Looking (somewhat) at the Post-Trump GOP

 

As the sad charade of the government shutdown concluded and the new charade of random (and possibly more frequent) “emergencies “works its way into daily life, it may be time to reflect on what American politics and its GOP component may look like in a few years.

There is considerable debate over how, or if, the American political system is broken. A system more or less designed in one sitting[1] in the 18th century has proven somewhat less relevant and, perhaps more importantly, shockingly easy to manipulate in the 21st century.

When one peruses various articles and posts about the ‘broken American political system’ it is mostly the Democrats or self-styled independents who issue this complaint[2]. This can be attributed to the predictable whining of losers, but I think there is something more to this imbalance.

Donald Trump has in fact justified the worst fears of all who opposed him, displaying a capricious, erratic style of governance more closely resembling Mussolini than it does any recent American president.[3] Overly fond of rallies where he can scream divisive (and , as has been pointed out ad infinitum, patently false)rhetoric and claim huge victories for whatever movement he has decided he represents at the moment (farmers and Americans who can see through ‘fake news’ are a perpetual favorite), the simple fact is that this president gets very little done. Studying the minutiae of policy and listening to reasoned debate on current events is boring and, clearly, well beyond his understanding and attention span. The current obsession with building a wall is a pointless exercise in self-glorification not unlike putting his name on all those tall ugly buildings – yet it has absorbed a huge percentage of the national political debate since the beginning of 2019.

It is not all grim for the Republicans, however. Although Trump himself does very little that is usually considered presidential, he has managed to neuter various regulatory agencies (most notoriously the EPA and Interior[4]), nominate a slew of far-right judges[5] and give succor to various far-right movements who see a kindred spirit in this president. Many longtime Republicans are not especially comfortable with the last result, but they will live with it and as members of a party that now explicitly courts white voters (and, slightly less explicitly, is intent on denying votes to non-whites), they should not be shocked by welcoming these new friends to the party. As a bonus, the continuing ability to enrage the other side should not be minimized as a rallying point.

Although the GOP establishment publicly applauds many administration moves, many others are now meeting with, at least, public scrutiny and concern, if not overt resistance. And it is in fact true that Trump’s combination of race-tinged populism, crony capitalism and ‘America-first’ bombast are not really compatible with what used to be considered the mainstream of Republican thought, although of course ‘mainstream Republican thought’ has splintered in recent years.

It is a common theme, primarily (but far from solely) among Democrat and Centrist pundits[6], to contend that the system is broken. It is easy to point to Trump’s multi-million vote loss in the popular vote, the ease of manipulating public opinion through internet hoaxes, fictitious conspiracy theories, and continuing policies, both legal and illegal to discourage minority voting.[7] Most Republicans, it seems, do not mind a broken system, one that they have in fact taken the lead in gaming.

If one looks at the United States it would seem on its face to be a voting public hostile to an increasingly backward –looking Republican agenda. The new strain of Isolationism dates can be traced back to the 1930’s – we know how that ended up. In a similar vein, embracing walls[8], tariffs and fossil fuels seems distinctly 20th century[9]. The increasingly shrill warnings against waves of immigrants (and even extending to thinly veiled racism and anti-Semitism) would not seem to have much appeal to the incoming generation – it is hard to imagine a typical millennial being motivated by promises to limit immigration and suppress minority voting. And in plain math, Democrats and Independents outnumber Republicans today in any case.

Short of declaring martial law and /or suspending most voting altogether, What is to be Done?[10]

It is not as simple as embracing a populist agenda wholesale. This means:

  • The ‘law and order’ party is now represented by a mendacious con man who has little regard for the rule of law (constitutional or otherwise) and whose closest advisers (started with his original mentor Roy Cohn) appear to be fill-blown criminal ‘fixers’.[11]
  • Similarly ‘free trade’, another bedrock GOP mantra, is now replaced by toxic crony capitalism, wherein the presidents businesses are favored whenever possible and organizations such as the WTO are marginalized. Trade wars, so relished by Trump so as to appear tough, are not just aimed at China but increasingly at (previously?) friendly allies in the EU
  • Concomitant to the tiresome and endless trade wars, GOP internationalism, a staple since the beginning of the cold war, has essentially been abolished, replaced by the aforementioned America First idea, an ill-defined nationalist and xenophobic policy featuring overt alienation of traditional allies, replaced by authoritarians and dictatorships that our leader feels much more comfortable with.[12]

Although it was widely predicted that, win or lose, Trump’s nomination would damage or even destroy the GOP as we know it, it may not come to that. Certainly it will be debated repeatedly in the future as to whether Trump was a symptom, a turning point or an anomaly. I would guess it’s all three.

