Chapter 14 – Campaign In Poetry…

Campaign In Poetry…

“Bob Dole wants to keep the debates civil. No personal attacks.”

“Sure thing,” Dick Morris replied, barely looking up from the laptop in front of him. “Does that mean we’re keeping it policy-centric? We can assume you’ll stay on message and avoid going after President Clinton’s record?”

“Bob Dole wants to illustrate for the American people that he’s a better choice on foreign affairs, on spending, on crime. Bob Dole will be tougher in the war on drugs. But that doesn’t mean Bob Dole wants to go negative. Think of it more as ‘constructive criticism.’ Bob Dole thinks ‘constructive criticism’ is healthy in a debate.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Morris responded nonchalantly, barely lifting his eyes off the screen in front of him to acknowledge the man sitting opposite him. “I think that’s everything then? Did you have anything else you wanted to discuss?”

“That’s everything Bob Dole wanted to talk about.”

“Great.” Morris slapped his laptop shut, rose to his feet, and stuck his hand out for a shake. “Thanks for meeting with me, Senator Dole.”

Senator Bob Dole of Kansas rose up as well, shaking Dick Morris’ hand. “You’re welcome. Bob Dole thanks you back.”

With this, Senator Dole headed for the door, his entourage scrambling to collect their pagers and phones and notes and other miscellany. Monica smiled as Dole grinned wryly toward her, his eyes doddering between her and the door he was headed toward it, keeping it in his sight lines the way a pilot might with a runway during an approach, being extra careful not to miss or overshoot the tarmac.

A few moments later, Bob Dole and company had all departed, leaving Monica alone with Dick Morris, James Carville, and Paul Begala, three men she had only met once or twice each.

“We’re down to the wire here, aren’t we?” Begala asked, glancing up at the calendar on the wall opposite him. “They stalled on debate planning for weeks.”

“Yeah. I like to have all of these details worked out in August,” Morris replied, his laptop opened again as he spoke directionless into his screen. “But at least they gave us a few weeks. And now we have a date settled.”

“October sixth. Ain’t that a Sunday? Man, I hate Sunday debates,” James Carville said, his scraggly accent requiring an extra few synapses for Monica to decipher. “People don’t wanna think about politics just after leavin’ church.”

“When was the last time you stepped foot inside a church, Jim?” Dick Morris still wasn’t looking up from his computer.

“I don’t mean us, Dick. I mean, you know, ‘normal’ people. People like this one here.” Carville was addressing Monica, awkwardly lifting his arm and shrugging one shoulder in her direction in a gesture that didn’t seem human.

Morris didn’t even glance up. He knew exactly who Carville was talking about. “Yeah. She’s the only one of us who can walk into a place of worship without bursting into flames.”

“How did you end up in here, Miss Lewinksy?” Paul Begala asked. “Aren’t you on legislative affairs? Aren’t you a bit far from home?”

“The President wanted me to attend this meeting,” Monica answered politely. “He said he wants me to be more involved in the campaign. He thinks it would help me better appreciate legislative affairs if I knew more about campaigning itself.” That wasn’t really the truth. Bill wanted her there because he felt Monica had a future in campaigning, possibly even as a campaign manager. But she couldn’t bring herself to say that to these three famous strategists. She expected some form of hazing from them if she did.

“Is it working?” Dick Morris still refused to look up from his laptop. “Are you learning anything new?”

“Well… I learned that Bob Dole talks about himself in the third person a lot.” She thought he was a nice old man, very polite and cordial, but the way he addressed himself in conversation was something beyond the textbook definition of strange.

“I think what you meant to say there was ‘he’s a fuckin’ weirdo,'” Carville joked, eliciting a few laughs from the others as his skull contorted into a smile. Monica herself grinned, but held back an open laugh. “Ain’t that the damnedest thing? He’s a grown-ass man talkin’ like Tarzan. ‘Me Bob Dole. Bob Dole hungry. Bob Dole want banana.'”

“Bob Dole want Dole-brand  banana,” Begala joked, joining in the fun. “Bob Dole no like Jane. Bob Dole only like banana!”

