Since Christmas, global warming has caused the Jet Stream to push the Polar Vortex south over the US East Coast, and the extremely cold, and definitely unseasonable weather has given climate change deniers here in Washington DC plenty of talking points to use on the ignorant and stupid, who, if the latest presidential popularity polls are any indication, constitute approximately thirty-five percent of the American population. I certainly have no problem believing that – Jesus said that we shall always have the poor among us, and I have often wondered why He didn’t also mention the ignorant and stupid, too. I doubt that the population of our special friend, Great Britain, nor the population of our long-time ally, France, nor the populations of other advanced, Western European industrial democracies, such as Germany, Italy, Ireland, Holland, Belgium and Spain can boast much better statistics on that particular issue, and I’m sure we’re better off with respect to it than say, Greece or Portugal, for example. Scandinavia, of course, well, that’s another story – practically nobody in those countries is poor, ignorant or stupid and, being extremely humane, they take very good care of the ones who are. And accordingly, the Scandinavians who believe global warming is a hoax number with those who think the Earth is flat and / or that Maria Schicklgruber made the right choice when she decided to have her bastard Alois baptized instead of leaving him, as rural Austrian tradition dictated, exposed in the forest for wolves to devour.
But the weather has had other impacts here in the capital of the Greatest Nation on Earth besides the expected crass political ones, to be sure. The homeless have been freezing to death on our streets with markedly increased incidence, for example, while water mains burst all over the place and school children develop frost bite attending classes in rooms with no heat. Furthermore, despite the warnings that it’s not really a good idea to do so, folks have been drinking substantially more to stave off the persistent, insidious cold, which steadily crept into their unseasoned bones, day after frigid and unforgiving day. Our blood is too thin down here, south of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the mighty Mississippi, accustomed, as we Washingtonians are, to the moderating effects of the great, brackish Chesapeake which stands so nearby – we’re not Canadians, for God’s sake, not staunch New Englanders, stoic New Yorkers or even reasonably tough Philadelphians, for that matter. When it gets this frigging cold, we need a nice strong drink to stay warm, okay? So it was no surprise that Murinae “Mooch” Finke, cub reporter for the Washington DC Bureau of Fox News, encountered me at the Round Robin Bar after work Friday night, and two sheets to the wind, at least – she’s from San Diego, after all, and they’re complete weather wimps down there, and she’s half Iranian, for that matter, and it never gets this cold in Tehran, which perches on the shores of the Caspian Sea, a body of water much larger and considerably more temperate than even the Chesapeake Bay.
“Tom Collins!” she declared in a well-oiled and slightly too-loud contralto as she approached me at the bar. “Mind if I take this seat?”
“Since you asked in a voice unaffected by both uptalk and vocal fry,” I replied, “by all means, do.”
“Thanks,” she shot back with a slight snicker as she slid into the bar stool next to me, “people who use those affectations get on my nerves, too.”
“People?” I chided. “You mean, you actually know a man over the age of sixteen with a professional job who uses either?”
“Okay, okay,” she conceded with an affable slap to my back. “You got me. Of course I don’t – I’ll admit it, sir, it’s a female thing.”
“And I understand the vocal fry, at least,” I admitted. “They’re trying to imitate the male voice register in order to be taken more seriously in a patriarchal society.”
“Yeah, generally speaking,” she confirmed, as she signaled the bartender without apparent effect, “that’s what they’re trying to do.”
“It’s ridiculous, of course,” I opined, “but at least the attempt makes some kind of half-baked sense. But tell me, Ms. Millennial, what makes young ladies such as yourself run around speaking in uptalk?”
“I don’t know?” she said, facetiously adopting uptalk, presumably just to jerk my chain, “It’s like, maybe, to present a disingenuous air of vulnerable femininity in order to throw male listeners off guard?”
“All right then,” I allowed, “in that case, what is a woman who employs both uptalk with a vocal fry trying to achieve?”
“Good question?” she continued with a sly smile, throwing in a vocal fry, “maybe to make sure she gets the required male attention to her needs, requirement and / or agenda? Bartender?”
“Yes, ma’am?” the bartender immediately responded.
“A Botanist Negroni with Lillet, up, stirred, and hold the orange peel?” she ordered, her combination of uptalk and vocal fry creating a perfect storm of irritation in my Generation X ears.
“Shizzle mah dizzle!” I exclaimed. “Whatever – you made your point! Now please, stop talking like that, or I’m finding another place to drink this glass of Laphroaig 21!”