Certainly Trump the man is too foolish and vain to consolidate his political capital, now rapidly on the wane. Cheap stunts and endless nonsensical tweets are more his style, diehard habits that have done little to advance an agenda that was muddled and constantly shifting from the start.[13] Ironically the line in the sand (more and more seen as a thoroughly pointless one) has been the wall, a symbol of hostility and power better suited to eras such as 17th century China. Creating sober policy is well beyond the desires and capabilities of this presidency, and thus the partisan standoffs are even more acute than in the Obama years.

Not only will the Trump administration, however long it lasts, accomplish very little of substance[14], it is fairly certain that at this point, Trump’s fellow Republicans are probably fed up with the endless turmoil and government by uninformed impulse. Despite the usual bleating to the contrary and quiet satisfaction at the endless appointment of right wing judges[15], a return to some degree of functional government would probably be welcome to even the staunchest Trump yes-men.[16]

A desire for cessation of elementary school level insults and endless staff churn notwithstanding, the Republican Party will take many lessons away from rule by reality show. A primary lesson is the power of lying. The current administration (and society in general) has once again proved Goebbels correct. Not only does lying work, but the big lie works even better. While past GOP PR efforts have focused heavily on spin control and obfuscation (perennial examples has been turning a blind eye to racist activities under the heading of ‘states’ rights, or referring to the endless concentration of wealth and stagnating middle class income – for a shrinking middle class- as examples of freedom and economic growth), now we see that lying can be an easier and more effective policy. Racism? There’s no racism at all in GOP policy – anyone who brings it up is in fact racist and intolerant. Income inequality? A myth. Our system rewards the best and brightest, stop whining and work harder.

Naturally there has always been a large element of outright lies and absurd hyperbole from all corners of politics, both here and the rest of the world. The major difference now is that it comes straight from the top, dead center at the White House. The endless stream of outright falsehoods and nonsensical facts and figures has become so chronic that the public now expects it. Most journalists are by now accustomed to prefacing Trump quotes with terms such as “debunked” or “falsely claimed”. Spin control? Out. If the “facts” line up with the message, there’s no need for spin, better to roll your own facts and stick to them no matter what.

OK, so what conclusions have been drawn here? We can safely assume that the GOP has learned some valuable lessons:

