A twisted tale of Life, Politics, and what some might consider cruelty to animals ...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chapter 13

As of course it must, the rest of our trip ended; and with it, the second month of the campaign. There were no further startling revelations made, nor any further drunken binges of note to report on or to recover from before we found our way back to the Manor I am happy to say. On an even brighter note, no new scandals or predicaments had hit the campaign or its members; and most of the ones we were dealing with were no worse than they had been. I gratefully spent my first night in what I now considered my own bed under the current circumstances in a long while. While it was disappointingly alone, it was at least a night spent in some degree of security, familiarity, and comfort. I was therefore well rested on that first morning after our return and ready to face a morning meeting for the first time since I had sent everyone out rather abruptly (and childishly).

I entered the room quietly, searching out something to eat and some coffee before sitting down. Phillip and Lorelei were there this morning as well, so I was at least saved the ‘hot seat’ at the head of the table. My place was clearly designated by the expected place card close to it. I noticed that there were also place cards for both Katie and Andy at the table, though none for Angela. I could only assume that whoever (or whatever) made up these cards somehow knew that Katie and Andy would be attending this meeting. They also knew that Angela was not. (I hate when something that I in no way understand knows more about things that I don’t understand. Oh, never mind…)

I took my seat hoping not to draw too much attention to myself, and quietly began to consume my morning’s choices. I chose not to speak to anyone during this process, not even noticing the subtle island of silence and space that had somehow formed around me, keeping anyone from approaching me during this period. A polite time of normal conversations went on at the table around me, as everyone finished up their morning meal, then Phillip gently rapped on the table to get everyone’s attention. He looked like he was getting ready to speak, but stopped when I rose from my seated position.


Ladies and gentlemen,” I started, attempting to clear from my throat the giant slice of humble pie stuck in there that wouldn’t seem to go down. “Before we get started this morning, I would like to tender my apologies to each and every one of you. The last time I met with you, I behaved unforgivably. While there may have been a number of reasons for this behavior, there were and are no excuses for it. Nothing can justify the way that I spoke that day, so I won’t even try. You are all good people who have taken on an extremely difficult job under what have been trying circumstances at best. I owe to each of you individually, and to all of you as a group, a debt of respect and gratitude that I can never repay for the work you've already done. Let me say here and now, and for the record, that I believe that I have recovered from the mild case of ‘cranial-rectal inversion’ that I was suffering from, and that if you will forgive this mild period of insanity, I promise that I will do much better from now on.”

Katie rose as quickly as I had sought the relative refuge of my seat. “I was not here at the time of your rather stunning outburst Sean, but heard a number of subsequent reports on it. Quite frankly, I can't tell you how disappointed in you and your behavior. I would have thought that at the very least you could have done everyone was the courtesy of a more colorful, if not a more entertaining performance. I was particularly disappointed to discover a complete lack of expletives during the rant that accompanied your complete mental meltdown. All of that being said however, I think that I can speak for the entire group when I say from the bottom of my heart: Sit down and shut up asshole!”

There was laughter around the room, and my embarrassed, “Thank you,” was lost in the noise. With the tension now broken, we were able get back to the original purpose of the meeting, and the notes that were in front of everyone. Phillip, sensing the change in mood around the table remained seated, deferring now to me.


We are two-thirds of the way through this campaign, and the news isn't the greatest. The lead that we enjoyed a month ago is all but gone, and allowing for the normal statistical error in polling, our's shows this campaign as pretty much of a dead heat. What we have done to this point has worked OK, but our competition has proved themselves much better at being the kind of bastards that win this type of election than we have. What I want to know from all of you now is what we are going to learn from that, and what we are going to do to regain our lead? Does anyone have any thoughts?”

Just a minute Sean,” Phillip put in. “Before anyone makes any suggestions I have something that I want to say. Randall and Christy have run most of their current campaign by targeting not me, as would be proper during this period, but by targeting all of you. The dastardly and despicable nature of this attack has wronged so many here that I too feel that I must apologize. I'm sorry for what my family, and much as I hate to admit it these two ne’er do wells are my family, have put some of you through during the recent past. That I have had to sit idly by and watch the effect that it has had on all of you and I want no more part of it.

