I Could Have Been a Real Billionaire

It all started out innocently enough. We were ensconced in our usual hotel suite at the Carlyle for one of our regular Thursday afternoon meetings to engage in yet another mutually satisfying, invigorating and tension-relieving episode. As we were transitioning from the arousal stage to the state of tranquility which follows it, I lay back in our four-poster bed, lit up a cigarette and told her that we were really going to have to stop meeting like this.

“Must we?” Avery purred. “Why is it all right for you and that blackguard of a husband of mine to do it, but not me? Well, as evidence of my commitment to equal rights for women, I say what’s good for the gander is good for the goose”.

But I remained firm. “We can’t afford to be indiscreet now that I am the Republican nominee and you are the Democratic nominee for the presidency in 2016” I told her.

“But, don’t you love me, Deeejay? She pouted. “Deejay” Srump is the name I took after I Included a segment on my really great reality television program in which I spun 45 RPM records from my 1960’s collection. Fortunately, before I could respond to Avery Hill’s inquiry, the telephone rang, and it was that boob of a husband of hers, a former president himself, quizzing her on what she was planning to cook him for dinner that evening.

It’s true that she and I were destined to meet in this epic battle to decide which of us would lead the country at this critical point in its history. I, of course, with my successful business background, was initially confident that I was the better candidate, although the latest public opinion polls did suggested that I was in the minority in this belief.

Respondents to these polls placed my complete lack of government experience in the “needs improvement” column, while Avery was seen as the stable continuation of the socially liberal policies of the previous administration. In addition, she would be the first woman president, which was viewed as a positive attribute in the same way that the previous office holder’s being the first black president was seen as plus.

“I’ve waited patiently,” Avery used to tell me. “Now it’s my turn.”

I thought we were preparing to leave when Avery told me she wanted to discuss a business proposition with me. “Listen, Deejay”, she began, “I know you’re just running for president as a lark to expose the hypocrisy of the political establishment, and that presidential power runs a distant second to wealth in your personal preference function. In contrast, being elected president would be very fulfilling for my ego and would permit me to serve as a role model for other women. I’m way ahead in all the polls, so it looks like I’m going to win anyway, but just as a little extra insurance, how would you like my foundation to write you a check for an amount of money that would bring your account balance up to an even billion dollars? I remained calm. “What makes you think I’m not already a billionaire?” I asked her.

She burst out laughing. “Who told me you aren’t really a billionaire? “she retorted. “You did by how you conduct yourself. A real billionaire can afford to be a little magnanimous in how he interacts with the world. Instead, you’re always rabbiting on that you think others are taking advantage of your good nature and not paying their fair share. I’m sure you’re not starving, but a girl on a date with a billionaire shouldn’t have to go Dutch treat”.

It was true what she said, but I always assumed that if I bragged that I was a billionaire, voters would perceive me as immune to bribery and therefore more honest and trustworthy than other candidates. Still, I was intrigued by her observations asked her to tell me where she was going with all this, but she answered my question with one of her own.

“Who’s your favorite Fascist dictator, Deejay?” she queried.

This was actually a complex question. To respond accurately, I needed to rule out successful non-Fascist dictators like Stalin or Mao, so that only Hitler, Mussolini and Franco possessed the necessary credentials. Of these, I always believed that Hitler suffered from self-esteem issues, and Franco wasn’t sufficiently ruthless. Mussolini, on the other hand, exhibited a certain joie de vivre and a degree of swagger that announced to the world, “This is who I am. Deal with it.”

“Fine” she said. “Now, you throw the election to me by doing your best imitation of Mussolini during your campaign, and later, after I’m elected, I’ll transfer the money to your account”.

My immediate reaction was one of anger, but upon reflection, I realized I was just being swayed by my foolish pride. In fact, she was correct that I didn’t care about being president like she did, and I could use the extra cash, so I agreed. It was just the tremendous type of agreement to be expected from a terrific dealmaker like me. I offered to shake on it, but she demurred.   “We could indicate our assent another way,” she said.

****

You might wonder why Avery felt the need to go to such expensive lengths when the popular wisdom held that she had victory all but sewed up anyway. The answer lies in the realization that 2016 represented an atypical election. Normally, voters feel strongly that one candidate is good and the other is bad, so that casting one’s vote entails the straightforward decision to vote for the one they favor. But in this case, both candidates were generally viewed unfavorably, so the act of exercising one’s civic duty became a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils.   As a result, support for one of them was more often an expression of dislike of the alternative than a positive endorsement for the voter’s choice and is accompanied by lower than-normal voter turnout. In our case, Avery had routed classified emails on a private server, while I had engaged in questionable business practices. A case could be made that both of our actions bordered on criminal behavior, and both of us became quite adept at articulating alternative interpretations of the facts. Avery confided to me that my candidacy was the necessary condition for her victory.