  • Lying works! Big lies work even better, and the party will hold on to their cherished ‘truths’ with a death grip, especially articles of faith that predate Trump e.g. the preposterous climate change denials, continuing attempts to‘re-interpret’ the constitution in a way to mainstream radical religious ideas, and of course denying that party is run by and for old white men, while continuing to evolve the shameful Southern Strategy that originated under Nixon.
  • Being Trump doesn’t necessarily work (except when it does).[17] It goes without saying that Trump could accomplish much more by staying out his own way and avoiding alienating everyone except ‘the base’. The hunt for a shiny Reagan clone has not been fruitful, so expect a bland ‘unifying’ (but still hard right) stealth operator like Mike Pence to pop up the next time around.
  • Manipulating elections and disenfranchising minority voters is a necessary evil (er, strategy). The Wisconsin model will be a template going forward.[18]
  1. The Constitutional Convention actually took roughly 100 days but it was, more or less, one large agglomeration whose attendees did produce the constitution in effect today.
  2. I cannot stress strongly enough that my opinion here is a personal one and that many on the right wing also feel this way, although in many cases their wish is for a system that would veer in a more rightward direction of course. Among many ongoing complanits is the ‘left-leaning’ media bias e.g. this article alciming that “journalism is one of the most left-wing of all professions https://www.investors.com/politics/editorials/media-bias-left-study/ and the well-aged whine about PC behavior https://www.heritage.org/political-process/report/political-correctness-and-the-suicide-the-intellect
  3. Although there is a certain Warren Harding aspect to some of it, although that is not a ‘recent’ president
  4. See notorious socialist publication The National Geographic for some gory details https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/how-trump-is-changing-science-environment/
  5. Trump is nominating judges at a record pace, many of whom are considered unqualified and unvetted. It goes without saying that women and minorities need not apply. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/how-trump-is-changing-science-environment/
  6. There is such an overwhelming crush of articles I recommend you search on ‘US political system is broken’ and select which ones you’d like to peruse
  7. The introduction of the question census question “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”, clearly intended to suppress responses by immigrants of every stripe https://www.npr.org/2019/04/17/713762546/appeal-to-census-lawsuit-ruling-adds-uncertainty-to-citizenship-questions-fate
  8. The wall idea is more like the 17th century of course
  9. The absurdity of Trump’s endless and quixotic quest to prop up old school commodities like steel and coal cannot be overestimated. A future article will examine why many of the very industries he is attempting to ‘save’ are re-inventing themselves to address 21st century realities.
  10. Yes, I am quoting Lenin here. Hey, why not?
  11. Luminaries such as Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, Dr. Harold Bornstein, bodyguard Keith Schillerm and of course the original criminal fixer and Trump mentor: Roy Cohn, These should not be confused with the various cronies and hangers on hoping for a slice of that rich conflict of interest pie https://www.politico.eu/article/harold-bornstein-michael-cohen-trumps-fixers-revolt/
  12. North Korea, Israel, Phillipines, etc. And of course we have to include Vladimir Putin in this august company.
  13. The only real constants have been the endless rants about the imminent threat of (legal and illegal) immigration and the repeated bullying of groups too weak to fight back. Er, immigrants and asylum-seekers might be included in there. That trade ‘revisions’ have been a bit more thorny, as continued Wall Street success is very important both symbolically and practically.
  14. Sadly, it will probably destroy quite a bit of substance, most notably a sensible trade policy and a rational (or any) approach to climate change and pollution.
  15. https://www.washingtonpost.com/ Interestingly, this article alos points out fewer Democratic appointees are stepping down in this period
  16. The strangest about-face has surely been traditional warmonger and McCain buddy Lindsey Graham, now one of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders despite supporting an agenda at odds with most of Graham’s previous bleatings, as well as enduring repeated insults (of the usual 5th grade variety) from the great man himself during the primaries.
  17. In a genuinely pathetic episode, Rep. Matt Gaetz introduced a ‘Pencil’ resolution to remove Adam Schiff as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, coming closely on the heels of the Trump campaign offering Pencil-neck Adam Schiff T-shirts for sale https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-campaign-unveils-pencil-neck-adam-schiff-t-shirts-for-sale https://thehill.com/homenews/house/438386-gaetz-introduces-pencil-resolution-to-oust-schiff-from-house-intel One has to wonder if the entire GOP congressional membership will soon take to flinging juvenile insults and stop even pretending to promulgate real policy
  18. As a final cherry on top of Republicans hijacking a traditionally democratic state, There was clearly widespread minority voter suppression in Wisconsin in 2016. Enough to swing the state? That remains unknown. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/10/voter-suppression-wisconsin-election-2016/ https://www.thenation.com/article/wisconsins-voter-id-law-suppressed-200000-votes-trump-won-by-23000/

 

The Enemies List

(Prelude, before a staff meeting)

CBI is pacing back and forth, muttering to himself

CBI: Base, Base, Base, Basic, Trump, tower, tower ,tower, wall …

Pauses …, opens door to hallway

CBI: Kelly!

No one arrives

Starts muttering again

No Kelly, no Kelly, base, base

Actual staff meeting begins, attended by the usual suspects

CBI: Last week I mentioned to Frank here (gestures to a BS) that we will begin our Monday staff meetings with a discussion of potential enemies to attack. Yes, we are going on the attack and I will expect every one of you to fall in behind me and support our highlighted enemy.

CBI: I have a few that haven’t received the attention they deserve, groups and people who oppose America and the administration, which is the same thing.

CBI: Frank, can you start with the list?

BS: It’s Mark, sir.

BS: (to attendees) We’ve tested these groups with both the base and our important friends and gotten some good feedback.

BS: We found that attacking Hispanics continues to test well. The best results were when attacks on Blacks were mixed in. This tested better than Blacks and Hispanics attacked separately.

