Edge of Apocalypse: pages 219-224 (Chapter Thirty-Eight)
We catch up with the Vice-President as she meets other people at an international gathering of leaders. I tried to come up with a good theme title for this blog entry, because in some senses, the US President is the closest thing to an “elected king/queen” that Americans have. One simple trait of this is that portraits of the President typically go up in offices where in Canada, the portrait would be of the Queen of England.
Another example of this is the way US presidents have waxed and waned over the years about the limits of the “Unitary Executive” – i.e. an Executive Branch which is not just coequal with the Legislative and the Judicial, but takes on some of the nature of the legislative in broadly interpreting how laws are to be enforced and being able to influence the impact of laws by being able to hire and fire who shall enforce them. In effect, a Unitary-Executive President would take on some of the nature of a sovereign.
Since Jessica Tulrude’s activities take on some of the flavor of a “palace coup”, and because she’s meeting with a person named Caesar Demas, the title rather suggested itself.
Vice President Jessica Tulrude’s feet were killing her. She wished she hadn’t worn heels, particularly for the tour down the ancient Roman stone streets of Pompeii. She pretended to listen intently to the tour guide and worked equally hard to keep her smile in place for the small contingent of international photo press.
Tulrude was part of a small entourage that included several officials from the European Union and the deputy assistant to the president of the EU. Tulrude had come to Italy for a joint conference between the EU and the United States on matters of common interest, including global finance.
We go on to find out she’s managed to cut out SecState Danburg from this shindig, which means she gets her picture in the news and raises her profile for her eventual run at the Presidency. Skullduggery is, as we know, her middle name. However, a side purpose of this trip of hers is to meet the aforementioned Mr. Demas, who says,
“I have been meaning to connect with you anyway. Tell you how sad I was that I couldn’t work with the White House as an unofficial envoy to negotiate an arrangement for sharing the RTS weapons technology with other nations…”
Jessica also expresses regret. They quickly switch to discussing her “political future” when PHONE PORN.
Before Tulrude could respond, she spotted her chief of staff, Lana Orvilla, and a secret service agent walking at a fast clip toward her.
Orvilla handed her an encrypted satellite Allfone.
“Sorry, Madam Vice President,” she said, “but we have an urgent call from the Department of Justice. Attorney General Hamburg needs to speak to you.”
Holy geez, it’s not just an Allfone; it’s a super-duper gee-whiz encrypted satellite communicable Allfone! Parshall must have listened to Jenkins one time too many, because the detailed descriptions of the fancy techno-gadgetry in particular and more generally, the material possessions that people have are similar.
They’re also very illuminating in terms of the dichotomy between the faith Tim LaHaye professes and the words in the Bible he holds up as its truth. Recall that in Matthew 19:21, Jesus Christ is said to have told his followers: ‘ Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”‘
Now while that may not be literally possible for all of us, the basic point of that is that the acquisition of material trappings to the exclusion of doing good things in the name of God is not the way to do things – not, if one believes that chapter and verse, the way to serve God by helping people on Earth. I was reminded of Fred Clark’s entry in which a person who commented discussed how a girl loudly lectured another girl on the bus in a very hectoring and insulting way, believing that this would induce the lectur-ee to rise up and follow Jesus Christ.
Such is the thinking induced by the notion that “faith/salvation by grace” is the only way to find Christ, and not “faith/salvation by works”.
Anyone with a heart and a conscience would lend a hand to someone who needs help instead of pontificating that the one who needs help must pass a specific test of faith, and I think even the “by grace” people would never stoop to such a thing. Yet they do the metaphorical equivalent when, instead of being concerned about the state of society’s lack of willingness to help the poor, or the powerless, they become more concerned with showing that wealth and riches constitute the rightness of religious faith – and thus is born the likes of Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, and other personalities who have become very wealthy through their ability to translate good speaking skills and facility with a Bible into television appearances and the subsequent response to pleas for money.
To tie this back to the chapter at hand, it’s interesting that both sides of the conflict (which we must remind ourselves is largely artificially created for authorial reasons and would not arise organically) have access to considerable luxuries not normally available to the average person. Now, one expects that the President and Vice-President would have access to such things, but consider Josh Jordan and the amazing extent to which he cloisters himself off from the world around him when he chooses.
So, what does the Attorney-General want? (and why isn’t he talking to the President?)
“Madam Vice President,” Attorney General Cory Hamburg started out. “Sorry to break into your travels, but we have an important security issue that we need to verify. Both the FBI and our own terrorism people here at the Department of Justice need to double-check on something.”
“Well, Zimler has been high on our terror list for a number of years. But Homeland Security has asked us to stand down temporarily on any domestic investigations concerning Zimler. When we questioned them about it, they said we should talk to your office.”
Turns out he needs to get a confirm on Zimler. Jessica’s been told that there’s a diplomat by the same name, and there’s been real-world issues of Homeland Security being overly zealous about their no-fly and watch lists.
“(…) There was some unnamed diplomat who thinks he may be at risk, you know, to be mistaken for Atta Zimler. This diplomat is supposedly coming to the United States, and Homeland Security is concerned about international embarrassment if he is wrongly taken into custody. Truthfully, I’m a little uneasy about this one. We have no name for the diplomat. Frankly don’t even know whether he exists…”
You’d think that’d raise a dozen red flags right there, but authorial fiat to the rescue! The Veep continues to be authorially obtuse about this.
“They also told us that Zimler was taken into custody in Europe…maybe Paris. If Zimler is in custody, okay, fine, no problem…but we can’t get verification of that. Nothing through the normal channels…zero information from the Paris police…nothing from INTERPOL–“
Tulrude’s reply was curt. “What do you want from me, General Hamburg? Spell it out.”
