Edge of Apocalypse: pages 195-199 (Chapter Thirty-Four)
We now move to Washington, DC. One thing that’s curious is how every now and then LaHaye and Parshall touch on a very real problem and manage to bring it forth, only to then use it to justify their bizarro-world version of how things go in the USA.
The congressional staffers were working late again. That was one of the things that came with the territory. Low pay and long, grueling hours–at least while Congress was in session. But there was always the hope that soon they could move up the political ladder. Perhaps a job as chief legal counsel on one of the influential committees some day. Or maybe the possibility of moving into the private sector, with a six-figure job in a D.C. law firm or lobbying shop.
As you can see, the ‘revolving door’ problem that has been particularly endemic in government since the Republicans got both houses of Congress back in 1994 is touched on here. However, we quickly zoom in on one staffer, in particular.
A young female legislative assistant, who was part of the political night crew, ripped an urgent note off the top of the message pad in the lobby of Senator Wendell Straworth’s office. In her panic she tore the corner of the note.
The LA took a deep breath and then knocked twice on the door, still gripping the taped note in her hand.
The door was opened by Senator Straworth’s chief of staff. The LA thrust the note into the COS’s hand. In the background she glimpsed Straworth and Beyers sitting across from each other in leather chairs.
It turns out to be a lovenote, of sorts, from Vice President Tulrude. She’s apparently demanding some action on something or other, likely the CReDO (which I still think is the stupidest name anyone ever came up with for a currency; if you want some back story on that, check back to my entry “The Greenback Finally Quits”) implementation schedule.
“We asked for a call directly with the president,” Beyers mumbled to himself. “Why are they cloistering him like this? What’s going on? Does he have cancer or something? Has he suffered a nervous break-down? I get the feeling that Tulrude is now running the Oval Office.”
Straworth just shook his head but suggested they make the call. They had no choice.
When the vice president was finally on the line, they put her on the speaker phone. She was typically blunt. “Are we going to get the vote on this new monetary currency or not?”
What’s interesting is that the President’s medical condition, whatever it may be, is not without speculation and gossip. What also makes me marvel, again, is how this bizarro-world White House is like a sort of mirror image of the Bush-Cheney White House, about which many have speculated that the Vice-President actually made many decisions regarding the Administration’s policies.
This Beyers guy is the Majority Leader in the Senate, probably for the Democrats given that he’s been meeting with Straworth, who’s a Committee chairman. Anyway, standard legislative skullduggery commences:
“What’s your plan to deal with public opinion?” Tulrude shot back.
“Well, the CReDO issue is buried in a huge omnibus spending bill. The thing’s as thick as the New York phone book. Frankly, most of the senators haven’t read the whole bill. I doubt if the press will. But our people in the Senate generally understand that this is a must do because of the dollar being devastated in the currency exchanges.”
“Have you counted noses?”
Beyers tensed his jaw a little but forced a smile as he spoke. “Of course we’ve counted votes. It shouldn’t be a problem. We’ve got a solid majority.”
This reminds me of some massive pork-barrel spending that got rammed through Congress when everybody and their dog was busy drooling over the farce that was the Ken Starr*/Monica Lewinsky/Clinton impeachment thing. High political drama distracting the taxpayers while the legislators took advantage of President Clinton’s precarious position.
Here, it’s a little different, but the basic idea is the same: hide the thing you don’t want people to see inside something nobody would pay any attention to unless they knew where to look.
Beyers, politician that he is, demands a little quid pro quo for lining up the Senate behind the Administration (and I’m assuming the House already passed the necessary enabling legislation, so the House Majority Leader isn’t needed):
[Beyers said,] “(…) the administration will back me on the three bills I described in my message to the president the other day.”
Jessica Tulrude cleared her throat and said, “Russ, you know I’m as good as my word.”
That’s all that Russell Beyers needed to hear. He said his good-byes to Tulrude and strode out of the office to a caucus meeting while Straworth quickly offered his apologies and said he couldn’t attend.
Incidentally, the chief of staff person who’s been hanging around only just gets sent out now. Hopefully the unnamed chief of staff won’t be a security leak about that CReDO implementation thing. At this point, Straworth starts getting real confidential with the VP:
Straworth took the call off speaker and began talking on the tiny voice-activated phonecell clipped to his lapel.