CBI: That’s good, but we need new avenues, I want to awaken more of America.

CBI: How about the German car thing?

BS: We ran the ‘driving German cars means you’re against America’ combined with 50% tariffs on all products from Germany idea, but it turns out 42% of 6 figure contributors to the party own or drive at least one German car. Some have several. Additionally it didn’t test that well among the base – it turns out many of them would like a German car at some point.

CBI: Alright, we’ll come back to that. Maybe substitute French cars for now. Tired of that French guy.

(Met with quizzical glances around the room)

IR: Sir, I don’t think we import any French cars.

CBI: Fine with me. This will keep it that way. Mark, get those tariffs written up in an executive order.

IR: Mike, sir.

CBI: OK, getting places

(Starts muttering under his breath, suddenly snaps out of it after 20 seconds)

BS: Next on the list is academics.

CBI: Yes! Yes! I like this one. Those socialists have gotten a free pass for too long. Ralph, didn’t you tell me to start calling the Democrats socialists? This is a great first step.

CBI: How about this? America’s universities are overrun by Socialists, maybe even Communists. Shall we open that up?

BS: That didn’t test that well sir. It worked better if we targeted certain institutions, but the general attack tested negatively with the base. However if we narrow it to Berkeley we got a positive spin.

CBI: Berkeley? That’s it?

BS: It seems many in the party also don’t like Oberlin and Mills.

CBI: What are you talking about?

BS: There seems to be some grudges there among the DC party activists towards those schools.

(CBI is exasperated, starting to lose his temper)

CBI: I need some big names here! Oberlin and Mills sounds like a comedy act!

BS: Ivy League attacks also tested well with the base but that gets a lot of pushback amongst our party.

CBI: Really? Maybe we should start getting rid of those elitists and just keep it real American, you know?

(Silence)

CCC: Sir, if I can interject briefly, some of the best and brightest leaders in our party come from the Ivy League. We are thin on the ground as far as expanding our appeal, and this might constrict it.

CBI: First off, thanks for contributing. Second of all, I think you’re dead wrong. There are way more true Americans in our base than academics. And you guys should get over it. I went to the best school in the Ivy League. The best! My gut tells me much more than those useless books ever did. They never taught street smarts over there, that was a big problem.

CBI: You know what we need in here. More street smarts. Frank, your next project is to determine how we get the cabinet to lead by their gut, by real instincts. You guys can hop on or you’ll be replaced.

CBI: We’re going with the Hispanic attacks this week. I want the academic attacks honed. I’m going to tweet against Berkeley this week, maybe we can get them investigated for being controlled by China or something like that.

(Looks around the room)

CBI: No one here drives a German car anymore, understood? We’re still going to run with that in the future. I spent a lot of time during commercials last week working on this list.

The New Election Strategy 3

Last in a series (finally)

An august group of GOP leaders are putting the finishing touches on election strategy going forward. And not a moment too soon.

SEM: The reaction to that election was scattershot. We have to be pre-emptive.

LZ: The new law is written. We have to pass it in the last session before the Dems take their places.

IR: Do you think we could prevent them from taking their seats?

LZ: Meh, …

SEM: We were late on this whole thing

LZ: Is the drunk guy going to play along?

IR: Definitely. We think our people will be onboard.

SEM: So basically any disputed election goes straight to the Supreme Court?

LZ: Yes. And the genius is the president decides which election is disputed, with proper input of course.

SEM; He’ll go for this for sure. Didn’t you mention this to him before he made that nitwit remark about the election results?

IR: He’s not listening to anybody, still stewing over who knows what. If he wasn’t so self-obsessed with twitter and watching those Fox attention whores stroking him maybe we could get something done.

LZ: Alright, let’s alert the drunk guy and the Houseplant and try to get that thing passed before those Bolsheviks take their seats

 

The New Election Strategy 2

Second in a series (yikes!)

The president is giving a post-Midterm election speech on television

Citizens of the United States, the greatest country on Earth, my country, our country

(hesitates, glances to the rear of the room)

(restarts)

Fellow Americans,

I am here before you to discuss some grave news. I will get right to the point. The republic is in crisis. Although we have just held a seemingly normal election, federal and state agencies, working in tandem, have discovered something more sinister at the bottom of it.

