If I was going to write a political thriller, chapter two would go something like this:
All present look up at the man standing at the head of the large boardroom table, their conversations trailing off. One looks to his neighbour and rolls his eyes, silently mouthing “Oh God. A speech.” Another coughs pointedly.
“…and lady.” the speaker continues smoothly. “To say that we stand at a turning-point in history would be a cliché, but nonetheless it would be true. We can all see the signs. Dark days are ahead but we all stand in a perfect position to weather the storm and see our way out the other side.”
“…from our new headquarters in Dubai.”
“Don’t you mean Beijing?”
The speaker winces at the interruptions.
“Maybe. Perhaps the American Empire has had its day, but its spirit will live on. For what is more the essence of the American Way than American Capitalism, wherever in the world it might take seed?
“The last decade has been very good for us.” He glances around the table, picking out the eyes of his audience. “You got the deregulation you wanted. You got to write the energy policy for the world’s biggest consumer of oil. You got immunity from prosecution. You got your no-bid contracts, and the few billion we lost behind the couch cushions in Iraq. We all got tax breaks. And we came so close on Social Security. You could almost taste…”
A collective sigh of muttered regret ripples around the table.
“…all that money could have been in our hands…”
“…we could have taken any risk we liked with it because…”
“…because no politician would let poor old Mom and Pop lose their retirement.”
Again, the speaker waits for the conversation to die down.
“To that end I would like to propose a toast. To a man who sadly couldn’t be here today, but through whom we were able to advance ourselves in ways even we never would have dreamed we could get away with a mere decade ago. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the forty-third President of the United States.”
“Hear hear.” Glasses clink.
“And there lies our dilemma, my friends. In an ideal world we could choose a successor cut from the same cloth. In an ideal world we would be able to choose a new President who understands the value of appointing friends to high places. Who understands that executive power is there to be exercised without restriction. Who believes in a pragmatic approach to civil rights and the constitution. Who believes that giving us the keys to the economy isn’t the best option, it’s the only option. Who isn’t afraid to use our country’s military to our advantage. Who can do the folksy thing with the people. Someone who is happy with distractions like abortion and gay marriage, while leaving the important decisions to us.”
“Maybe someone who could make better speeches, though?”
“Well yes, that would help. Still, we realised over a year ago that with the popularity of the current President there was no way we could push a worthy successor through the nomination process. So what are we left with now? A Mormon, an egomaniac and”, his mouth curls with disgust. “a reformer. Up to now we’ve been pushing Mister Ego as the best of a bad bunch, but who here feels confident that we can even get the guy elected, let alone be sure he’ll do what he’s told afterwards?”
The table responds with murmurs and shaking heads.
“Well, my friends, I think we have found a solution. Brian?”
A young man steps forward. Smartly dressed. Hungry. Probably on the books as a ‘campaign consultant’. He drops a thick stack of manila folders onto the table, the thud resonating through the thick wood.
“These are Senator McCain’s medical records. Before you ask, you don’t want to know how I got them or how I am going to make the important parts disappear before the end of the week. All you need to know is on the one-sheet that my assistant is handing out.”
No sound at the table but the rustling of paper, a silence broken by a loud southern accent.
“Jesus Christ. Why is this boy even running?”
“What does any man, any ambitious man really want when faced with that kind of news? Immortality. A justification for decades of public service. The Forty-Fourth Presidency of the United States of America.” They can hear the string of capital letters in the young man’s voice. “He’s been stewing ever since we screwed him out of the nomination in 2000. At this point, he’d do anything for that one last moment of glory.”
“Do you think he’ll play ball?”
“He already is. We give him the nomination, we deliver him the election. He’ll do what we say during the campaign, and…”
The southern drawl completes his sentence “…and we get to pick the Vice President.”