“No problem,” she giggled, resuming her normal voice. “Actually, I agree with you – more or less. Uptalk and vocal fry have always struck me as signs of needy personalities. So anyway, can I get some advice from you? I’ve been told it’s worth its weight in gold.”
“If you can figure out what advice weighs,” I shrugged. “Normally, at this point, I’d invite you to make an appointment with Gretchen, my private secretary – who, by the way, is about your age. But since you’re just a young reporter at Fox News, I’ll give you whatever advice you want right here, right now, for free.”
At that, she managed to look pleased and puzzled at the same time – a charming combination, actually. “How did you know that?”
“Well,” I inquired with a grin, “how did you know who I am?”
“I was here last week with my boyfriend,” she related, “and he pointed me out to you.”
“Right,” I nodded, “and would it surprise you to learn that I happen to know your boyfriend?”
“No!” she shouted. “Really? I guess it’s true what they say – when you get down to it, Washington is just a small town.”
“More like a collection of small towns,” I observed, “joined by a network of meandering country roads that evolved from cow paths. But you and I both live in the same one of those small towns, and as a matter of fact, I had lunch with your boyfriend on Wednesday and asked him who you were, and he told me all about you. Good choice on your part, by the way – a somewhat older journalist at another major news organization. He should be good for your career development. But be that as it may, what questions do you have on your mind, Mooch?”
“Oh!” she blushed as the bartender carefully placed her drink before her on the bar. “He told you my nickname, too?”
“Sure did,” I confirmed. “Truth be told, guys enjoy gossip as much as women do. We’re just more reluctant to acknowledge the fact.”
“I admire your frankness,” she confided as she took a sip of her cocktail. “So, anyhow, the questions I have concern advice I’m hoping to get from you concerning this… professional dilemma I’ve found myself in.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Well,” she explained, “you know how Michael Wolff wrote this tell-all book, Fire and Fury, about what he allegedly saw and heard while hanging around the White House during the first – what is it – seven or eight months, I guess, of the Trump administration?”
“Yeah,” I chuckled, “who doesn’t? It confirms the worst fears of people like Tom Steyer who are convinced that Trump is impeachable solely on the grounds of his bizarre behavior and weird personality.”
“Well,” she sighed, “he’s certainly been delivering on that, even if he hasn’t gotten rid of Obama Care, made North Korea quit developing nuclear ICBMs or forced Mexico to pay for a three-thousand mile forty-foot solid concrete border wall. What I can’t understand is why he invited a tabloid troll like Michael Wolff to hang around the White House in the first place, much less order everybody there to answer his questions.”
“I guess you’d have to be Donald Trump to figure that one out,” I opined. “No problem believing what the book says, though.”
“No problem at all,” she agreed. “If the Secretary of State can call Trump a moron, it’s no surprise to hear that White House staff likened him to a spoiled child.”
“Of varying ages,” I added, “ranging from two to twelve, depending on the circumstances.”
“And those stories about White House staff classifying Trump incidents as ‘Twenty-Fifth Amendment material’ or not were pretty revealing, even if Wolff is a more or less a bottom-feeder.”
“The reports of Trump’s requirement for constant praise and adoration are also extremely telling,” I commented.
“Holy smokes, just thinking about it is painful,” she moaned, holding the sides of her head for emphasis, “the constant, unrelenting debasement those sycophants of his undergo, it’s astounding. What do they believe they’re going accomplish by doing that, anyway? Are they actually convinced that publicly humiliating themselves on a daily, even hourly basis is going to pay off big for them later on? Where, for crying out loud?”
“In a Trump family dynastic dictatorship, perhaps,” I speculated.
“Right,” she chuckled. “Anywhere else, of course, they’re going to be treated like lepers.”
“I think you owe lepers an apology for comparing them to Trump White House staff,” I razzed.
“Oh, sorry,” she conceded with a sharp laugh, “my bad – please pardon the insufficient political correctness; I work for Fox, after all. You know, with the Russia investigations, all the palace intrigue and backstabbing, and now this book, it sure seems like it’s all building up on him, starting to drive Trump off the rails. Look at how he’s been behaving this week! How else can you explain him announcing that he has probably has a really good relationship with Kim Jong-un? I mean, he’s been engaged in a public verbal mud wrestling match with the guy for months, and now they suddenly have a good relationship? And those remarks he made in a meeting with congressional leaders, about Haitians all having AIDS and African countries being a bunch of [expletive]-holes, hell, what’s up with that? I’m getting concerned, Tom – can I call you Tom?
