Diary Entry #5
Oval Office 11:00pm, Saturday, June 16, 2012
“Summer has arrived. It’s hot as hell outside, and I’m not just referring to the weather. An election year, an Olympic year, a country and an economy in a state of flux (yeah, I admit it). All of it amounts to being under an intense microscope. It wears on the soul, let me tell you.
This year will go down as the toughest of my 50 so far. But if (when?!) I prevail in November; it will have been worth it.
It is at the point where a single misstep, physical, mental or audible, can prove hugely impactful on the election. It is one of the many artificial, ridiculous, and ultimately self-defeating hoops any and all presidential candidates (and incumbents) must attempt to leap through. We are, to a degree, trained and captured seals, beholden to others, almost forced to kiss ass, to couch phraseology in ways as to ultimately obfuscate the truth. I hate it. I grudgingly play the game, but it is by far the most unsavory aspect of this job.
I trust the hundreds of good people I have working for me. I have to, basically. A good percentage of my fate rests in their hands. But when one delegates correctly, and wisely, it can pay off in spades.
Back in May, VP Biden forced my hand on the gay marriage/rights issue. So I became the first sitting president to endorse gay marriage. I had planned to do so after the election, and Joe knew that. His move was a shrewd, calculated one, which when I questioned him about it, he defended eloquently, and ultimately, successfully. Here’s what he was attempting to do by prodding me. He thinks, and I agree, that due to a much more muted sense of novelty in this election, as opposed to ’08 (you know, the black thing), the college vote, which we dominated then, will not be as forthcoming. Not to mention, he added, these kids are poised to be propelled onto the dice table of a pretty shitty economy, so jobs were, and are at the forefront of young people’s minds. So with less votes from campuses, some demographic has to fill that vacuum. Joe felt that gays could do it. I think he’s right. Of course, we believe in gay rights, but I can’t BS you about the obvious political angle, as well. November will tell us how prescient Joe was.
This is one of the reasons I chose Joe in the first place. He’s no “yes” man. If I had a dollar for every time Joe questioned me behind closed doors, and also in front of full staff meetings, I’d be as rich as, well, Mitt Romney. I need Joe, almost as much for our different stylistic approach, as for his sagaciousness.
I like Joe and his sometimes bombastic, blunt approach. He does not have to worry about getting elected. I do. So he can shoot from the hip. I promise you, whether it is in four years, or four months, once out of office, I will be shooting from my hip. There will be no logical reason to keep the inner workings of the government secret any longer. The shroud must be lifted, like a fog. And the bullshit I have to deal with? That will be center stage. People need to know, in this instance, how the damn sausage is made. It won’t be pretty, in fact it will be quite ugly, but it is time to drag the American public out of its bog of ignorance, and into a more enlightened, and probably more cynical arena.
That sounds like an empty threat, but be patient. The lid on this place (The Beltway) needs to be blown off. And when faced with an open field, and out from under the yoke of the press and the desire to get re-elected, that’s exactly what I will do.
I’m even encouraging Michele to keep copious notes and save all her cogent documents so she can write HER tell-all. She is more naturally acerbic and caustic than I. If and when she announces a planned post-presidency book, there will be soiled Depends all over Washington, trust me.
My legacy may well be better established after I leave office.
I have no trepidation when I look forward to the immediate future. Sure, when the Supreme Court decides on Obamacare, and the timing is going to be crucial, it could be a turning point for both me and Mitt.
I’ve flown the Obamacare flag from my ship ever since it was passed. If it is suddenly yanked out and tossed into the sea, Romney is handed a loaded shotgun from which he will fire continuously.
I’ve got my issues with this court, with its conservative leanings. I am not optimistic about how they’ll rule. My best hope is they rule sooner rather than later, especially given the short attention spans of voters, pundits and scribes. With time, I can scramble, spin and maybe even turn it in my favor. Remember, Mitt passed a very similar program in Massachusetts.
I’ve even heard rumblings that the GOP is exhuming the very alive corpse of Reverend Wright. Was he not born in America either? LoL.
Here’s my final take on the subject of Reverend Wright.
This propensity to judge someone (me) harshly by their association with a controversial figure is shallow, vapid and superficial. Yes, associating with someone perceived as a spiritual advisor does indeed represent tacit endorsement of what they may spout, BUT, tacit endorsement does not mean unequivocal support of all they say or do. Again, nuance seems to escape the GOP.
Guilt by association is a slippery slope indeed. I was forced (a chicken shit move I’ll regret to my grave. I really sold my soul on that one) to disavow my connection to Rev. Wright due to his controversial proselytizing and his flammable rhetoric during sermons. I wish I had not done this…but if I hadn’t, it could have swung the election against me. I took the low road. Live and learn.
My girls remain the landscape upon which my sun sets each evening. The more mired I get in the train wreck that is Washington, the more their innocence and freshness is attractive to me. Kissing them good night each evening means so much more than that to me. It reminds me of what awaits after this hellish job. A serene, comfortable life away from the microscope. Watching my girls become women.
There is a melancholic tone to tonight’s entry. That makes the knock I just heard on the door more welcomed than usual. It’s Hasty. And he comes bearing liquid gifts.