I hear the groans around the table, and I know that you would like to go after them for the things that they've said about you and done to you; but we have to ask ourselves why we are doing any of this in the first place. Our clear intention at the beginning was to make sure that people like Christy and Randall were not allowed to take over the government. If we win by doing the same things that they've done, and behaving in the same way that they have, aren’t we no better than they are? If that's the path we must choose, what was the point of any of this? No. I say that we’ll win this battle, but we’ll do it without changing who we are and what we stand for. We’ll not lonely do it by doing right, but we’ll do it by being right!”


Damn,” Katie muttered, putting the hand down that she had previously raised. “There go all of my best ideas. I wanted to start our last round by saying that Christy couldn’t take office, because he was legally a bastard. One look at the two of them and I think we could get most people to believe that no one would ever marry that old, ugly bastard Randall; and that there is no way in hell that the skinny little wretch could possibly fathered that enormous tub of goo that he calls a son.”

Wait a minute,” I jumped in laughing. “I like that one. I don’t suppose that it’s actually true?”

Sean, why should we want to spoil a perfectly good idea in politics with the truth?” she replied. “No, actually it’s not. His wife divorced him and disappeared years ago for causes that are best left to the sickest of imaginations, but they were married at the time of Christy’s conception and birth as best we can tell. In fact, they were quite a couple. She had to be over 300 lbs, which is how, we assume, that Christy attained his present silhouette. It was however a never-ending source of amusement when Randall and his wife walked into a room … looking like the number 10.”

Laughter again filled the room, and I knew that no matter what happened now, that things were going to be OK after all. The second wind that sometimes hits an effort was hitting this campaign, and maybe just in the nick of time. You could see in the eyes of those around the table that it was time to get off our collective butts and get back in the game. A bunch of ideas were starting to flow around the table, and as I jotted down what I thought were the best ones: 

  1. Turn the Andy and Katie problems around and put them back on Christy. We knew that Christy’s gang had to be behind them in some way and we already did have some evidence in Katie’s case. Let’s show it to the people as the dirty politics that it was, and ask the people if that was the kind of leadership that they were looking for. (It was sound thinking, and I thought it would have some value.)
  2. Follow it up by doing the same thing with Angela’s father’s case, ans show it as a pattern of behavior that had never changed. (I was against this one, as it dragged Angela back into a spotlight that I didn’t want her to have to face.)


  3. Get Katie locked up with the speech writers again ASAP. Katie’s still the pro here, and if we ever needed her, it was now more than ever. (I agreed wholeheartedly.)
  4. Find Angela and get her back. Her absence had become conspicuous. We needed more support from those in uniform, and she could get it for us. (I didn’t care why she came back, as long as it was soon. On the other hand, I had no idea on how to find her.)

I was about to break up the meeting and let everybody get to work on some of these projects, in spite of the fact that something kept gnawing at the back of my mind. I couldn’t quite bring whatever it was to the front, but knew that trying to force it would do no good. It would come to me in due time. That process was interrupted however, when Paul came rushing into the room, out of breath.

Sorry about being late,” he apologized. “Melissa and I were at an awards banquet last night, and with the parties afterward, it was a late night. Is there anything that she or I need to be doing?”

I was about to tell him not to worry when what he was saying finally hit me. “Yes there is Paul,” I said with the smile rising to my face. “You can hang around after the meeting breaks up to plan a party.”

A party?” he said. “Where? What kind?”


I don’t know where yet, though I expect that it will be here. This place just has too many possibilities to pass up as a back drop. What kind of a party will be entirely up to the people at this table. Ladies and gentlemen, where I live, much like here, celebrities often get involved with politics. Why some of them even hold public office! (The looks of shock and disbelief that I got at this comment would probably amuse the heck out of you.) What I want to do Paul, is get as many of your friends together here as we can for just that kind of party.

In addition, we will need to invite anyone else of any influence that we know who isn’t directly involved with Christy’s campaign. People of power like to rub shoulders with celebrities, and they like to be invited to exclusive events. Well, we are going to hold the most exclusive event that anyone has ever seen around here, and we are going to fill it with the most powerful and influential people that we can find. We are going to have a party that anyone and everyone will want to be at and anyone left out of will know that it was because they were taking sides with the bad guys. Katie, do you think that you can get the media to cover that kind of event if we put it together?”

