Saturday, April 1, 2017

Listen: how Trump imagined it would go.

President Donald J. Trump sat down behind the Resolute desk, folding his hands in front of himself.  He settled into the chair, and then scanned the room.  Slowly.  Commandingly.

A dozen men sat before him.  The Cabinet was a diverse group: spindly lawyers sitting next to grizzled generals, fierce advisers rubbing shoulders with soft-talking bankers.  But they all had two things in common.  Every one of them was smiling, although those smiles ranged from broad grins right on down to a grudging smirk of pleasure.  And every one of them was looking to him for leadership.

"Let's get to it, all right?  Let's get to work," Trump said, tapping one finger on the desk in front of himself.  He paused, then grinned.  "And let's work hard, or I'll take you all off salary and make you hourly."  The tension melted away, and the men glanced at each other with quiet chuckles.

"Sir?  First of all, we have some promises to keep, I think," said Reince, opening a folder.  He held up a list: Trump's Contract with the American Voter.

"Right," said Trump, decisively.  "First of all: ISIS.  Mad Dog, what do we have?"

"Well, Mr. President," said the hardened former general, suspiciously, "our hands are tied.  We have a battle plan to go after them -- the XK-327 Turbo Missile destroys radical Islamic terrorists with zero civilian casualties, every time -- but we haven't been allowed to do it.  The bureaucrats say it would be politically incorrect to wipe out ISIS."

"Oh?" said Trump.  He felt indignation rising up within him, but he mastered himself.  He stared his Secretary of Defense in the eye and said firmly, "Well, you tell those bureaucrats to come see me.  As of right now, I want you to go in there and wipe them out.  Launch the Turbo Missiles, and to hell with political correctness."

"Yes, sir," said Mad Dog, his eyes alight with respect and admiration for his commander-in-chief's virility.  "We'll get them, sir.  In one month, ISIS will be gone."

But Trump was already moving on to other things.  "North Korea.  Where do we stand?"

"We're not sure what to do," admitted Tillerson, speaking up from the other side of the room, Mad Dog nodding in agreement as he did.  "Every time we try to make inroads to them, they take our money and just start their nuclear program again.  But we can't attack them -- it would destabilize the entire region and risk nuclear war.  We just don't -"

"Sir!" interrupted an aide, running into the room.  His voice was panicked.  "It's Iran!  Their warship has come within five hundred yards of our own ship -- they're testing us, sir!  They're testing our strength and trying to push us around with disrespect!"

Murmurs rippled through the room, some fearful and some angry.  Trump stood up, leaning forward on the desk, and the Oval Office subsided into silence.  The quiet of the room was so complete that the only noise came from the masses of people gathered outside, assembled in the millions near the site of an inauguration that had drawn historically huge crowds.  All eyes turned back to the president.

"Get ready to send a message to Iran," he said.  Then he checked himself, and thumped his fist down on the desk.  "No, forget that.  Get ready to send a message to Iran and North Korea.  And China.  China too.  And Germany."

The aide nodded obediently, almost in eye, setting a pen to paper and waiting with bated breath.

"I want you to tell those countries that America is no longer led by a weak Indonesian Muslim.  America is back in the hands of Americans, and the people have put me here to say that our country is not going to be the loser any more.  From this moment on, any country or person that crosses the United States of America will regret it, believe me."  His voice was iron and magic.  "Tell them that I am putting them on notice."

His voice rang out, and the cold fire of his bold words set a chill on every neck in the room.  The aide finished writing the note with trembling fingers, but turned hesitantly to look at the Secretary of State.  In his eyes was an unspoken question: should I really send this courageous and beautiful message?

"Send it, son," said the Secretary of State.  "It might seem unpredictable and strong, but I think it just might work.  In fact," Tillerson said, turning back to the president with frank approval in his voice, "It's just the kind of thinking America has needed for a long time."

"Mr. President," said Reince, speaking into the respectful silence that ensued after the aide's departure.  "Obamacare?"