Goodnight, for now.”
“Come on in Hasty.”
As he wheeled the PDC (Presidential Drink Cart) into the room, he was grinning from ear to ear. He looked not unlike a Cheshire cat grasping a helpless canary between its pincer teeth.
I nodded. “Good to see you Hasty. I’ll have the usual.”
He set about building two very dry Tanqueray martinis. Up, with two olives. He kept my favorite gin in the freezer, as I enjoyed my martinis ice cold.
He winked at me as he handed me my drink. I tapped his glass with mine, leaned back and placed my shoeless feet on the desk. The first sip is always the best, and tonight was no exception. I closed my eyes and felt every inch of the gin’s journey from my mouth to my stomach, where it seemed to splash gently and wash back up the walls, warming me.
“Suh,” he said as he sat down. “May I ask you somethin’?”
“Certainly, Hasty. These nights are always off-the-record and confidential.”
His head bobbed gratefully. “Good. Do you think your office, I mean THE office of the President, has lost some of its power and glitter?”
“Yes, it has. I can sense it in the voices over the phone of other world leaders. I can see it in their behavior when they come here or Camp David. And to be honest, I don’t blame them. Bush reinforced so many pernicious ugly American stereotypes. The Toby Keith cowboy approach to world affairs. The smoke-filled back room that many Americans, including his supporters, suspected was the venue for most of his huge decisions. Yes, Hasty. My ass has been and will continue to pay for that, just like with the inherited economic troubles. It took him eight years to fuck it up; I sure as hell won’t fix it in four.”
“Thank you, suh, for your honesty. I wouldn’t have asked if I thought you might blow smoke up my ass.”
”Speaking of which, Hasty, I need a cigar. Join me?”
”Absolutely.” While I rummaged in my top middle desk drawer for a couple of sizeable Cubans VP Joe had given me, he located a large round presidential-seal-emblazoned polished granite ash tray and put it equidistant between us on my desk. Like Bogart at his smoothest, he produced a shiny silver Zippo (no seal!) and set it next to the ashtray.
After taking off the quality cellophane wrapping, we both bit the ends off our cigars. I grabbed the lighter, leaned over, and lit his first.
With three huge puffs and looking like Dizzy Gillespie trying to play Flight of the Bumble Bee, Hasty got his lit. I took five long puffs, and we both sank back into our chairs, blowing huge plumes of blue smoke toward the slowly rotating ceiling fan. Through the half dozen small speakers dotting the walls, Al Green voice spilled out like syrup.
“When you rolled in here tonight Hasty, you had the look of someone who knows something I don’t know. Do you?”
He grinned and leaned over and carefully knocked a full inch of Cuban ash into the bowl.
“I wouldn’t quite put it that way. I just think that with his bold move on the gay thing, Mr. Biden just might have won you the election, all the way back here in June.”
“Really? How so?”
He sipped his martini and watched smoke curl from the end of his cigar. Hasty looked cool when he smoked.
“Well suh, I think most if not all of the gay folks out of the closet are going to now vote for you. Maybe they would have anyway, who knows. But I think you and I both know there are probably ten times more gay folks still on the down low, who will also vote for you now. That’s a lot of folks. And in the privacy of that voting booth, gay people can make a powerful statement. Like I said, this may have already been the case, but now it’s almost a sure thing.”
I nodded and handed him my empty martini glass. He swallowed the end of his drink and rose to make two more. This old man was elegant in most of his gestures. He had class. He had style. And he knew it.
“I’d have to agree with you, Hasty. The gay voting block is mine to lose. The GOP doesn’t even pretend to cater to it. I know a large number of my staff is working on canvassing gay neighborhoods everywhere, preaching registration.”
“My son is gay, suh.”
“That’s nice Hasty.”
“Thought you should know. I’m aware a lot of black folk my age are homophobic. Especially the religious ones. I used to be that way. Then I saw the light, as it were. Can’t turn my back on my boy.”
“Of course not. How old was he when he came out?”
“He came out last night, suh. He’s 44.”
I stared at him. “You mean before last night, you didn’t like gays?”
“For the most part, yes suh.”
“What’s your boy’s name?”
“Derek. He’s been living with a man for about five years. I never suspected.”
I laughed. “How did you react?”
“I was shocked, suh. But common sense came upon me quick like. My love is unconditional. I told him that.”
“Good for you.”
He nodded and sipped his drink, followed by a long, luxurious pull on his cigar. He blew the smoke upward, watching it hit the rotating blades and disperse.
“What if one of your girls is gay, suh?”
“My reaction would probably be similar to yours. Initial shock; recover from the emotional stumble, then total support and love. I’m sure Michele would do the same. Our girls are pretty well versed on the gay issues. They get it, the whole fairness thing. Why do you ask, Hasty? You know something I don’t?”
He shook his head. “No suh. In fact with most of the questions I ask you, I usually pretty much know how you’re going to answer. We know each other pretty well, suh. You drink with a man enough; it’s almost like sleeping with him. You get to know him.”
Does that mean I got to sleep with the Republicans to get anything done around here?
© Copyright 2016 Bill Rayburn. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Literary Fiction
Short Story / Literary Fiction
Short Story / Literary Fiction
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