Since eight hundred thousand federal employees and God knows how many federal contractors have either been subject to involuntary servitude or had nothing to do for the last month, it stands to reason that many of this Web log’s readers may wonder if the historic Border Wall Shutdown affected my business. After all, it certainly affected plenty of others – practically every enterprise in the Washington DC metropolitan area, from pizza parlors, car washes, nail salons, dry cleaners, supermarkets and department stores to call girls, wine bars, dog walkers, spas, five star restaurants and recreational drug dealers felt the bite of a decline in demand for their goods and services. But the fact is, during that epic game of Chicken between President Trump and the newly installed Democratic majority House of Representatives, with the Republican-dominated US Senate riding terrified in the shotgun seat of Trump’s jalopy, my consultation bookings increased so much Gretchen and I had to start working Saturdays, as we occasionally do when pressing issues of the day temporarily create a spike in the demand for my advice.
Last Friday afternoon, however, in the face of a continuing series of mounting unintended consequences, including the first inklings of an impending implosion of our commercial aviation industry, Trump swerved to avoid a catastrophic political collision, and both sides agreed to a brief truce. But it was close – so close, I’ve heard, that the Senate needed to change its underwear. Consequently, the United States of America will have a functioning federal government again for about three weeks, after which all bets are off and both sides, Republican and Democrat alike, will be free to resume behaving like two opposing factions of spoiled children contending for control of their kindergarten playground. More work for me, I suspect, is in the offing, as puzzled foreign diplomats and business leaders flock to my office seeking rational explanations and informed suggestions on how to take advantage of the latest manifestations of American ignorance, irascibility and idiocy. I humbly present this as evidence that it is most surely an ill wind indeed, as the sages have it, which blows no good for anyone, and further substantiation of the proposition that, in a democracy, the people, by definition, get exactly the government they deserve.
It is obvious, of course, to any but the most biased observer, that President Trump has emerged from this Herculean tussle in the Augean stables of self-interested partisan politics stinking quite a bit more than Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer. There is, nevertheless, more than enough blame, as well as stench, to go around, and the grunts and squeals issuing from the contestants during their respective exertions appear to have drawn the attention of quite a few parties interested in divesting themselves of their last iota of human dignity by joining the fray in 2020. Of this, we can be most certainly sure – there is no shortage of politicians who have convinced themselves that they either can, must or are morally bound for the sake of the Nation to unseat Donald John Trump from the presidency. Or, perhaps, run against and defeat Micheal Richard Pence in what will undoubtedly be his absurd and comic defense of the Trump legacy, should the Mueller Report reveal a sufficient number of outrages to justify impeachment. So it was no surprise that around five-thirty in the afternoon yesterday, Gretchen buzzed the intercom to inform me that there was an anonymous call from someone representing, as Gretchen so trenchantly put it, “one of those pathetic [expletive] who wants to run for president next time,” waiting for me to pick up. As I was less than three minutes from concluding my final consultation of the day, I decided to tell Gretchen to put the supplicant on hold for a moment and then connect them when my present client exited my office into the reception area.
Caller: Hello? Tom Collins?
Tom: This is he.
Caller: I… uh… I’ve been told you give advice?
Caller: And sometimes, you don’t charge for it?
Tom: My initial consultations are without charge, yes.
Caller: Oh, okay, well, I’ve never spoken with you before, so that means I qualify then?
Tom: You do. My private secretary tells me you represent a presidential campaign. Is that so?
Caller: Well, not exactly, more like an exploratory committee, actually. But I can talk to you for free, then?
Tom: Sure. Go right ahead.
Caller: Well, that’s a relief. I mean, from what I’ve heard, you charge more per hour than McKinsey or Steptoe and Johnson, or…
Tom: You get what you pay for, sir.
Caller: Oh, please, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply you’re not worth the money or anything, it’s just that at this point, I don’t think we could possibly afford…
Tom: No need to explain. I understand. My marketing approach is, if you find my advice from an initial free consultation useful, you will realize its genuine worth and be glad to pay my hourly fees for more of it when necessary in the future.
Caller: Such as when my boss gets elected president of the United States, for instance.
Tom: Yes, precisely. So how can I help your… employer… this afternoon?
Caller: Well, um, I don’t actually work for the candidate… uh, prospective candidate, that is. I’m just a supporter who would like to work on their campaign, if they decide to run.
Tom: Right – I get it. So what would you like to know?
Caller: What advice you would give to someone who wants to run for president in 2020.
Tom: That would depend on the specific circumstances.
Caller: Specific? Circumstances?
Tom: As in, for example, how much political experience does your friend have?
Caller: My friend?
Tom: Whatever – are we talking about somebody who has decided they can run the federal government by virtue of their business experience, for example? Or a community organizer with a large base of support consisting of disadvantaged members of our society? As you might well imagine, I definitely wouldn’t give the same advice to both of them.
