ hurled at me at this stage in the discussion in the past.
“Suh, there is a simple bottom line here. And I say this very sincerely. I hope you are right, and I am wrong.”
He extended his glass across the desk to me and we touched.
I truly enjoyed this man’s company.
© Copyright 2017 Bill Rayburn. All rights reserved.
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