Anyway, in keeping with our secret agreement, I began a series of actions that showcased my ability to bully her and be downright cruel to her in public, permitting her to come across as the nicer person. And when we met in a number of televised debates, I intentionally failed to do any preparation, so she would have an opportunity to appear more knowledgeable on the issues, as well as having a more presidential temperament. While my plan initially had the desired effect when I came across as a dunce and Avery appeared as a student who had just studied for a big exam, unfortunately, it came out later that one of her friends in the Democratic National Committee had given her the questions ahead of time. When this fact was publicized, it took some of the bloom off the rose of her performance.

One strategy I employed to make her appear to display better judgment than me was my public admiration for the president of Russia, the former head of the KGB who was publicly providing aid to the brutal and corrupt regime in Syria. Now, normally I would have expected this friendliness toward America’s archenemy to be toxic to my campaign, especially after the pundits speculated that my positive attitude was prompted by the possibility that he was in possession of incriminating evidence about me and was threatening to blackmail me with it. Unaccountably though, my core supporters were not phased by this admission and continued to prefer me. And, flattered by my kind words, the president of Russia began taking active steps by leaking false and unflattering information about Avery into American media outlets. Of course Avery was no stranger to this kind of underhanded misuse of the media, having used the same tactics against her challenger for the Democratic nomination, but it is just ironic that what started as a plan to make myself look bad should end up boosting my candidacy.

I then secretly released my special bombshell – the Hollywood Access tape, which depicted me bragging to a colleague about sexually assaulting women. Not only should this event have firmed up Avery’s support among that handful of women who weren’t already committed to her candidacy just because of her sex, but Republican men, not exactly paragons of support for women’s issues, were abandoning my candidacy in droves. Avery unquestionably had momentum on her side, but it turned out to be her high-water mark.

The director of the FBI had investigated her email missteps early in the campaign and there had been rumors of a possible indictment.   We were holding our breaths, but after a lengthy investigation, he had cleared her of any wrongdoing. Now, just a few days before the election, as Avery was busy making speeches on behalf of Democratic down-ballot candidates in an effort to run up the score on her coattails, the FBI director announced that some new emails had just come to his attention, and he needed a few days to review them to make sure there was nothing incriminating in these new ones. The timing of this new delay couldn’t have been worse, and although she was again exonerated just before Election Day, it came too late to prevent those voters on the fence from changing their allegiance.

In spite of these bumps in the road, though, on election eve, Avery still had strong leads in all the polls, and she spent that final day preparing her acceptance speech, and selecting the location for her anticipated celebration on election night. It was to be held in a building with a tall glass ceiling which she would symbolically shatter when her electoral vote total passed the magic number assuring an insurmountable victory. I myself had begun planning how I would absorb the huge increase in my wealth that I was about to earn. Accordingly, I was more surprised as anyone when the vote tallies began coming in, first in small states with insignificant numbers of electoral votes but then, at some point, it gradually became clear that something had gone horribly awry. All those states without many electoral votes had voted for me and those small numbers individually were adding up to a total that swamped my opponent. I won virtually every state outside the East and West Coasts–- the parts of the country I had labeled the “out of touch elites” during the campaign.

After the fact, the pundits claimed that my victory was not that surprising, given how unlikable Avery was. Why the Democrats hadn’t thought about this problem earlier was unclear, but the issue that still mystified the pundits was why all the polls had failed to accurately predict the outcome. I’ve thought about this puzzle myself, and I developed an explanatory theory: Avery was unquestionably viewed as the more respectable choice, but no one liked her. So, when the pollsters asked people who they planned to vote for, they were too embarrassed to name me, so they lied by naming her and then voted for me.

Winning the presidency was not something I had expected. My biggest disappointment, of course, was that Avery was no longer in a position to pay me that wad of cash, so I’m just glad I hadn’t incurred any debts in anticipation of that windfall. Of course, no one has to know I missed my chance to be a real billionaire. After all, if I wanted them to know that I’d have released my tax returns.

The other problem is that I’ve spent my life being scornful of politicians, so I’m completely unprepared for the responsibility of assuming the office of president. I was in my element when I was addressing my hardcore faithful supporters at a campaign rally where I could articulate my evaluation of some opponent’s flaws. I don’t know if that campaign-style rhetoric would be received very well if I’m supposed to be the president of all the people and responsible for uniting the country, including those who didn’t support me. Still, I was elected to this office by a sizable majority of the electoral vote.  And if anyone criticizes me, I’ll remind them of that fact.

 

 

 

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