Readers of my first book, called The Alexandria Project, know that most of what I concocted in that supposedly fictional work turned out to be eerily prophetic. Events that I had made up out of whole cloth began occurring, one after another. And why not? They were all based on genuine, underlying geopolitical realities. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, then, when events from my second book, called The Lafayette Campaign, a Tale of Deception and Elections, began happening almost immediately after I released it. Like what? Well, like incredibly improbable candidates for president of the United States immediately jumping to the top of the polls, while credible candidates languish (Donald and Jeb, take notice). We’ll have to wait and see whether the explanation in real life is the same as the one in the book.
In the spirit of public service for those who may be unable to watch tomorrow's kick-off debate, I therefore post below the chapter from my new book where I describe the first squaring off of my fictional cast of presidential candidates. I’ll leave it to you to decide on Friday morning whether the real, or the fictional, candidates are more outrageous. The Lafayette Campaign, by the way, is currently and briefly on sale at Amazon for the ridiculously low price of $.99 (and free at Kindle Unlimited). Why don't you give it a try?
Frank was sitting inside his camper, a bowl of diet popcorn at one elbow and a small barbell at the other. The popcorn elbow was getting most of the exercise. On the opposite side of the camper hung a large flat screen TV, and on that set the latest, pre-primary season Republican debate was about to begin.
Like many Americans, he was curious to see how Randall Wellhead, the latest entrant to the Republican field, would fare in his first performance under the scrutiny of the public and the national media. Just like the earlier candidates, he had rocketed to the top of the polls almost immediately after announcing his candidacy.
The candidates were now walking on camera, taking their places at the semicircle of podiums arrayed across the stage. The crowd gave a rousing welcome, and Frank turned up the sound to better hear the pre-debate commentary.
Well, Chet, look at that – Randall Wellhead’s heading straight for one of the two positions at center stage!
That’s right, David. Courtesy of his sudden status as a top contender. You know, Texas is certainly being unusually generous with her native sons this year. Wellhead’s not just another politico from the Lone Star State. He’s the son and grandson of genuine Texas wildcatters. He’s also senior minister of his own evangelical mega church, and a popular all-talk AM radio show host, to boot.
But he’s not all tradition, Chet. Don’t forget that a few years ago he confessed from the pulpit that he ‘used to be’ gay − said that one day he had, let’s see, I’ve got his exact words in my notes here – yes – ‘one day, I decided to give up the homosexual lifestyle. And with the help of the Lord, I put my secret sins behind me.’ Ever since he’s been preaching about how every homosexual can share in the same joys that heterosexuality has brought into his life.
Right, David. He wasn’t in the political spotlight back then, though. Now that he’s in the race, reporters are scrambling to learn whatever they can about his past. According to some of his high school girlfriends he put up a pretty good act for a closet gay.
Ha ha! Well, for those viewers that can’t read those small signs on the podiums, that’s Hollis Davenport standing to Wellhead’s right − governor of a swing state and making his second run for the nomination. And what a resume he’s got − Yale graduate, one prominent position after another in the private sector and now governor. Seems like everyone should agree he’s one of the most capable contenders on the stage.
You’d think so, David, but the voters don’t seem to agree – Davenport’s always number two in the polls. He’s always at least five points behind whoever’s in the lead.
Right, Chet, but they never stay there long. Up until a week ago, the guy on the other side of Wellhead was the latest Great Right Hope − Julian Johnson, Governor of Texas. His turn at the top lasted maybe five days. I expect he’ll be a lot more careful during this week’s debate.
Well, if he doesn’t, at least he’ll have company – Roxy’s up there, too.
For our listener’s benefit, Chet, let me note that you’re referring to Senator Roxanne Rollins! How about a little respect for the Senate!
Well, David, she is also the former State of Wisconsin Dairy Queen. And she wouldn’t be Senator Rollins if she wasn’t filling out the rest of her ex-husband’s term.
Okay, I’ll give you that. His tenure in office − and their marriage – didn’t survive the headlines when he was caught in the act with the current Dairy Queen.
He must really love that Wisconsin cheese! Huh? Am I right?
The commentators were still having a good laugh over that one when Frank muted the sound. He’d been paying attention to the primaries lately and didn’t need their snarky commentary to catch up. He guessed that next to Davenport must be Roland Overby, an unabashed Libertarian who was constant in his convictions and unimpeachable in his public and private life. Frank had to hand it to the guy – he’d dedicated his career to serving as a passionately independent voice in the partisan gutter of the House of Representatives.
He didn’t have much to show for it, though – not a single piece of adopted legislation with his name on it. You almost felt sorry for him now − an elderly, scarecrow of a man with a shock of unruly white hair and a bleating voice. But he was still going strong, and still willing to speak truths that others were afraid to acknowledge. Too bad he also said things that no one with a robust relationship with reality said, either.
Anyway, he had a loyal following that didn’t seem to mind it when he said the government should close the regulatory agencies, disband Congress, shut down the courts, and let Wall Street run the country. His ranking in the polls was rising, too.