Get them to!” she said rising from her seat. “Why they’ll be fighting with each other and with me for the chance to get anywhere near it!”

That’s good to hear, though it’s exactly what would have expected. People, we’ve got a lot to do, because I want to hold this event in one week. We have been talking about the need for something big to turn this thing around, and this is it. Everybody who is anybody is going to want to be where we want them to be. Anybody who is not there is going to want to see it in a newsreel or read a story about it in the newspaper. Before we're done, every man woman, and child in Macundo is going to know about all of the famous and powerful people who attended an event to support our candidate.



Now, as for the details of this gathering… We are going to need the best of everything to entertain them and the best and brightest to speak to them. Those best and brightest are going to need to be at their most persuasive, and we need to have it all start happening yesterday. Katie, you, Paul, Melissa, and Andy will need to work on the invitations. Work with Paul and Melissa for the list of the beautiful, the powerful, and the rich (as if most times they aren’t one and the same) around here, and with Andy on the appearance of the invitation itself. If we’re going to get the attendance that we are looking for, those invites are going to have to go out in less than 48 hours.

Andy, I am also going to need you to work on any banners and the like that we might need. Phillip, we need to meet with the chef and the rest of the kitchen staff and talk about food later today. Lorelei, I am going to ask to lend your sense of taste and style to this event, and handle the decorations. Gary and Sue, I am going to need an immediate poll in the field to see what influence such a show of support for Phillip might have on the voting public. Writing staff, you guys are going to have to come with something better, smarter, funnier, and more persuasive than anything you have done yet, starting with a theme. The rest of you, I need you to pitch in wherever you feel that your area of greatest expertise is.”

Sean,” Phillip put in. “I think that I understand what you are saying about a party, but do you really think that such an event can make any real difference?”

Oh, it will make a difference,” I said with what I hoped was an evil gleam coming into my eye. “And that’s not all that I’ve got up my sleeve. Ladies and gentlemen, I think that I might have just figured out how we can pull this off without becoming what we hate. Phillip, we're going to fix this thing; and we're going to do it while following the rules that you just laid out for us. 


Let’s face it boys and girls, we have been losing because we haven’t been doing as good a job of playing by Randall’s rules as he has. In other words, we can’t and won’t be as big a bunch of bastards as our competition. Well, if you can’t win using the other guy’s rules, then you need to change them to ones you like better. Katie, I need you in library in about an hour if you have the time, in 45 minutes if you don’t. Senior staff will meet back here for lunch, hopefully with an idea or two that we can agree upon by then. As far as everybody else goes, you know what needs to get done, let’s get on it!”

With that, I picked up the folder in front of me that I used to hold my notepad and any of the loose notes that I carried and left the room. My mind was spinning with number of disjointed thoughts and I needed a little time alone to push them into some kind of order. I only hoped that I hadn’t lost too much time in the campaign before finally figuring this thing out.
By the time that Katie joined me (it was closer to 50 minutes, but who besides me was counting); I was huddled over the desk, scribbling notes furiously. I only hoped that I didn’t forget anything as I went along (man, I missed my laptop computer).

One of the things that has been of the greatest benefit to me over the years, was something that at the time, I felt was completely useless. It was that as a young man, I had learned to touch type. Now I know that this is a fairly simple talent, but not for a member of the male gender, at least at that time. I was in private school at the time however, and the good fathers felt that the ability to have such a useful skill might help us in our futures in education. (I later wondered if perhaps this wasn't some throw-back effort to the days of Irish monasteries, and a number of men with curious haircuts copying manuscripts to keep civilization alive during the Dark Ages. Or perhaps this ability was being passed on for other lofty pursuits for writing philosophical interpretations of the gospels or typing up church bulletins, or even heaven forbid, sermons.) They taught us on manual typewriters (yes manual), and insisted on us learning to perform this talent without looking at the keyboard. Little did they know at the time of the impending computer age, and how much and how well this ability would serve we unwilling pupils in our futures. 


