The Invention Of The Internet
Bill Clinton glanced at his wrist, certain in his heart that it was close to five. It was only 2:38 pm, prompting the President of the United States of America to let out a defeated, long-drawn sigh before getting back to the drudgery of reading the massive bill sitting on his desk. This day ain’t never gonna end, he thought to himself.
Bill loved most of his job. He loved traveling to beautiful exotic lands, and meeting with colorfully-dressed foreign dignitaries and leaders. He loved giving passionate speeches. He loved being in the Situation Room, because that was when he felt the most presidential. And he loved that he could eat whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. That was another perk of the job, to be sure. But sitting here in the Oval Office, reading page after page of some perfectly mundane piece of legislation written entirely in obscure legalese… this wasn’t what he signed up for. Nobody told him that most of his days would be spent in silent, isolated boredom. In that moment, he found himself wishing that some exciting thing would happen. That his generals would burst through the door and rush him off to the Situation Room. And in that moment, as if God heard him and felt bad for him, the door did indeed swoosh open, and Bill got excited…
Her? There is no God.
Hillary Clinton descended upon the room, her eyes wandering about as they were often wont to do, exploring what she believed would surely one day be her own office, and a wry smile crept across her face. Bill could only guess that she was recoloring the walls and rearranging the furniture in her imagination, as if she hadn’t already designed the Oval Office herself when Bill won back in ’92. And her smile continued as her eyes landed on the Resolute Desk, as she surely imagined herself sitting behind it, looking perhaps not presidential, but regal. It wasn’t a chair, but a throne, and she wouldn’t have constituents then, but subjects. You could see all of that in her eyes. Eyes that finally made their way to her loving husband Bill, as the smile evaporated from her face, likely not to be seen again for the remainder of the day. She suddenly became more than just her eyes, and Bill realized what he was faced with. Hillary was angry, as she almost always was. And as she approached him, dressed like a North Korean despot in her formless brown pantsuit, Bill shrunk into his chair, his eyes falling back to the document sitting on the desk in front of him. He almost thought of it as “his desk,” but they both knew damn well that it was destined to be hers.
“What is that you’re working on, Bill?” Hillary swept through the room, the eyes that only moments ago were overflowing with joyful ambition now suddenly sharp as daggers. “Anything I need to be aware of?”
“It’s the ‘Lobbying Disclosure Act.’ Carl Levin’s gonna introduce it this Friday, sugar-plumb. It was dropped off for me… for us, this morning. I was just readin’ through it, and I gotta say, it has some good…”
“No.” Hillary crept a bit closer. “That one’s a pass.”
“But sweetie, it ain’t even up to me yet… to us, I mean, not yet. It’s gonna go up to the Senate on Friday, then it’ll go to the House, and then…”
Hillary suddenly swept in, snatching up the binder containing the proposed law, as Bill found himself sinking into his wife’s future throne. She then wandered the room a bit, until a loafer-clad foot came to rest on the face of the Eagle in the carpet. She quietly chuckled to herself as her husband sat there, waiting for what would surely be instructions.
“Tell me, Bill… who is Jon Corzine?”
“Jon? He’s your childhood friend, from back in Illinois.”
“No. Who is he now?”
Bill had to think on that for a moment. Was this a riddle? “He’s the CEO of Goldman Sachs…”
“He’s the CEO of Goldman Sachs. That’s right. And who are Goldman Sachs?”
“They’re a bank…”
“No!” Hillary dropped the binder to the floor and charged toward the Resolute Desk, pounding her fist down in front of him, their happily-staged family photo violently collapsing and plunging to the floor. “They’re our friends. Say it.” Her eyes locked with his. They looked like the eyes of a great savannah cat prepared to pounce on a gazelle. “SAY IT!”
“They’re our friends,” Bill muttered. “I’m sorry sweet Hillary, I…”
“Jon Corzine is our friend. Ken Brody is our friend. Goldman Sachs are our friends. If it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t be here. You’d be back in Arkansas, eye-fucking your pulled pork barbeque and doing absolutely nothing that matters to anyone, anywhere. They gave you this. They gave you all of this! So you tell me this, Bill… why in the ever-loving Hell are you reading that garbage? Why should you give a small slice of a fuck about an anti-lobbying bill?”
“Because, I… because…” He wanted this to be over. What did she want to hear? What answer could he give in that moment that would end this? “Because the people…”
“The people? HA!” Hillary stepped away from the desk, and Bill felt like he could catch his breath for a moment. She wandered back out into the room, laughing and slowly clapping her hands. Then she turned, her lioness eyes grabbing his as if eyes had throats. “Tell me about ‘the people,’ Bill. Go on… tell me.”
Bill cleared his throat and removed himself from his slumped posture in the chair beneath him. “The people want this bill, because they want to know who…”
“‘The people’ want to know what’s happening with Ross and Rachel. ‘The people’ want to know whose going to win the next Super Bowl. Do you actually believe ‘the people’ want you to sign an anti-lobbying bill into law? Do you actually believe they care? They don’t. They don’t know what lobbying even is. And neither you or me need to give so much as half of a single soggy shit-nugget what `the people’ want, either. Do you know why, Bill? Can you tell me why we don’t care what the people want?”