“So, as you can see,” Straworth tried to explain to the vice president, “I’ve kept my part of the bargain. I’ve got the majority leader and the Senate behind the currency conversion.”
Hey, why isn’t it an Allfone, huh, Parshall, huh?
Oh, right, Straworth’s an evil Democrat. No Allfone for you!
Anyway, the Senator and the VP get down to brass tacks about the RTS-RGS system, and how they’re gonna make that rascally Josh Jordan cough up ALL THE THINGS.
“Yes, I know, the RTS business. But I just want you to know that this morning I secured the approval of the sub-committee to authorize subpoenas to be served on Joshua Jordan. He will have no choice now but to appear and produce his RTS documents–or risk going to jail. And if he thinks he can weather a jail sentence, he will be sadly mistaken. It will take his professional career and his business reputation and reduce them both to an oil stain on the sidewalk. Checkmate. So, Madam Vice President, I’ve done everything I’ve promised.”
Indeed you have, Senator. So just what’s your price, big guy? *reads ahead* Oh-ho, he wants Supreme Court Justice. Rumor has it another judge is going to retire right around the next election. The only question is, will President Corland nominate the Senator?
Turns out our Veep is very ambitious, oh yes.
“And has the President definitely agreed to step away after only one term and give you his full support during the primaries? That rarely ever happens…”
“We’ve never had a president in this situation before,” Tulrude snapped back. “Just remember, I’m in control over here…”
“I wouldn’t think of questioning that,” Straworth said. His voice was dripping with apology.
You know, Parshall, I’m going to find out where you keep your keyboard and I WILL BAN ALL THE ELLIPSES FROM IT.
There’s a lot packed into the end of this chapter, and it really is worth looking at in a little more detail.
First, the “ball-busting you-know-what” trope as attributed to Tulrude is being made use of to push the buttons of the largely conservative RTC audience LaHaye and Parshall are aiming this book at. Only Democrats, they sneer, are too lily-livered to properly run a country, and that includes letting those feminists run things. Gender stereotyping, get your overdose of it right here, people – only $24.99 US!
Second, the fact that the Vice President seems to know something very ominous about the President’s condition, or perhaps a major skeleton in his closet, and is planning to maneuver him out of the way to get the top slot next election, is a fascinating bit of foreshadowing. Given that in a political crisis of this magnitude – ongoing high inflation and unemployment, a sudden currency crisis, still processing the aftermath of a seeming miracle (the non-nuking of New York) – the last thing the government of the day needs to be mired in is a condition of unclear lines of authority and lack of decisiveness in the leaders in question.
What the book seems to be setting up for is the possibility that Tulrude’s ambition and Corland’s precarious situation could create more problems than the government is adequately prepared to deal with. On the other hand, unscrupulous plotters have catapulted themselves into tight-fisted near-dictator status by being willing to topple the old guard in a crisis situation.
We’ll see how things break out in future chapters, I assume.
Meanwhle, let’s wrap things up with the subpoena of DOOM.
BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE SENATE OF THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
TO: MR. JOSHUA JORDAN
YOU ARE HEREBY COMMANDED TO APPEAR BEFORE THE BELOWNAMED COMMITTEE OF THE U.S. SENATE, AT THE TIME AND PLACE BELOW DESIGNATED, AND THEN AND THERE TO PRODUCE ALL DOCUMENTS, RECORDS, AND PAPERS RELATING TO THE DESIGN, CONCEPTION, ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS, PRODUCTION, AND OPERATING PRINCIPLES OF THE WEAPONS SYSTEM COMMONLY KNOWN AS “RETURN-TO-SENDER” (RTS), INCLUDING THE USE OF LASERS TO REVERSE THE DIRECTION OR TRAJECTORY OF OFFENSIVE MISSILES.
FAIL NOT OR YOU WILL FACE THE FULL PENALTY OF LAW.
Ominous subpoena is ominous! Wonder how Josh will react. See you all next time. 🙂
* I still think he missed his calling as a schlocky porn novel writer.