Caller: Oh, okay, in that case, I can definitely say that my… um… prospective, possible candidate for the presidency whose campaign I would very much like to work on is a governor.
Tom: In the United States… correct?
Caller: That’s correct.
Caller: I’d… uh, well, I’d rather not go into that.
Tom: Democrat or Republican?
Caller: May I ask why you want to know?
Tom: Well, unless your prospective candidate is Ricardo Antonio Rosselló Nevares, it’s has to be one or the other.
Tom: Ricardo Antonio Rosselló Nevares is the governor of Puerto Rico.
Caller: Is Puerto Rico part of the U.S.?
Tom: Yes it is. Puerto Rico is part of the United States. It’s a commonwealth territory, like Guam.
Tom: Yes, Guam is also part of the United States and it has a governor, too. Her name is Lourdes Aflague Leon Guerrero.
Caller: Well, that’s nice to know, but my… um… prospective presidential candidate is not the governor of some place like Guam or Puerto Rico. They are the governor of a real U.S. state.
Tom: As opposed to an unreal one, like Louisiana?
Caller: What’s unreal about Louisiana?
Tom: Have you ever been there?
Caller: Can’t say.
Tom: Well, if you had ever been there and had also been anywhere else, you’d know what I mean.
Caller: I’m sure I don’t.
Tom: So I guess I can rule out John Bel Edwards, then.
Caller: Who’s he?
Tom: The governor of Louisiana.
Caller: I’d rather not confirm or deny that.
Tom: Right. So, back to my question – Democrat or Republican?
Caller: Um… all right – Democrat.
Tom: There – that wasn’t so hard, now was it?
Caller: I guess not.
Tom: It does matter, believe me. I wouldn’t be asking if it didn’t.
Caller: Okay, but why does it matter?
Tom: Well, if your prospective candidate were a Republican, I would ask why they think they could beat Donald Trump, the incumbent president, in a Republican primary when polls show that eighty-nine percent of registered Republicans think Trump is a genius, ninety-two percent agree with everything he says, and ninety-eight percent of them don’t care whether anything he’s done before or after assuming office is illegal, immoral or insane.
Caller: Oh, I see.
Tom: Right, because if your guy is a Republican, I’d want to know why he thinks he can convince a national constituency of yahoos, yokels, bozos, bohunks, rednecks, crackers and Bible thumpers that the man they all love, trust and worship doesn’t deserve four more years to represent their warped, selfish, ignorant, half-witted, narrow, atavistic, xenophobic, troglodytic, racist and bigoted values.
Caller: What does “troglodytic” mean?
Tom: Of, or pertaining to, a troglodyte and / or his or her habits and practices.
Caller: Is that like some kind of pervert or something?
Tom: No, with the exception of sexual predators, perverts are generally Democrats.
Caller: What? How can you say that? Are you implying that FDR or JFK were… perverts?
Tom: Not necessarily – I meant that, these days, in the Year of Our Lord 2019, members of the LGBTQIA community, all of whom the vast majority of contemporary Republicans would consider to be perverts to one degree or another, affiliate almost exclusively with the Democratic party. Although, since you brought him up, history has clearly demonstrated that JFK was what today would be classified as a sexual predator. Whereas, on the other hand, I’m sure FDR was nothing more than a garden variety adulterer, and even most of today’s Republicans don’t regard adultery as a perversion.
Caller: So you’re saying that if FDR was around now, he would be a Republican?
Tom: If FDR were around today, he’d be considering Bernie Sanders as a 2020 running mate.
Caller: Oh, okay. That kinda makes sense, actually.
Tom: So, if your guy is a Democrat, then…
Caller: I didn’t say it was a guy.
Tom: So it’s a lady?
Caller: I can’t say one way or the other.
Tom: But I did hear you right when you told me this person is a governor, didn’t I?
Tom: Because if I was mistaken about that, and we’re talking about, say, Senator Linsey Graham, then I’d think you were saying you can’t exactly determine your prospective candidate’s gender.
Caller: No, that’s no problem. I know what gender my prospective candidate is.
Caller: Linsey Graham is a man, right?
Tom: So Linsey Graham would have us believe. But you’re sure about which your guy or gal, as the case may be, is, correct?
Tom: But you don’t want to tell me which, because you think that gender should be irrelevant?
Caller: No, it is relevant, I know that, but I don’t think my prospective candidate would want me revealing too much about um… themself. Uh… is “themself” a word?
Tom: Not really. It would definitely be marked wrong in a paper submitted for an English course, but probably not in one submitted for Women’s and Gender Studies. Given what you are trying to express, let’s just say you’re evolving the language. Now – let me tell you frankly, I wouldn’t give a male Democratic governor and a female Democratic governor exactly the same advice, but if you want to continue in this milieu of ambiguity, we can, however, we should proceed with the proviso that I will only furnish the advice which I reasonably believe would apply to both.
