Let The Wrong One In

October 14th, 2016

 

‘Hello?’

‘Hillary, hi. This is, uh, Barack.’

‘Oh. I wondered who might be calling me on a blocked number. Those calls usually don’t get through.’

‘Yes, well, I need to speak to you about something delicate. I thought it best to be, uh, out of the oval.’

‘We’re just about to take off so I only have a few minutes. How can I help you, Mr President?’

‘Actually, I’d prefer you call me Barack today, if you don’t mind. This won’t be my most, uh, presidential moment.’

‘I see. I guess you’re allowed a day off.’

‘Not yet, unfortunately. I’ve been working with my guys at Camp David for the past few days and I told them it was time we, uh, got your take on this. If it’s a no, just tell me straight and this doesn’t go any further.’

‘If you’re having the Secret Service take out Trump, I’d prefer not to know! Shit, I hope no-one overheard that.’

‘We played around with that one a while. But we figure Mike Pence would then win with the, uh, sympathy vote. This is something different.’

‘It’s starting to sound like I should be delaying this flight, Mr President.’

Barack, please.

‘Sorry, Barack. What do you need?’

‘We’ve been planning some post-election scenarios. Look, I know it’s hard to see past November 3rd right now, but we have a, uh, responsibility, to our people, and I’m here to help.’

‘I was never the biggest fan of your slowly escalating rhetorical style, Barack. Can you just tell me what this is about?’

‘Sure. I always get nervous committing felonies, even though I’m not sure if this crime even exists.’

‘Did I just hear someone shout lock him up?’

‘Ha, we can share a cell. Anyway, this is, uh, it. You’re going to be president, Hillary.’

‘Okay… that sounds like good news.’

‘But you can’t win the election.’

‘Very confusing. Let me just tell someone the plane needs to wait so you can explain that one to me.’

‘Sure.’

‘Done. Now, what was that?’

‘November 4th, you’re going to be president. That is, you’re going to be, uh, exercising all of the authority of the role. But we have to let Trump win the election.’

‘That doesn’t sound right to me, Barack. Aren’t you a constitutional scholar?’

‘I’ve done this job for eight years, Hillary. You were there with Bill yourself. You know that winning isn’t enough. Winning isn’t succeeding.’

‘Of course. But winning is something of a pre-requisite.’

‘Not, uh, necessarily. My guys have been through this from every conceivable angle, and what we’re suggesting is that you offer Trump a deal. He, uh, likes deals. He would win the election and gets to be president. He gets the White House. He gets to perform the cameras. He’ll give the state of the union. And he can, uh, tweet.’

‘And me?’

‘You’ll be in charge. You’ll make all the decisions, set policy, essentially run the government day-to-day. You can stay in New York and have your own cabinet operating secretly there. All you’ll have to do is occasionally tell Trump what to do and where to sign.’

‘This is crazy, Barack. Are you serious?’

‘Hillary, come on. You know this is what Trump wants anyway. He doesn’t want to govern. And surely you don’t want to do all that ceremonial stuff again. Think of him as America’s constitutional monarch. He’ll be our Queen Elizabeth.’

‘Look, I know I have this reputation as a policy wonk, but I do quite like being the centre of attention myself. If I wanted this, I could have just been Joe Biden’s chief of staff.’

‘I get that, I really do. But this is where I have to get a bit, uh, stern with you. It’s not working, Hillary. Your campaign has failed. Half of the country thinks you’re a traitor, and even your own supporters don’t really connect with you. I know I’m not saying anything you haven’t heard in a thousand focus groups. Even after the pussy video Trump has recovered in the polls. You’re struggling to beat a psychopathic sex abuser. None of it is fair, but it’s true.’

‘I won’t argue with you, Barack. I do have some insight into my own political weaknesses. But I can still win despite all of that. I’m ahead in every poll.’

‘I know, and that’s my point. My guys say you almost certainly will win. But once you do, you’re, uh, screwed. Sorry to say it, but you’ll never get past Benghazi, or the emails, or Lewinsky, and everything else. We’re projecting you win in November by two points, because it’ll be hard not to win, but in 2020 you lose to Paul Ryan by six points. Is that what you want? To be the first female president, who lost it after one term?’

‘Of course not.’

‘Think of the flip side of my proposal, too. Let’s say Trump gets in. The man is a complete buffoon. Beat him, and he’ll be a martyr. Let him win, and he’ll be a laughing stock. A Trump presidency destroy the Republican brand for a generation. Do it this way, and we project Mitch Landrieu or Elizabeth Warren has a 49-state victory in 2020.’

‘Only 49?’

‘Let’s be realistic. In the meantime, you’ve been making sure we still have an effective government and the economy keeps growing.’

‘Which Trump will take credit for.’

‘Maybe, but no-one ever gets much credit for doing the basics well. I haven’t.’

‘Good point. Okay, let’s imagine that I’m on board with this. I don’t think it’s completely implausible. I’m pretty sure Bill thought about asking Al Gore to do something similar with George Bush in 2000, not that he would have listened. But it still seems very risky, Barack. How exactly do we make sure Trump wins the election?’

