Apr 142013

Last night, Cerise and I went dancing at the Spanish Ballroom, which is located in Glen Echo Park, Maryland.  Glen Echo Park is the only US National Park dedicated to the arts, and yes, they have a couple of genuine Department of Interior park rangers there, too – with those green park ranger uniforms and Yogi Bear park ranger hats and all.  Both of them, by the way, are incredibly good dancers.  The band was a pared-down eight-piece version of Doc Scantlin’s Imperial Palms Orchestra, but quite formidable nonetheless.  The only drawback to Glen Echo as a dance venue is that, being part of the National Park system, there’s no place on the premises to obtain the classic cocktails that would naturally go so well with Doc’s authentic 1920’s to 1940’s vintage swing music.  Fortunately, there’s the Irish Inn at Glen Echo, a private establishment just a short walk from the ballroom, and their bar is excellent.  So between sets we strolled over to enjoy a suitable libation, only to encounter Griffin, a veteran FBI agent of my acquaintance, drinking a black and tan, alone and looking thoroughly miserable.
“Why so glum?” I inquired as we joined him, Cerise with a sidecar and I with a rum runner – both up, of course.  “Did the bad guy get away this time?”
“No,” Griffin replied with a sardonic smile, “I always nail them, Tom, you know that for sure.  It’s just that with a record like mine, you’d kind of expect better treatment.”
“So how’s the Bureau mistreating you?” Cerise inquired with an air of sensitive feminine concern.
“Well,” he sighed, “I’ve got eighteen years with a spotless service record, and hundreds of successful investigations, apprehensions and convictions to boot, right?  And what did I get assigned Friday morning?  I’ll tell you what – I got assigned the Progress Kentucky investigation!”
“Oh, my God,” I commiserated, “that is terrible; and, what’s more, an awful insult.”
“He’s been ordered to investigate… what?  Um… who?” Cerise responded, clearly nonplussed.
“Progress Kentucky is a Democrat Super PAC,” I explained.
“You mean,” she extrapolated, “a staff of seasoned, cynical  professionals backed by group of rich, powerful people, seeking to influence the political process?”
“More like The Three Stooges,” Griffin interjected, “trying to bring down the Senate Minority Leader with the annual proceeds of a paper route.”
“Mitch McConnell?” Cerise gasped.  “You’ve been assigned to investigate a Super PAC that opposes Mitch McConnell?”
“Yeah,” Griffin nodded, downing another gulp of his drink, “him.”
“How much money,” she asked, “did this Super PAC raise?”
“About a thousand dollars,” I answered.
“A thousand dollars?” Cerise repeated, flabbergasted.  “A thousand dollars?  Did I hear that right – a thousand dollars?  You’re telling me there’s this Super PAC called ‘Progress Kentucky’ that has raised a grand total of a thousand dollars?”
“He is,” Griffin confirmed. 
“And how many people are in this Super PAC?” Cerise sought to ascertain.
“Three,” Griffin vouched. “When I said ‘three stooges,’ that’s exactly what I meant – literally.”
“But Mitch McConnell is the meanest, nastiest, cruelest, most heartless conservative Republican monster alive,” she exclaimed, “except for John Boehner, of course!  How could anybody be stupid enough think they could seriously affect the incumbency of Mitch McConnell with three people and a thousand bucks?”
“That’s one of the things,” Griffin grumbled, “I suppose I’ll be expected to find out.  What we do know now, though, is that Progress Kentucky turned an audio recording of McConnell and his staff discussing Ashley Judd over to Mother Jones.”
“Ashley Judd?” Cerise repeated, as if to assure she had heard Griffin correctly, “Mother Jones?  The Socialist magazine?”
“I think the editors of Mother Jones would prefer to be described as ‘Progressive,’ but yes,” I affirmed, “as strangely as it might resound in the ears of the sane, (a) Ashley Judd, the minor-league Hollywood actress and daughter of Naomi Judd, the country and western singer, did actually, and in fact, express an interest in running for United States Senate from the State of Kentucky; and, (b) Mitch McConnell, senior US senator from Kentucky, whose seat will be up for re-election in 2014, did actually, and in fact, take her seriously.”
“How seriously?” Cerise pressed.
“Seriously enough,” I continued, “to hold a staff meeting last February in which Ms. Judd’s various foibles and vulnerabilities were discussed at length, with the object of formulating a strategy to defeat her in that election.”
“Foibles?” Cerise wondered aloud.  “Vulnerabilities?  Like what?”
“As far as McConnell’s crew was concerned,” I related, “there was an embarrassment of riches.  One of his aides described Judd as ‘a haystack of needles’ – far left, California Hollywood liberal, anti-coal, anti-gun, pro-tax, pro-abortion, and a big Obama supporter.  They said she views traditional Christianity as a ‘vestige of patriarchy’ that ‘gives a God like a man, presented and discussed exclusively with male imagery which legitimizes and seals male power, with the intention to dominate even if that intention is nowhere visible.’  Then they went after her psychological stability, saying that it’s known that she had a mental meltdown, then went to a loony bin for over forty days in the 1990’s and how her autobiography, All that is Bitter and Sweet, openly discusses her suicidal tendencies…”
“Which were clearly demonstrated,” Griffin noted, “if you ask me, by her saying she wanted to knock Mitch McConnell off his perch.”