Caller: Milieu? Proviso? Did you get a seven-ninety on your verbal SAT or something, because I’m having a hard time understanding you when you talk.
Tom: So – your prospective candidate is a progressive.
Caller: [Expletive]! That’s why you’re so [expletive] expensive! You’re a [expletive] psychic, aren’t you?
Tom: There are no such things as psychics.
Caller: Then how did you know…
Tom: I didn’t actually know that – I surmised it on the basis of available information.
Caller: Mighty lucky guess, then.
Tom: If you like. Anyway, a progressive governor running in a huge Democratic field is going to need to develop several key strategies. First, that person will have to figure out how to win the Democratic primary without alienating the fiscal moderates. Then, they will have to make sure that they have a strategy to promulgate an economic program that get labor votes while not losing support from the environmental faction. Next, they will need to craft a message on the income inequality issue that pleases the working poor, isn’t perceived as a threat by the financial sector, doesn’t raise anxieties with business owners and doesn’t appear to increase tax burdens on the middle class. In addition, they will need a strategy to avoid appearing soft on national defense while avoiding the appearance of kowtowing to the military-industrial complex. Furthermore, they will require an integrated strategy for health care that, if implemented, will put policies in place that…
Caller: Slow down, I’m writing as fast as I can!
Tom: Oh, sorry. Where were you?
Caller: … craft a message on income inequality…
Tom: Right. Okay. Craft a message on the income inequality issue that pleases the working poor, isn’t perceived as a threat by the financial sector, doesn’t raise anxieties with business owners and doesn’t appear to increase tax burdens on the middle class. In addition, they will need a strategy to avoid appearing soft on national defense while avoiding the appearance of kowtowing to the military-industrial complex. Furthermore, they will require an integrated strategy for health care that, if implemented, will put policies in place that equal or exceed comprehensive single-payer in-patient, out-patient, pharmaceutical, hospital, extended care and medical device performance, while…
Caller: Oh, Jesus, I don’t think I’ll ever get all of this. Is there more?
Tom: If they’re serious about governing the United States of America in an effective manner, yes, quite a bit.
Caller: What if they just want to be president, for [expletive] sake?
Tom: You mean, just get elected?
Caller: Right. Get elected president.
Tom: You mean, make progressive-sounding promises that appeal to disaffected millennials who got screwed by the Great Recession, rekindle hope in the hearts of marginalized minorities who are frightened by the resurgence of repressive and regressive social policies, offer stability to the middle class combined with continued, concerned societal support for the aged and expanded roles, respect and opportunities for women across the economic spectrum – that sort of thing?
Caller: Yeah, like that. Stuff to get elected.
Tom: Well, then, did you write down what I just said?
Caller: Oh, [expletive]! Would you mind terribly if you could just…
Tom: No, no, not at all… make progressive-sounding promises that appeal to disaffected millennials who got screwed by the Great Recession, rekindle hope in the hearts of marginalized minorities who are frightened by the resurgence of repressive and regressive social policies, offer stability to the middle class combined with continued, concerned societal support for the aged and expanded roles, respect and opportunities for women across the economic spectrum.
Caller: across… the… economic… spectrum. Okay! Great stuff! What else should the progressive governor candidate for president do?
Tom: Come up with an effective way to deal with Donald Trump’s insults.
Caller: Right. Okay.
Tom: Develop an adroit method to expose Donald Trump’s constant lying to an appropriate amount of public ridicule.
Caller: Sure, makes perfect sense.
Tom: Carefully orchestrate a public information campaign to highlight every nasty thing the Mueller investigation and House committee hearings uncover about Donald Trump and Mike Pence between now and November, 2020.
Caller: Gotcha. Roger that.
Tom: I don’t have to tell you to recommend that your candidate constantly remind the public of their extensive executive experience as a governor and to assiduously contrast that with Trump’s proven, demonstrated style of running the federal government like an abominable cross between a demented, inbred nineteenth-century family business and a continuing New York organized criminal enterprise, do I?
Caller: Nope, nope, thanks to our conversation here, I figured that one out, at least.
Tom: Good. And tell your prospective progressive governor candidate to try not to come off as some kind of Commie wacko, because that’s exactly what Trump will call them, and if Trump can get the independent voter bloc to believe that, the Democrats are going to lose the general election to him again.
Caller: Good, good. Got that, too. What else?
Tom: Under no circumstances should your prospective presidential candidate get caught in bed with a dead woman or a live boy.
Caller: Jesus [expletive] Christ, I should hope not!
Tom: Note that advice applies equally well to prospective presidential candidates of either gender.
Caller: All right, then, thanks a lot, I guess. And I promise, Mr. Collins, if my prospective candidate governor becomes the next Democratic president of the United States, you will get at least one ninety-minute consultation appointment out of it, astronomical hourly rates or not!
Caller: And thank you.
Tom: You are quite welcome.
Tom: And good luck.