“While you are there in Italy, if you could talk to the EU folks, have their contacts in France put a rush on this intelligence issue. Confirm that Zimler has been caught. We need this information ASAP. Obviously, in the interim we will pull back on any investigation here in the U.S. regarding persons that might be mistaken for this Atta Zimler–“
One thing that I find very interesting is the use of “General” for the Atty-Gen. In the 1970s, G. Gordon Liddy was fond of calling the then-Attorney General Mitchell (and later Kleindienst) “General” and used the hard Germanic G on that word. John Ashcroft has also sometimes been dubbed “General Ashcroft”.
I don’t know to what extent Democratic administrations use that shorthand, but it’s telling, to me, that my exposure to the term has been through Republican usage. This is a pretty nice example, in my view, of how LaHaye and Parshall are creating this bizarro universe version of our world, and using Republican tropes and terminology while ascribing such to the Democrats because they don’t know any better. You can also see the mythology of the “Dems are soft on terrorism” motif being played out here.
We find out, sure as shootin’, that Demas is behind this fudging of the origins of Atta Zimler’s presence in the United States.
“You’ll never guess, Caesar, who that phone call was from.”
Before Demas could respond, Tulrude plunged ahead. “It was the attorney general,” she said. “Calling about this Atta Zimler matter. Now I’ve gone out on a limb for you. We’re delaying any domestic investigation into Zimler for the time being. Just like you asked. So you can tell your diplomatic friend…whoever he is…that he doesn’t have to be worried about being harassed inside the U.S. by mistake. But I need you to ask your contacts inside the Paris intelligence office to verify with the DOJ that they’ve actually got this Zimler in custody, as you told me they did. I mean, really, Caesar, I am taking a serious risk here for you. Just think of the damage to me if you’re wrong, and this Zimler actually ends up inside America somehow…”
Demas makes all the right noises and reassures the Veep that things are copacetic.
That said, I’ve gotta stop here and remark on how freakin’ flimsy this all really is. Wouldn’t the Veep want to cover all her bases and keep the investigation going on the side just in case Demas was trying to backstab her? She’s willing to effectively oust President Corland from the ticket and get her name on it in his place, and that involves some serious maneuvering he’s not aware of. Why would she assume everyone else around her is any less capable of undercutting her?
(We can now deduce why Zadernack was trying to call off Gallagher, though. The Atty-Gen’s office must have passed the word on down.)
I’ve remarked before on how certain fan fiction weaknesses get reproduced in printed fiction, and this is one such example. By purposely contorting the story a certain way, an author can make characters act according to an overall pattern he or she would like them to, even if it means sacrificing some verisimilitude in the process. It’s not so different, in principle, from trying to write Ron Weasley becoming a Death Eater with the entire weight of canon leaning against that (his friendship with Harry, his comfort with Hermione, his family’s beliefs – all these would militate against such a thing happening).
Demas, however, has ten million really good reasons to keep the Veep from looking too closely at what other dealings he might have going on:
“My foundation has deposited ten million euros in an offshore account for your election campaign. It will then be dispersed through a variety of American organizations and charities into your campaign. Very clean. We will deposit another twenty million–assuming you can pass the primaries in good shape.”
Jessica Tulrude’s not worried about the primaries. Notice that this trope of foreign donations is a callback to when Republicans tried trashing Clinton over accepting donations from (SHOCK) people sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom! And some of them might have even been Chinese.
The way in which this book keeps invoking themes involving Republican mythology over Democratic venality, corruption and incompetence is in a way, a marvel. It’s all the traits known to be common to Republicans projected onto Democrats, as though LaHaye and Parshall truly believed that what passes for acceptable behavior in their preferred political party must also be so for the opposing one.
Parshall gets in some last-minute toilet humor in this part:
“Caesar, what kind of building was this? I mean, in Roman times…”
“It was a brothel.”
Tulrude broke out into a loud cackle.
Both of them enjoyed the unspoken humor. Picking that kind of a place to discuss Jessica Tulrude’s intentions to run for president.
Even though LaHaye and Parshall must have been laughing up their sleeves over that one, I’ve gotta say it’s kind of stupidly typical for men like that to think comparing a woman to a whore (Demas is, after all, effectively buying her services for when she becomes President) is actually funny and not an indictment of their inappropriate juxtaposition.
Misogyny is a common theme in LaHaye-sponsored books, and the way the Vice-President has been portrayed here is really no exception. It’s like the bizarro mirror image of John McCain and Sarah Palin, come to think of it, and Tulrude’s beach-babe name and attractiveness seems to be a call-out to the way Sarah Palin’s attractiveness got mention in the media, while her political instincts for being able to leap for the jugular are also translated over to the Veep in this book.
Sarah Palin was also derided for being Bush-like in her lack of apparent depth of understanding about the world around her, and this seems to be mirrored in Tulrude’s apparent lack of concern over the fact that Demas was fairly vague about this alleged name-clone of Zimler and the fact that her domestic people couldn’t find out a damn thing about this alleged name-clone either.
So, in a nutshell, politically powerful, instinctively good at politics, but just not that bright. How many times have women been described this way when they achieved something, but made a pretty elementary mistake that a man might have made?
And since Democrats are supposed to all be milquetoasty feminists, Tulrude’s portayal is intended as a dog-whistle to the audience who believe that the Dems want “the wrong kind of woman” to be in political power, and is intended to remind male readers of the “ball-busting so-and-so” epithet frequently hurled at women in authority.
LaHaye and Parshall had better shape up in the second book or this is gonna be like Left Behind Lite with the way women get such short shrift.
So that ends this chapter, and next chapter we meet back with Cal Jordan! X-D