For myself, this ability, once learned, saved me and every future teacher that I had from my own miserable handwriting skills. It gave me the ability to write things down, almost as fast as I was thinking about them. The school paper, and later college efforts, rolled quickly off of a keyboard and into the hands of a teacher in a format that they would be able to understand. Once the computer, and later the laptop came along, I was able to continue to function at a much faster pace than my ‘hunt and peck’ brethren. That I was now once again reduced to pen and paper concerned me, impeded my thought processes, and made me wonder about anyone’s ability (including my own) to read my notes at a future date.

I held one hand up, motioning here to sit down as she approached. Having to scribble had put my writing behind my thoughts, and I needed to finish catching up before anything else escape my limited memory. As it was, I barely gave her time to get settled before we started in.

Listen,” I began. “The ground game has been working OK, but we're down to the last two minutes of the fourth quarter and the only way we're going to move the ball down the field is to go to the air.”

I might be willing to agree with you Sean, if I had any idea what the hell you're talking about.”


Bear with me for a minute Katie. With your experience in covering the government for the press, you'd have to know as much about politics and the election process as anyone wouldn’t you?”

Well,” she replied thoughtfully. “Misha certainly knows more about the finance end of the process than I would ever want to know, and Phillip is the most experienced as far as the actual duties of the candidate and the ruler; but yes, I would say that I know as much as anybody in either camp about how things work.”

OK, great then. I need you to go back with me in looking at the history of this process as well as the rules by which it’s run. Can you do that?”

Sure, I can do that.”

OK. Work with me on this, and correct me if and when I’m wrong then. Candidates are not elected directly as I understand it. In fact, what happens is that the people get a ballot that basically says two things:

  1. I do not want guy A, or
  2. I do not want guy B.

The voter then marks one of those lines, and the guy who gets the most negative votes loses.”

Yes,” she said. “That’s how it works.”

Great, now comes the harder part. This part concerns the campaign for the election. I am assuming that there are rules that govern the campaign process; otherwise there would be no financial oversight. What I need to know is about the whole negative campaign structure that we have been using up to now.”


Yes, what about it?” she replied.

Is that in the rules? I mean do we have to run our campaign by saying bad things about Christy and his dad?”

Sean, why wouldn’t we want to tell the horrible, nasty truth about these guys? I mean these two are champion bastards of the first order. Not only is it our duty to tell the world about it, but as it's the truth, we can do it without any moral qualms.”

I know that we can Katie, what I want to know is if we have to.”

No, I don’t think that we have to as far as the law says. It’s custom more that law. I don’t know if anyone ever gave you the history of this process Sean, but it used to be a war. While it stopped being a war, it never stopped being a battle. If you can’t fight with weapons, then you fight with words, has always been the philosophy. As far back as the election process itself goes, the campaigns are about telling everybody what they don’t like about a candidate. So when they get the ballot box, they can say with some degree of certainty that there were many bad things that they know or heard about a candidate and they didn’t like any of those things. That’s the way that they know that they are going to vote against him.

Sean what are we going to do here? We can’t very well say nice things about them? Aside from the fact that I don’t know anything nice about them, it would turn my stomach if I tried to and we would lose the election in the process.”


Yeah, I’ve heard all of that before, but I’m not sure that doing things a certain way, just because that’s the way that they have always been done works for me, or that it will work for Phillip. I have no intention of making you nauseous in the process however Katie. What I’m talking about instead, is the ways that we are supposed run campaigns where I come from. In that place, we don’t vote against something or someone (at least that's the theory that theory that they would like us to believe), as much as we vote for something or someone. A lot of negative campaigns are run where I come from too, and sometimes they work; but most of the time, campaigns for the best people are run by talking about the good things that a good person could do. They talk about the candidate, who he is, and what he believes in. The idea is to give people a good feeling about a candidate, and as a consequence get votes for him.”

Well if that isn’t the dumbest thing that I ever heard of!” she exclaimed. “How does anyone ever get elected that way?”

I have to admit that I've often wondered myself,” I replied, “but hear me out on this. You watched the way that Lorelei was during this last trip, and how people responded to her. What if during this party, we ran it the same way? What if we got these celebrities, especially the ones like Paul and Melissa who really know Phillip, to talk about him and not Christy? What if we got them to talk about the things that know about Phillip as a man? What if they talked about the things that they know about what he believes in, and were able to prove it with examples of the things that they had seen him do over the years? What if we kept most of our approach on a more low-key basis?