(pauses, once again looks to rear of room)

This election was not conducted fairly or under democratic principles. We have discovered that many results were manipulated by external forces. Currently we have identified several races that do not reflect the actual winner. We will be releasing the full list shortly. Because the evidence is overwhelming any ‘false winners’ will not be seated in January until the results can be verified by our team.

It appears that several million fake votes were cast, many by non-citizens, many that were fabricated completely by hackers, many even by dead people. Initial data points to the same sources that falsely attributed several million non-existent votes to Hillary Clinton but we have no conclusion yet. It appears to the government that over 100 Democrat House candidates and over 20 Democrat governor candidates that were proclaimed winners, I mean Gubernatorial (pronounced Goo-Vern-a-turial) — were not really victorious, based on our verifiable data. These ‘false winners’ will not be acknowledged until full recounts have been accomplished, filtering out votes we know to be fake. For now the Republican candidates will be declared the winners.

The government’s evidence will remain classified and under seal for the foreseeable future.

I would like to introduce Kris Kobach, a veteran crusader for Democracy and the head of the new Task Force Fair Election USA. Kris was one of the first to identify the nefarious forces undermining our democracy and there is no one I trust more to handle and solve our vote fraud problems once and for all. There is no one YOU should trust more …

… besides myself of course

(gives 2 thumbs up and grins)

Kobach steps up,

Thank You sir. As we and the American people, know, voter fraud has infected the United Stets for several years now. I think we can finally do battle with a full set of resources. We will be reporting further shortly.

Trump gives half-smile

That is great

Trump is distracted, glances to the rear again. Recognizes someone …

Elbows Kobach out of the way. Kobach leaves the stage.

There’s one more person I’m going to introduce. Brett Kavanaugh is joining me on the broadcast.

Kavanaugh walks into the picture. It seems apparent that this was not in the script for the telecast.

Trump vigorously pumps his hand, pulls him rather forcibly to center-stage. Kavanaugh appears uneasy.

This is another example of why fake news cannot win. We will win. The Democrats are spreading fake news with these fake wins. We will reveal how much they lost by.

(pauses, sneers …)

Millions!

Telecast Fades to Black

 

The New Election Strategy

(First part of some number of parts greater than 1)

We are shortly after the 2018 Midterms. The Democrats have retaken the House, barely. The GOP seems oddly unconcerned. They are thinking outside the constitutional box and to a better future.

Fun Note: With the impending departure of LZ2 we will be dealing with only one Lizard (for now). Of course there are many lizards in the thorny and amoral world of politics, but not that many in the Houseplant Biosphere.

We will call him Lizardo (LZ) … (why do I feel a Tony Bennett melody coming on?)


LZ: I’m glad we got the drunk guy in. That was an important piece of the puzzle

IR: The Big Man will love this

SEM: I hope he sticks to the script. That will be a great speech.

LZ: I think we pace it slowly

SEM: Why? I want to see the end of the Democratic Party in my lifetime

LZ: No no no. The USA has to be a 2 party system. Otherwise we’re what, Venezuela?

IR: I agree. What’s the difference if the Democrats run California? We need a good bogeyman.

(Murmured assent)

SEM: OK, fine. Are we giving them any other states?

LZ: New York for sure. And maybe what, Hawaii?

(Laughter all around)

Unknown attendee: And American Samoa!

(Laughter swells in intensity)

SEM: Let’s get the meetings together. We need to get the findings out soon. The election never happened!

(LZ eye roll)

BJR has just entered

BJR: Of course it happened. But we won easily. How could we not win? We’re the winners. Lets get this fraud out in the open

LZ: Yes. Good. Meeting over.

LZ: (quietly but tersely, to IR): How did he get in here? That little dolt will blab it on twitter before the speech. I think he might believe the narrative. That’s trouble.

To be continued …

 

The Meeting of the Minds

Today, You Are There introduces a very special participant in our series: THE Houseplant himself (if you are unclear on his real identity please check here: http://thehouseplant.net/manifesto-ette/ . In addition we are introducing a new character as well:

Angry White Judge (AWJ)

Yay!

Off we go

The Houseplant (HP) and AWJ are sitting in a large SUV on an empty highway near the woods. They are applying disguises.

AWJ: Are you sure this meeting is safe? This is a sensitive time for me.