Frank recognized Julian Johnson on Wellhead’s left. And consigned to the boondocks at the ends of the stage Frank could just see Landa Goshen and Vance Cabot. Goshen was a City Councilwoman from Enid, Oklahoma. In an unfortunate display of bad timing, she had announced her candidacy just before the foreign policy debate. The problem was that a major part of her platform was based on having no foreign policy. She advocated killing three birds with one stone – or, more accurately, with approximately 432 billion large, quarried stones – which she would use to build a thirty foot wall surrounding the entire nation. All at the same time, she’d stop illegal immigrants and foreign invaders while calling the bluff of the climate fanatics on the left. All that nonsense about warming causing the sea level to rise! Once she had her seawall up, they could just shut up and stay that way. She continued to have a fanatical, but diminished following.
That left only Senator Vance Cabot, an elder statesman if ever there was one. He’d held and served honorably in almost every high level post a public servant on the national stage could hold – member of the House of Representatives, a senator and a cabinet member, not to mention serving on several important blue ribbon investigative commissions. As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he was as highly regarded abroad as he was at home – a rare occurrence in recent years. A graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School, he had argued several cases before the Supreme Court. Naturally, no one on the far right paid any attention to him.
The camera suddenly zoomed in on the logo that adorned each podium, and Frank saw that the debate was sponsored by conservative cable TV channel POX News, “The Network that tells you what you want to hear.” He recalled that PN’s parent company also owned KPOX, the radio station that hosted Randall Wellhead’s talk show.
Sitting at a desk in the front of the stage was Russ Blovia, the debate moderator and host of one of POX News’ most popular political commentary programs. The theme he had chosen for the debate was, “Is there Anything – Anything at all – that the Democrats Can do Right?” The crowd gave him a warm welcome as he walked across the stage, waving, to take his seat.
When the applause died down, Blovia welcomed the audience and introduced the candidates. Then he turned to the candidates to announce the rules of engagement for the evening.
“During our exchange of views tonight, I will enforce, and you will obey, the usual rules for a televised debate.…” He squinted at the teleprompter and stopped to pick up a paper copy of his script. Then he laughed.
“Yes, that’s what it actually says here! Well, why don’t I go off script for a minute and get real.
“Tonight, I will ask each of you to stay strictly within the time limits, which are three minutes for answers to my questions, and one minute for rebuttals to the statements of other candidates, assuming you haven’t already butted in. When you ignore the time limits, I will interrupt you politely, and you will ignore my existence.
“Interrupting the other candidates is forbidden, and when you do so anyway, I will jump in, and you will tell me, in so many words, to stuff it. Do I have that right?”
The candidates smiled and nodded in agreement.
“Good,” Blovia smiled back. “So let’s get started.”
“Mr. Wellhead, you’ve made some pretty negative remarks about Democrats in the past. For example, just last Monday in Milwaukee you said that saying the typical Democrat is as dumb as a box of rocks would be insulting to the average box of rocks. Do you have any concerns that comments like that may make it difficult for you to win the election?”
Wellhead flashed his famously white teeth in a dazzling smile. “Not unless we let rocks vote!”
”Very good, Sir. Very good indeed! Just seeing if you were on your toes tonight, and clearly you are. Now what do you think the worst thing is that this Democrat President has done since he’s been in office?”
“Wow – where do I begin? Well, let’s see, how about I say when he sent our troops into Iraq?”
The crowd fell silent. After a moment, the moderator cleared his throat. “Ah! I get it. Now you’re seeing if I’m on my toes! Good one! Of course, we all know that the President’s predecessor, a Republican, took that action.”
Wellhead looked at him blankly for a moment, and then panned the audience with his million dollar smile again as they laughed and clapped.
“Let’s move on to another candidate. Mr. Davenport, when did you quit considering a Democrat as a running mate?”
Davenport scowled, and then forced a smile. “Ah, good one again, Russ. You almost caught me there.”
“I’m not joking, Hollis. When did you?”
“I’ve never considered a Democrat as a running mate, Russ, and you know it.”
Blovia gave a knowing smile and a big Vaudeville wink to the audience. “Of course not, of course not! Now Mr. Overby, a question for you.” Overby smiled and blinked rapidly, his suit coat hunched up on his thin shoulders.
“What do you think of Democrat plans to tax the top 1% of Americans to bring down the deficit?”
“Oh my goodness, Russ, what a terrible idea! We should repeal all taxes! Why, if we just let businesses run things, everything would be fine! Just fine! The best way to let a free market economy be successful is just to leave it alone!”
Blovia nodded. “How about you, Governor Johnson? What do you say?”
“Well, I absolutely agree that the last thing we should do is tax the rich. Why, they’re the engines of our economy! If we were to raise taxes, they might just decide to move out of this country entirely. Then what would we do? Who would buy the luxury cars Detroit doesn’t make any more? And what about all those McMansions? If all those estates got dumped on the market at the same time, why, we’d have another real estate crash! No, I think the only smart thing to do is to cut taxes for the rich. Let’s have a flat tax for everybody. It’s incredible the Democrats can’t see that.”
“Does anyone disagree?” Blovia asked the candidates at large.
Most nodded “no;” only Cabot shook his head in the affirmative.
“Well, it’s unanimous, then. We’ll return to other policies the Democrats have all wrong after this commercial break.” The screen flashed over to an ad for Bentley Motor Cars.
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