“Bob Dole wants to keep these debates civil. Bob Dole doesn’t want anyone pointing out that Bob Dole talks about Bob Dole in the third person.” Finally, Dick Morris was looking up from his computer. “Bob Dole doesn’t mind Bob Dole talking about Bob Dole like that, but people who aren’t Bob Dole don’t like Bob Dole talking about Bob Dole like that.”

Monica had been laughing so hard her mascara was running. Her chest ached and her throat was dried out. “You… you guys… are killing me…”

“Bob Dole should be President, because Bob Dole loves America more than anybody else,” Begala mocked. “Four out of five Bob Doles recommend Bob Dole to become President Bob Dole. Bob Dole is Bob Dole and Bob Dole approves this message about Bob Dole!”

James Carville literally collapsed to the floor, flopping onto his butt, laughing harder than any man rightfully should. That only made Monica laugh even harder. “Stop! Stop!” She had to chuckle more before she could get another word out. “I haven’t laughed this hard since… since…”

“Since when?” It was President Clinton, who had entered the room amidst all the pandemonium, and smiled around the room as everyone scrambled to calm themselves. “What did I miss?”

“Oh… you know… singin’ Bob Dole’s praises,” Carville explained, the chuckle jabbing through his words here and there. “It’s almost like you’re gonna be debatin’ two people up there.”

“Yep. Senator Bob Dole faces off against President Bill Clinton and Senator Bob Dole.” Begala laughed at his own joke, as did everyone else.

President Clinton almost seemed to fake-laugh. He hadn’t been in the room long enough to fully appreciate the running gag. “So, do we have a date set for the debate?”

“Yes sir, Mister President.” Dick Morris closed his laptop and wiped away all of the humor from his face, being the consummate professional that he was. “October 6th is the date we settled on.”

Meanwhile…

“October 6th?” Rush Limbaugh couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “We can’t be gone that long! I have a show to do!”

“And you think I can be gone that long? I’m the House Speaker, for crying out loud!” Newt Gingrich snatched Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’ notes from her hand. “Why in the hell would we need to stay in this God-forsaken country that long?”

Debbie cleared her throat. “They said that’s how long it’ll take to prepare it.”

“Well then, tell them they have to do it faster,” Newt commanded.

“Fine.” Debbie turned to the Cuban men and spoke to them in Spanish. The two men seemed pensive, shaking their heads and replying back in their native tongue, before Debbie looked back toward Rush and Newt. “They’re saying it takes a few weeks for the device to be made properly. There are chemicals involved, and they need to dry into the…”

“We don’t have a few weeks. We have a few hours.” Rush Limbaugh was starting to turn red. Debbie couldn’t tell if it was the heat, the situation, or some combination of the two. “Do you know how hard it was to get three American citizens into Cuba? We can’t stay here for long. Tell them that.”

Debbie turned back to the Cubans and said more stuff in Spanish. The two men glanced at Rush and Newt, then at each other, and then back at Debbie as she continued to explain their predicament. A few moments later, they responded to her, and then she translated it back for Rush and Newt. “They can use a traditional fuse instead, but that’s going to need to be lit.”

“Lit?!” Now Newt was turning red. “How in the Hell are we supposed to get Al Gore to light an explosive device and blow himself up with it?”

“This whole thing is a mess,” Rush Limbaugh stated as he pulled a cigar from his shirt pocket, sniffing it passively as he stuck it in his mouth. He fumbled with his lighter in his damp hands for a second before continuing. “I think it’s safe to say this plan is a bust. We can’t wait around here for several weeks, and we can’t convince Gore to blow himself up for us. I don’t know what Hillary is expecting us to do here.” He finally got his cigar lit. “I think it’s best if we just go home.”

“Yeah,” Newt agreed. “That’s probably for the best. We’ll have to come up with a new plan.

Debbie looked at Rush, watching him blow smoke rings into the air. She looked at Newt, whose shirt had morphed into a darker shade of blue as he sweat through it. She then glanced back at the Cuban men. And that’s when she got an idea. She started talking to the men in Spanish with fiery resolve, at one point snatching Rush’s cigar from him and holding it up in front of them before handing it back. After a time, the two men started nodding in agreement, explaining things back to Debbie.