HP: Don’t worry about a thing. Photography is not allowed inside. I’ve found this to be a pretty safe haven. Of course the disguises are a must. But a lot of the customers are disguised. It’s all taken in stride.

He places a large afro wig on his head and pastes on a salt and pepper handlebar mustache. He is wearing a dashiki with several layers of Mardi Gras beads. The final touch is a pair of enormous gold-tinged Aviator sunglasses.

HP: Let’s get that wig on already.

AWJ: OK, let me finish my makeup.

AWJ puts on a large blonde wig, with hair cascading down past his collar. He has pasted on a blondish-red mustache and goatee. He is wearing clip-on earrings with enormous peace signs. He has applied an Instant Tan product which gives him a fairly dark skin tone, especially in contrast to the blonde wig. He is wearing overalls, work boots and a plaid shirt. He also has giant Aviator sunglasses, in red.

HP: That outfit’s a little weird but as far as disguises go I think it will work. Remember, anyone takes a photo; we call security and seize their camera. And it’s too dark inside to photo anything without a flash. Remember, NEVER take off the glasses, for any reason.

AWJ starts the SUV and they proceed down the road for roughly 15 miles. Little is spoken on the way.

HP: Ah, there it is. Pull into the lot.

The first lights for several miles are visible. A huge neon sign announces Kitty’s Den-o-Sin in multi-colored flashing lights. A squat building with music blaring from inside lies before them. The parking lot is ½ full, about 15 vehicles.

HP: My spot! Middle of nowhere, nobody bothers us. Word is Clinton used to hang out here in his, er, private time. I think his disguise was some kind of a hipster musician cat. We all would have been better off if he was a better sax player, could go play for some dumbass rock band in the South or something and skipped politics,

Our protagonists enter the club and find a table near the stage. It is indeed dimly lit, with the exception of the brightly illuminated central stage, currently featuring 4 women in various stages of undress. One is completely naked; the others will get there soon enough. The customer area is arranged in a circle around the stage.

The waitress approaches immediately.

AWJ: Scotch rocks please

HP: Ginger ale

HP: This is a nice relaxation place. You know, I love Virginia, but this place is great for some relaxing man time. I know you could use that.

AWG: Oh yeah, for sure. These crazed leftist chicks are on the warpath. Don’t they know what Yale is like? Even that nitwit Bush was a drunken horn dog.

AWG drains his drink and signals for another.

HP: Well I’m here to tell you that the time is coming soon when you’ll be in charge. And we can show those crazy bitches, er no no, I didn’t say that …

HP is a little disoriented but recovers after a minute of silence. AWG takes the lull in conversation as an opportunity to drain his second drink.

HP: OK, anyway we’re going to be in charge. We’re going to ignore the women on the court, we’re going to ignore all that left wing noise around the country, the men are in charge. The women on the court have been a huge pain, even O’Connor. God, she was the worst. Nino hated her, still hard to believe she was a Reagan appointment. Ginsburg is the only one you can talk to but of course she’s basically a socialist, same as that Mexican one.

AWG: Nino?

HP: Mr. Scalia’s nickname for his friends. Not only my inspiration, but a man so smart and so ethical I never had to pay much attention. Whichever way he went, that was my vote too. I certainly miss him. What would Nino do? I ask myself that at every session. Well, at every voting session. I don’t pay much attention to the rigmarole and the endless lawyer posturing. Waste of effort if you ask me. Nino had his mind made up well before the hot air started.

AWG: Listen, these Democrats are getting nothing from me. This is a crazed conspiracy, I’m fed up. I’m with you. To Nino!

AWG lifts his glass, but it’s empty. He frantically signals for another drink, which is quickly delivered.

HP: You probably want to slow down there a bit.

AWG: I’m totally in control.

One of the dancers has just come off stage. She approaches the gents and offers a lap dance. HP waves her away immediately.

HP: Remember, we’re strictly spectators here.

AWG is staring forlornly as she walks away. He has finished his 3rd drink.

HP: So look, what I want to tell you again is the men are in charge now. The court and the country, we will be setting the agenda, as its always been, as it should be. The liberal noise, you can tune that out. That’s going nowhere. I was where you are now, and you can see it all blew over.