This was a question he knew the answer to. It was probably the thousandth time he’d answered it for her. “Because they’re not us.”
“That’s right!” Hillary clapped and whistled, a cackling laugh shaking the room. “Bravo, Bill Clinton, bravo! You’re finally starting to get it!” Hillary came closer, only gently this time, sitting on the edge of the desk, her hands clasped together peacefully. “The people are serfs, Bill. They’re peasants. They strive for middle-class lives. Their ambitions begin and end with mundaneness. They want that next promotion at work, so they can afford more trinkets. They want to see their children outlive them, and have lives slightly more fulfilling than their own. They want a television in each room, and to occasionally buy a new car, and to watch their sports and their brainless soap operas. That’s who ‘the people’ are, Bill. But we’re not ‘the people.’ We’re the ones who make sure they can live those sad little lives they yearn for. We’re the ones who make sure the trains run on time and the roads stay paved. Us, and our friends. And who are our friends, Bill?”
Bill gulped. “Jon Corzine, Ken Brody, and Goldman Sachs.”
“That’s right, Bill. That’s who our friends are. That’s who sent us here, to the White House. That’s who granted you this seat. It wasn’t ‘the people.’ Sure, they voted for you, but why did they vote for you? It’s not because of your personality. It’s not because you played your little trumpet on television.”
“It’s a saxophone, not a…”
“Did a synapse fire off somewhere inside your peon hillbilly brain that gave you some indication that I give a fuck? Because rest assured Bill, I don’t. Anyway, back to our friends. They’re the reason we’re here, Bill. ‘The people’ voted for you because our friends spent an exorbitant amount of money on your campaign. The people voted for you for the same reason they buy a Ford Taurus, or think one dish soap is better than another. They voted for you because advertising told them to. And do you know who paid for those advertisements, Bill?”
“Yes, our friends.” Hillary stood, bent down, and picked up the binder that she had dropped earlier, letting out an airy giggle as she looked at it again. “So no, Bill, you won’t be signing this ‘Lobbying Disclosure Act’ into law, when and if it ever comes to your desk. This legislation would hurt our friends, Bill. It would hurt Jon Corzine, and Ken Brody, and Goldman Sachs. And are we supposed to hurt our friends, Bill?”
“No, my sweet.”
“That’s right. We’re supposed to help our friends, and our friends are supposed to help us. They dream bigger than the people, and so do we. We don’t dream about making sure the trains run on time, do we? Do we dream about building roads? No. What do we dream about, Bill?”
“OUR legacy, Bill. Ours. Yours and mine. That’s the only thing that matters. That’s what outlives us. When people talk about us a thousand years from now, they aren’t going to talk about trains or about roads. They’re going to talk about something much bigger and greater than that. Or at least, they would, but only if we secure that legacy and build it for ourselves. And we can’t build that legacy without our friends.” Hillary walked over to a waste basket, dumping the Lobbying Disclosure Act into it. “Now, speaking of legacies, I came here to talk to you about something else. Something that can help us secure that legacy of ours. I want to talk to you about Al Gore.”
“Al? The Vice President?” Whatever Hillary was about to tell him, it wouldn’t be good. Bill and Al were close friends. Whenever Hillary would go out of town, the two of them would stay up late, eating Big Macs and fries and ice cream. Al had a Super Nintendo, and they’d sneak into the White House Press Corps offices late at night, hook it up to a TV there, and play video games until the morning janitors made their rounds, a warning signal that it was time to return to adulthood and go back to their boring jobs yet again. “What about him?”
“We’re going to replace Al on the ticket. You need to win this reelection, and Al Gore doesn’t offer anything to your campaign whatsoever.”
Bill could feel his eyes start to water, his chest growing heavy as his breath thinned out. “But Al invented…”
“Al didn’t ‘invent’ anything. And even if he did, who cares? Do you use this ‘Internet’ thing? I sure as hell don’t. In twenty years nobody will even know what an ‘Internet’ even is.He goes. Talk to Leon and make it happen.”
“We don’t want to replace him too early, of course, but we don’t want to wait too long, either. We’ll do it this Fall. November maybe.” Hillary started to walk toward the door, but Bill found no comfort in her finally leaving. “Al Gore will not be your vice President during your second term. I will. You will name me as your running mate in 1996, and our friends are going to help make sure you get that second term. That’s how we secure our legacy, Bill. We do it with a little help from our friends. And in exchange for that help, we’re going to help them back.” Hillary reached the door, opened it, and started to slither through it, turning back to her husband just before the door closed. “Our friends watch out for us, Bill. And in return, we watch out for our friends.”
The door suddenly closed, and a chill swept through the Oval Office, as if she’d brought all the summer’s heat out with her. A single solemn tear blossomed from the corner of his eye and rolled down his cheek.”But Al Gore is my friend.” He’d said it aloud, but for an audience of only one. He’d never dare say that to her face. Because when Hillary Clinton talked about “their” friends, she truly meant her friends. Bill’s friends? She had as much disdain for them as she had for “the people,” and that, as her speech moments ago had indicated, was an awful lot.