“What are you telling them?” Newt asked.

“Hold on.” Debbie kept conversing with the two men. They probably spoke for five minutes before Debbie finally shook hands with both men, and the two men departed hurriedly. “We’ll be out of here in four hours. And we’ll have the device, too.”

“What? How did you do that?” Newt really needed a towel.

“We can’t wait around for a proper explosive device, so our best bet is to get Al Gore to light the fuse to the explosive himself, right?”

“Ohh! I get it!” Rush Limbaugh’s face lit up, as red as it was. “We tell him global warming is too far gone to fix, and he’ll kill himself!”

“No.” Debbie couldn’t believe she had to deal with these two knuckleheads. “We give him a cigar.”

“A cigar? Is he expecting a baby?”

“No! Don’t you see? We give him a cigar, and he’ll light that cigar, and…”

“Blam-o,” Newt summed precisely. “He blows himself up with a cigar he lit. We need an exploding cigar!”

“That’s right,” Debbie acknowledged. “And our Cuban friends are going off to make one for us right now.”

“An exploding cigar? Like in a cartoon?” Rush shook his head. “That’ll never work. Cigars don’t fizzle and crackle like a bomb fuse. I’ve seen enough movies to know that.”

“Yeah, well, we don’t have a better option,” Newt replied. “We can return to Hillary Clinton with failure, or we can return to her with an exploding cigar.”

“And Al Gore doesn’t smoke cigars, so it’s perfect,” Debbie said.

“How is that ‘perfect?'” Rush had to ask. “He doesn’t smoke cigars, so why on Earth would he light this one?”

Newt grinned to himself. “He’s a liberal, and liberals are easily manipulated, that’s how… no offense Debbie.”

“None taken.”

“We just need to play on Al Gore’s liberal PC sensibilities. He doesn’t want to offend anyone, right? So we just tell him that this cigar is a cultural gift, and he has to smoke it, because it’ll offend the people who gave it to us if he doesn’t.”

“That might work,” Debbie agreed, “but who would give him a cigar?”

“I dunno… the Indians?”

“Why would a baseball team give Al Gore a cigar?” Rush asked. “And how are we going to get him to visit Cleveland?”

Newt slapped his hand onto his forehead. “Not the Cleveland Indians, you dolt! The actual Indians!”

“The Native Americans,” Debbie explained.

“Native Americans? I was born in Missouri. Can I do it?”

“No, Rush. Native Americans are… oh, forget it! Debbie, this was a great idea. I think this could work.”

“Thanks, Newt. I think so too. The only difficult part really is making sure Al Gore actually smokes the cigar. And getting him to do it on the campaign trail, that’s going to be extra tough.”

“Hillary won’t accept failure here. We need to get this done before the election in November.” Newt glanced up at the Cuban sky, sighing. “A few more hours in this God-forsaken country, and then we finally get to go home. This plan is going to work. It has to work.”

“It will,” Debbie said reassuringly. “It will.”

“I get it now! Native Americans! You mean, like, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt! The Founding Fathers! Are any of them even still alive, though?”

Debbie and Newt turned and shouted at him in unison. “Shut up, Rush!”

A few hours later, as they waited for the Cubans to finish up their product, Debbie called Hillary, fearful of how she might react to the news. But strangely, Hillary was unbelievably excited by the idea.

“A cigar? That’s brilliant!” She had sent the three of them to Cuba knowing in her heart that they’d return with an exploding cigar. The fact that they completed their task without Clinton having actually told them to get a cigar reassured her that Jean Houston was the real deal, despite her pensiveness after learning the bowl had spilled. “Get it home as quickly as you can, Debbie. In the meantime, I’ll be working out a way of getting it into Al Gore’s hands.”

“We’ll return as soon as it’s ready, Madame First Lady. You’ll have the device tonight.”

Excellent.” Clinton rubbed her hands together and cackled to herself. “Excellent indeed!”

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