"We're going to repeal it today," Trump said, turning to his chief of staff.

"Sir, that will cause a lot of people to lose their health insurance," pointed out the Secretary for Health and Human Services, his doughy chin trembling.  "We need to do something for them."

The president absorbed this advice, nodding slowly and thoughtfully.  He was the sort of man who listened to everybody and then found the best path forward.  "Yes, we have to take care of everybody.  You're right.  Okay, here's what we do.  Is there a replacement plan?"

"Yes," said Secretary Price, nervously.

"How good is it?  How good does it provide healthcare, and to how many people?"  snapped a question in return from the masculine commander-in-chief.

"Well, it's not very good," admitted Price.  "And it only covers a few people."

Trump stabbed a finger at Price.  "Change it.  We want it to cover everybody and we want the best care.  Especially for our veterans."

"But... we can't do that!" said Price.  "The people won't stand for it!"

"Tough," said the president, making his hand into a fist.  "We have to do this for our great people.  It's a promise I made."

"Yes, sir," said Price, marveling.  "But great healthcare for everyone... it's crazy!  No one's ever wanted to do that."  He scribbled some notes on a pad.  "We'll get it through Congress today, but I don't know how the public will like it."

"And trade, sir?" said Reince.  Like everyone else in the room, he leaned forward after he said it, anticipating more quick and bold decisions from the powerful and turgid president.  "Did you want to take any actions on trade today, or should we wait a few months until we need to put on a show for distraction?"

"No, we act now," said Trump.  "We need to renegotiate NAFTA.  And we're only going to give Mexico half of what they're getting now."  He smirked, glancing over at Tillerson again.  "They can take it or leave it, right?  Maybe they can move to some other continent if they don't like it."

"Half?  Sir, they'll collapse under that strain!" objected Mnuchin, his voice shrill.

But Tillerson put a hand on the banker's arm and shook his head, murmuring, "No, don't you see?  The president wants a deal.  They can't take this, and so they'll negotiate... and they'll be happy with anything better than half.  Even if we only cut the trillions we send to Mexico by a third, that'll still be big league savings for us."

Mnuchin nodded, his face lighting up as he slowly grasped the situation.  The president watched them with a warm and paternal gaze, commenting only, "And some of their money... it's going right into a wall."

"Sir," said a voice.  It was the same aide as before, pushing his way back into the room insistently.  But whereas before his voice was panicked and afraid, now it was calm and still -- almost awed.  "Iran... they've recalled their warships.  Not just the one near our boat... all of their warships.  And North Korea is on the phone.  They want to talk about... about... disarmament.  They say they want to get rid of the nuclear."  The aide looked not just respectful when he stared at the president.  He looked reverent.

"All right, then," said the president, nodding firmly and pleasantly, and the men in the room exchanged proud smiles.  Mad Dog, his eyes widened, could do nothing less than stand up, straighten his back, and salute his commander-in-chief.  Trump sat back down at his desk and picked up the phone.  "It sounds like I have to take this, boys.  We'll meet again tomorrow and knock out a few more of these things.  Thanks, everyone."

As the president lifted the phone to his ear and began to discuss terms with the North Korean leaders, the rest of the Cabinet quietly filed out of the room.  Their voices were hushed as they discussed what they'd just seen, and several of them were already communing with underlings to make arrangements to carry out the crisp orders that they'd just received.

Only that same aide, amazed at what he'd seen, paused to examine the bronze bust of Winston Churchill that sat on a small table near the door.  It looked different, somehow.

He leaned down and squinted at it.  Huh.  He'd been sure that the metal face of the great British leader hadn't looked like that the last time he saw it.  That was nonsense, though... statues didn't just change. He must be wrong, since he'd thought he remembered Churchill's face as a taut and serious grimace.

But looking at it now, he could see that the Prime Minister had a proud and approving smile, instead.

Strange, he mused, as he backed out of the room.  He shut the door behind him, giving privacy to the potent man within who was busy Making America Great Again.

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