“A good case,” I conceded, “could be made for that line of reasoning.  Then they went on to explore her other… um… eccentricities by playing a tape of Judd speaking about her religious views – she says, ‘I enjoy native faith practices and have a very nature-based God concept,’ – and her… ah… experience of… let’s say, ‘culture shock’ when returning to the United States, something she calls ‘the American anesthesia.’  On the tape, she said, ‘I freak out in airports.  The colors, the sounds, all those different ways of packaging the same snack but trying to, you know, make it look like it’s distinct and different and convince consumers that they have to have it. I mean all of that.’  Then she goes on to confess that she once nearly lost control and went over the edge in such a situation when confronted with a rack of fuzzy pink socks.  The McConnell coven jumped all over that one – somebody on the recording says, ‘So pink fuzzy socks are of concern.’  Furthermore, on the recording of the meeting, McConnell said, ‘this is the Whac-a-Mole period of the campaign.  When anybody sticks their head up, do them out.’”
“And it was these… three stooges,” Cerise inquired, “who made an audio recording of McConnell and his cronies listening to an audio recording of Ashley Judd babbling her Hollywood California liberal lunacies and plotting to use her intrinsic nuttiness against her if she ever dared try to run for McConnell’s seat in the United States Senate?”
“Precisely,” I confirmed.
“So what’s the beef?” Cerise wondered.  “These days, there are sophisticated audiovisual recording devices with worldwide network telecommunications capability everywhere you look – they’re called smart phones!  Didn’t the bartender make a secret recording of Mitt Romney telling a dinner party full of his fat-cat, big-money backers that forty-seven percent of Americans are useless parasites?  And didn’t nearly everybody on the entire planet eventually get to see him say that?  If people like Romney and McConnell want to spout vile, evil, reprehensible stuff they wouldn’t want repeated in the media to their buddies, well, let them go ahead and take their chances shooting their mouths off, right?”
“On the face of it,” I agreed, “you’d think so.  But Senator McConnell had a different interpretation of the circumstances.  He went on television and complained bitterly of ‘Nixonian’ tactics.”
“Nixon was a Republican!” Cerise objected.
“Senator McConnell,” Griffin observed, “isn’t known for his sense of irony.”
“Or his ability to perceive absurdity, either,” I added.  “McConnell denounced the three stooges from Progress Kentucky as criminals.  He claimed his privacy had been invaded, and, furthermore, that the laws of Kentucky and the laws of the United States had been callously violated, and demanded…” 
“Drum roll!” Griffin proclaimed as he lifted his beer glass.
“An FBI investigation!” I concluded with exaggerated drama as Griffin morosely pointed his thumb at his chest.
“And here’s the lucky S.O.B. who gets to conduct it!”
“Not to be outdone, of course,” I appended, “the left struck back by having one of their stalking horses, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, demand that the Senate Ethics Committee and… the FBI… investigate whether McConnell and his accomplices were having that allegedly illegally-recorded discussion of strategies to discredit, defeat and / or destroy Ashley Judd on government time.”
“The agent in the office across the hall from me,” Griffin remarked, “is doing that one!”
“Meanwhile,” I concluded, “Stooge Number One, the treasurer of Progress Kentucky – and staunch guardian of that vast one thousand dollar fortune – has resigned and renounced all illegal actions that the other two stooges may have committed, if any, including taking advantage of a Republican media open house at McConnell’s new campaign offices to creep into the corridor outside the meeting room where McConnell and his fellow conspirators were plotting the assassination of Ashley Judd’s character and making an unauthorized audio recording of them talking about it.”
“Well?” Cerise prodded with a meaningful look at Griffin.  “Did Stooges Two and Three commit a crime?”
“I can’t provide comments,” Griffin sighed, “with respect to an ongoing investigation, but obviously, that’s the first thing that has to be determined.”
“Okay,” Cerise shrugged, “point taken.  But from what Tom just described, it’s not like Stooges Two and Three snuck in and planted a bug in McConnell’s office, is it?  McConnell’s organization threw an open house, the two stooges went there and wandered around and apparently they overheard something… interesting.  So they decided to record it.  I mean, did the FBI investigate that right-wing activist who went around with a hidden camera, intentionally deceiving people, pretending to be a pimp and so forth, making covert videos of ACORN employees and whatnot?  I don’t recall him getting arrested for any of that.”
“No,” Griffin confirmed, “he wasn’t.”
“And okay,” Cerise conceded, “maybe these Progress Kentucky guys aren’t exactly the sharpest tools in the shed, but how stupid did McConnell have to be, holding a meeting with such potentially explosive content during an open house?  Or even on the same day?  Or even in the same building on the same day?  With what – the door open?”
“Yeah,” Griffin admitted with another deep quaff of black and tan, “at the risk of providing comments concerning an ongoing investigation, it sure sounds like either McConnell’s dumber than the two stooges from Progress Kentucky, or he’s at least as crazy as Ashley Judd.”
“Or,” Cerise emphatically declared, “he knew full well what he was doing, and…”
“All I can say about that is,” Griffin barked, slamming his empty beer glass down vehemently, “if I find out McConnell or one of his people set this thing up, there’s going to be hell to pay!”
“Um… the next set over at the Spanish Ballroom is about to start soon,” Cerise mentioned.  “Care to join us?”
“Nah,” he growled.  “FBI agents don’t dance.”
“Can I buy you another black and tan on our way out then?” I suggested.
“Make it a scotch,” Griffin requested.
“It’s an Irish bar,” I reminded him.
“Oh, yeah,” he acknowledged, “so it is.  Make that Bushmills on the rocks, then.”