AWG: I hope so. I’ve got my enemies list going already. Total outrage.

HP: Yes, OK

AWG has summoned his 4th drink. He appears a bit unsteady

HP: We have to get going. I’ll drive.

Another dancer has finished her shift. She also approaches the table offering a lap dance. HP tries to reject her but AWG has a different idea.

AWG: (now clearly drunk): Hey, hey, STOP trying to be in control. You’re worse than the Democrats. Honey, come here. I’m ready. Be gentle. (AWG guffaws loudly at his joke).

Our scene ends with HP striding out in disgust. AWG is now hugging the dancer as she attempts to do her lap dance. He has placed 2 100 dollar bills on the table, so she is putting up with his groping with a bemused grin and several eye rolls. His blonde wig has slipped off and is on the floor. It appears someone is readying their phone for a snapshot …

 

Handicapping the Democratic Presidential Challengers

The landscape has changed for presidential campaigns – everyone wants to be president now! Donald Trump has shown that:

  • You don’t have to work that hard
  • You don’t really have to know much, although pretending you do is A-OK
  • You don’t have to prepare for meetings or speeches
  • You can continue to enrich yourself, allowing your family and your companies to leverage your office
  • You can say anything
  • You can threaten anybody

And, really, you don’t have to be very smart or, you know, read books or anything like that.

Thus luminaries such as Oscar de la Hoya and Dwayne Johnson have declared their intent to seek the presidency.[1] Even a relatively sober captain of industry such as Jamie Dimon has decided he’s smarter than Trump and thus could beat him in an election[2]

An easy decision apparently, although Dimon has since claimed he was not actually running, but that he could.

And there’s a whole raft of contenders waiting in the wings – The Houseplant is here to help you make sense of them. If this was a monetized and/or commercial website we’d do it in Listicle format – you’d have to page through every single one of these guys and gals, accompanied by a huge stock photo, a tiny blurb, and endless ads and popups. At the Houseplant it’s all content, no filler ,no ads and no apologies either.

The list of luminaries below comes from an internet betting site and the odds listed come from that site. In other words you can make actual bets and get those odds. I am not picking them randomly, despite appearances to the contrary. I have not supplied the full list, however.

Let’s get started start with our 2 poster kid sports figures:

Oscar de la Hoya

Biggest Pro: Shoo-in for most of the Latino vote (we think)

Biggest Con: Not a shoo-in for most of the non-Latino vote

Salient Characteristic: Can beat up anyone on this list with the possible exception of Dwayne Johnson

Bonus Fun Fact: Earned a Grammy nomination in 2001

Odds: No line currently offered

Dwayne Johnson

Biggest Pro: Very affable and photogenic

Biggest Con: Film and television may interfere with campaigning and/or motivation

Salient Characteristic: Can beat up anyone on this list with the possible exception of Oscar de la Hoya

Bonus Fun Fact: Played in the Canadian Football League

Odds: No longer on the board

Chelsea Clinton

Biggest Pro: She’s a Clinton (and not Hillary)

Biggest Con: She’s a Clinton

Salient Characteristic: Politics is a ‘definite maybe’ for now

Bonus Fun Fact: Has written three children’s books

Odds: 100 / 1

George Clooney

Biggest Pro: See Dwayne Johnson

Biggest Con: Lifestyle would be degraded considerably by presidency, has young children

Salient Characteristic: Likes Italy much more than DC

Bonus Fun Fact: Had a pet pig that saved his life by waking him before an earthquake

Odds: 50 / 1

Howard Schultz

Biggest Pro: Wealthy enough to not be beholden to special interests

Biggest Con: We saw what that got us with Trump

Salient Characteristic: Upgrade in White House coffee quality

Bonus Fun Fact: The original Starbucks outlets were first named Il Giornale

Odds: 30 / 1

Michelle Obama

Biggest Pro: She’s an Obama, and how good does that look right now?