‘He only needs to take a couple of the big swing states to win the electoral college. We can, uh, arrange that. Presumably you’ve heard these rumours about the Russians meddling in the election?’

‘Yes. It seems fanciful to me.’

‘Largely, yes. Although it’s true that they are trying to hack into our systems, just not very successfully so far. But all we have to do is become a little less, uh, vigilant, and let them do it. Then if I announce an investigation later, people will give it a lot more credibility. They will really start to believe Putin put Trump in office.

‘You’ve really thought this through.’

‘The last year of a presidency can be pretty, uh, dull. We’ve had a lot of time on our hands.’

‘What about all the things Trump has promised to do? If I’m in control, people are going to notice that they aren’t happening. He wants to build his wall, and ban all Muslims from coming to the country.’

‘Nobody expects him to actually, uh, do any of these things, Hillary. Take the wall — do you know how implausible that is? It will cost billions of dollars and Congress will never pay for it. All you need to do is let him pretend he’s making progress with it. Build a few prototypes or something. As for the Muslim ban, I’ve already had Justice brief me on it. The idea is so illegal it’ll be struck down by any federal judge within days. Let him try.’

‘He also wants to pull out of every international agreement we’ve ever signed.’

‘It’s grandstanding. He needs something to denounce, so let him keep doing it. Do you really think his rich supporters on Wall Street want him pulling out of Nafta?’

‘He’s not too keen on the Iran deal either, I hear?’

‘That, uh, could be trickier. I think we should tell him that if we can make progress on North Korea, pulling out of Iran would be acceptable. Korea’s the bigger threat anyway.’

‘And what about, dare I ask… Obamacare?’

‘You know I don’t like to call it that, Hillary.’

‘Sorry. What about the Affordable Care Act?’

‘That’s entirely down to Congress. We know the Republicans are coming for it regardless of who wins. They probably won’t have the numbers straight away, but if you become president, they’ll sweep Congress at the mid-term elections. But if Trump is president, we think Democrats will be so motivated that we won’t just win the mid-terms, we’ll get out super-majority in the Senate back. ACA will be secure after that.’

‘That would be amazing, Barack. There’s another problem, though… the staff. Trump might be willing to accept this, but what about his advisers?’

‘That’s relatively simple. Half of his senior staff are related to him, so they’ll go along with it. You’ll have him appoint a bunch of generals, who will probably just run their departments without even noticing. Those guys might not, uh, like me much but they’re sensible people and they get the job done.’

‘He will have promised jobs to his supporters, too.’

‘Yes, there will be others in the west wing and the cabinet who need to be told. But I think it’s a safe bet they’ll still want to work there. Everyone wants the White House on their résumé, even if it’s not real. They’ll keep quiet.’

‘They’ll all do fake jobs for four years?’

‘Maybe not the full term. We reckon staff turnover will be, uh, quite high. People will probably stay for a year or so. There will always be others to replace them. The press might start asking questions about why so many staff are coming and going, but it’s Donald Trump we’re talking about here. The guy’s catchphrase is “You’re fired.” Everyone will assume it’s his fault.’

‘You know what, Barack, you’ve nearly convinced me. I suppose my main worry now is that I get so far ahead that it looks implausible for Trump to win, even with the Russians. I mean, everyone sees Nate Silver as some sort of psephological guru, and he’s saying I’ll win.’

‘There’s a way around that. You might not like it. The FBI Director called me not long ago and said some more of your missing emails had surfaced.’

‘How?’

‘Anthony, uh, Weiner.’

‘Ah.’

‘There’s nothing damaging in the new emails, but it’s just more of the drip-drip. It could lose you a few points, enough for your defeat to be feasible.’

‘That James Comey just loves being in the news.’

‘I know. I held him off at the time, but I’ll tell him to go ahead now. You might want to start drafting your statement in response.’

‘Okay, if that’s what you think we need to do. Any you know what, I’ll have Trump get rid of Comey after the election anyway. He’ll be happy as long as he gets a book deal.’

‘Hillary, you’re a genius! I knew you’d take this to another level. So we’re agreed?’

‘Absolutely.’

‘Fantastic. I suppose I should say congratulations, Madam President.’

‘Thanks! There’s just one more thing I need to discuss. To be honest, Barack, I probably should have told you this at the start of this call.’

‘Go on. Whatever it is, I’m sure we can, uh, deal with it.’

‘Well, the thing is, I had this same conversation with Bernie Sanders after the Wisconsin primary, when it looked like he might win the nomination.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes. We agreed that he’d back off, make a couple of strategic mistakes, and then endorse me.’

‘And in return?’

‘Same as you suggested for Trump. I’d be president, do all the public stuff, but Bernie gets to run the government and pursue his agenda.’

‘Well, this is, uh, unexpected. Do you think we should tell him we are offering it to Trump instead?’

‘I think we’ll have to. He’ll put two and two together, and he could go public with it. I’ll have to stick to that deal. Everything you said about it being best for the country and the party is still true.’

‘So Bernie Sanders is effectively going to be president?’

‘Funny how things work out, isn’t it?’

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