As far as Christy, his old man, and all the crap that they keep dishing out; what if we called their actions a tactic of a truly those of the truly scared and desperate. What if we painted them as the chocking effort to tell lies about someone that we've just shown as a great guy? What it our only comment about our competition is that we would rather not talk about them, because their behavior has been atrocious, even if expected in someone seeking to gain a position to which he had no right?”


Give me a second here Sean, just to make sure that I’ve got this straight. We don’t say anything bad about Christy; in fact, we say little or nothing about him all. If pushed, we say that we feel sorry for them and the rotten things that they felt that they've had to do to us and say about us. We talk about what a great guy that Phillip is, and has always been. We poke back into his life instead of Christy’s, but we do it by using his friends to remind us of all of the examples of all of good things that he’s ever done.”

Right, then at the end of the evening, we bring out Lorelei and Phillip.”

Bring out the candidate? Are you out of your mind?”

Maybe I am. First we bring out Lorelei and let her stand there on a big stage, and do the same thing that she’s been doing on the smaller stages. At the end, we bring Phillip himself out. All he has to do is to be Phillip, thank everyone for coming that evening, and for the support and the friendship that they have given him. Since he’s a good guy, it will show. It serves the dual purpose of getting our message out, and making any subsequent statement by our friends Christy and Randall look bad. People believe celebrities, and if they say that Phillip is good, anything the other guys say afterward will look like cheap lies.”

Well,” she said thinking about it. “It has the merit of never having been tried before. I can’t say yet that I know that it will work, but it will get the attention of the media. It may even get the attention of the voters. I think that we will need to get in front of Phillip with this one for his approval, but I say we ought to go for it!”


The senior staff was equally incredulous when I laid it out for all of them at the lunch meeting just a few hours later, and a lot of the same questions that Katie had were asked again. The review with her earlier had provided me with the chance to think things though, without doing it in front of the whole group. I therefore had a number of the answers that I needed to have at my fingertips and most if not all were on board soon enough. As for Phillip and Lorelei, they kept silent during the early debate on this change, almost suspiciously so. Phillip rose and spoke as the questions from the rest of the group began to peter out.


While I don’t know that you will be able to find all that much to say that is good about me,” he said smiling. “I must say that I am pleased with the overall tenor of this change. My father, brother, and I had many discussions about this when I was a younger man. None of us was particularly happy with the way that the process was handled, but could never come up with anything resembling a reasonable alternative. Arturo and I often talked about the negative things that we would say about each other when the time came that we had to, but mostly as childish taunts or things of amusement. ‘He pushed me into the pond when I was six’, or ‘He always tried to grab the last drumstick on the platter’ never seemed to be much of an insult. My father would always laugh at us both at such times; but he knew that we loved each other, and knew that we would find this a difficult time to deal with. Having nothing in his own past to use as a comparison, he had nothing to offer us on the subject, except to tell us to follow our hearts. I can’t and won’t say that I hold any such love for Christy, but I will be happier about this whole thing if I’m not attacking him.”

Arturo moved from his customary place in the corner, and stood with his paws on the table. He did not often seek to offer his opinions or suggestions to the group, choosing instead to file away everything and seek out individuals later for further discussion. When he felt that something was important enough to violate that practice, those opinions were inevitably invaluable. This stance at the table, which allowed him to see the eyes of the people that he was speaking to, facilitated these more important offerings and allowed him to more easily offer his opinions.

On many occasions before his death, Phillip’s father discussed his distaste with this process with me, as he did with Phillip. He always seemed to feel that his other son Arturo, would return to compete for his birthright, and that this would be a trying experience for his two offspring. I know that he was especially concerned with how this process would be brought about, knowing his two sons and the love that they had for each other. While I hold no love for Christy or his family either, I think that we can and should do this thing not only for Phillip, but also for his memory of his father. I also think that I can see, looking at Phillip now, that this now appears to be Phillip’s will. If any will not abide by that will, let them speak now.” The room was silent. “Good, then let’s get to work.”

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