“Sure,” I replied. “Can I call you Mooch?”
“Only if you pay for my drink,” she joked.
“Done,” I grinned, “Mooch.”
“Okay, then, Tom,” she continued leaning in closer and adopting a mildly conspiratorial tone, “even though I work for Fox, it’s still possible for me to get freaked out when the President of the United States manages to get denounced as a racist by everybody from the United Nations to the foreign minister of El Salvador.”
“And there’s bound to be even more,” I commented. “Half the countries in Asia are still struggling to come up with a translation of ‘[expletive]-hole’ that gets the idea across adequately. The Japanese managed to settle on a phrase that means ‘countries that are like dirty toilets.’ In Taiwan, they went with ‘countries where birds do not lay eggs,’ while in the PRC they decided on ‘countries that suck on sour teats,’ and the South Koreans interpreted it as phrase that means ‘beggars haunts,’ which I thought was very polite of them.”
“Makes sense,” she nodded. “They have the most to lose if they make Trump angry. But what I’m thinking is, Trump’s got his finger on the nuclear button and he’s been bragging how big it is lately. Suppose there’s a false alarm or something, and Trump sees it on Fox before somebody like John Kelly can get through to him?”
“Scary thought, that,” I agreed. “And it could happen tomorrow, for all we know.”
“Right,” she concurred. “Sane, intelligent people with stable mentalities don’t go around incessantly tweeting about how they’re a genius and definitely not a lunatic.”
“And combined with a cease-and-desist order straight out of the White House aimed at the publisher of Wolff’s book,” I observed, “it looks like Trump’s reaction to its content has turned it into a guaranteed best-seller. It’s uncanny, really, how Trump keeps shooting himself in the foot, constantly intensifying the pressure, creating new sources of stress, picking pointless fights, all of it building up in a vicious spiral.”
“Makes you wonder if he’s got some kind of self-destruction complex going on there,” she mused. “But anyway, Tom, last weekend, I saw a bunch of interviews with Carl Bernstein, who’s like, been my idol ever since I decided to become a reporter when I was like, nine years old. And he said, the best thing that could happen now is for some reporter from Fox to go to Capitol Hill and interview a bunch of Republican legislators about what they think of Trump’s mental and emotional state. And when I heard that, I thought, yeah, right, now that’s the kind of thing a genuine genius would think of. But then I thought, where in hell are the Fox News reporters with the guts to do something like that? I mean, I’d do it, but I’m afraid if I did, I’d get fired.”
“Only if you claim the byline,” I noted.
With that, she put down her custom Negroni and stared at me. “Tom – What are you getting at?”
“Who does your boyfriend work for?” I asked with a sly smile, even though I knew the answer.
“CNN,” she said. “But you already knew that, didn’t you?”
“Correct,” I confirmed. “I suppose a somewhat better question would be, ‘Have you thought about where your boyfriend works?’”
She paused for a long moment, her brow knit in a small tapestry of confusion, then spoke. “You’re suggesting that CNN would hire a junior reporter who used to work for Fox?”
“No,” I teased, “guess again.”
“Oh, oh,” she exclaimed with a mortified face palm. “That’s it – of course! You’re recommending that I interview Republican members of Congress about what they think of Trump because I’m from Fox and I can get access!”
“And then,” I prodded, waving my hand in a small circular motion to indicate there was more she should conclude.
“And then,” she declared as her eyes lit up in realization, “most of them are going to lie and say they think Trump is great, naturally, and I report that, and my editors at Fox will eat it up! And when I run across an honest Republican member of Congress…”
“Not an easy feat,” I interjected, “but, on the other hand, not completely removed from the realm of possibility, either.”
“Yeah, sure,” she smirked, “if I work like a dog, though, maybe I can find some. And when I do, I take what they say and give it to my boyfriend…”
“And he,” I continued, “calls them and asks for a general interview on some current issue…”
“And then,” she concluded, “one of the questions he asks pertains to their opinion of Trump, and the truth about Trump later appears in a news story on CNN.”
“As it usually does,” I affirmed.
“And my boyfriend gets the credit?” she pouted with a faux air of dismay.
“Yes,” I japed as I threw a worldly glance toward the ceiling, “but something tells me you will find an appropriate way for him to express his gratitude.”
Mooch looked at me, gave a wink and killed her drink in a single gulp. “You got that right?” she proclaimed in uptalk with a vocal fry.