Biggest Con: A daytime talk show would be a much more attractive gig

Salient Characteristic: Can beat up anyone on this list with the exception of Oscar de la Hoya and Dwayne Johnson

Bonus Fun Fact: Tallest 1st lady in history (5’11”, tied with Eleanor Roosevelt)

Odds: 25 / 1

Cory Booker

Biggest Pro: Will attract large African-American voter turnout, considered pragmatic Obama-style successor

Biggest Con: Didn’t really do all that well in New Jersey. But who does? (even ‘future GOP nominee’ Christie ultimately crashed and burned)

Salient Characteristic: Not married (usually fatal for national candidates)

Bonus Fun Fact: Recent girlfriend is an Instagram poet (really) 19 years his junior

Odds: 15 / 1

Oprah Winfrey

Biggest Pro: Everyone loves her

Biggest Con: She’d like to keep it that way, despite contempt for Trump

Salient Characteristic: Moving from Santa Barbara to DC is a major downgrade

Bonus Fun Fact: Has done voices for several cartoon characters

Odds: 14.5 / 1

Joe Biden

Biggest Pro: An actual professional politician with a track record and clear positions on major issues

Biggest Con: See biggest Pro

Salient Characteristic: Will be 78 in 2020

Bonus Fun Fact: Elected to the senate at age 29 (sworn in at 30, the minimum age requirement)

Odds: 6.5 / 1

Jerry Brown

Biggest Pro: Has successfully governed largest state in the USA

Biggest Con: That state is resented by many swing state voters

Salient Characteristic: Even older than Biden

Bonus Fun Fact: His rogue presidential run in 1980 was a pivotal early factor in dooming Jimmy Carter’s re-election campaign

Odds: 37.5 / 1

Eric Garcetti

Biggest Pro: Well-spoken and successful mayor of a mega-city whose metro area has a higher population than 46 other states

Biggest Con: See Jerry Brown

Salient Characteristic: No one has ever gone directly from being mayor to president although several have tried

Bonus Fun Fact: Is a very good jazz pianist

Odds: 23.5 / 1

Tim Kaine

Biggest Pro: Anodyne enough for independent voters

Biggest Con: Too anodyne for other voters?

Salient Characteristic: The very picture of centrist Democrat competence i.e. pure Virginia

Bonus Fun Fact: Was quoted thusly: “I am boring. But boring is the fastest growing demographic in this country.”

Odds: 37.5 / 1

Al Franken

Biggest Pro: Successfully remade himself as a serious and thoughtful politician

Biggest Con: The gropey thing seems to play better in the GOP

Salient Characteristic: Was forced out for 2 groping incidents despite being one of the top women’s advocates in the senate

Bonus Fun Fact: Widely rumored to be planning a return to politics

Odds: 47.5 / 1

Tulsi Gabbard

Biggest Pro: Fresh face with pro-military (but anti foreign interventionist) and centrist views

Biggest Con: Seems to be a cult member, the Hindu affiliation may be an albatross

Salient Characteristic:  Very cozy with rabid anti-Muslim Indian leader Modi, to the point of being an apologist for continuing attacks on Muslims in India

Bonus Fun Fact: South Carolina GOP senator Trey Gowdy has publicly referred to her as ‘cute’

Odds: 26.5 / 1

Mark Zuckerberg

Biggest Pro: Will introduce t-shirts as standard attire for White House staff meetings

Biggest Con: Thankfully does not seem to want the job at all

Salient Characteristic: Possibly the shadiest and most opaque “tech titan”

Bonus Fun Fact: Probably the most gifted developer (back when they were developers) among the tech titans

Odds: 30 / 1

Michael Avenatti

Biggest Pro: Hates Trump

Biggest Con: Acts like Trump

Salient Characteristic: Loves to bait Trump, governing ability probably also equivalent to Trumps (roughly zero)

Bonus Fun Fact: Ran Tully’s Coffee into the ground, including multiple allegations of fraud, tax evasion, etc. (see: Biggest con above. Double entendre intended)

Odds: 22.5 / 1

Hillary Clinton

Biggest Pro: Please

Biggest Con: Make

Salient Characteristic: it

Bonus Fun Fact: Stop

Odds: 32.5 / 1

Kamala Harris

Biggest Pro: Asian / Black ethnicity will bring those groups out to vote

Biggest Con: But will it bring the Hispanics?

Salient Characteristic: Current frontrunner on the betting line but still a fairly large underdog against the field

Bonus Fun Fact: Obama called her “the best looking attorney general in the country.”

Odds: 3.5 / 1

Elizabeth Warren

Biggest Pro: Will go the distance to take down Trump

Biggest Con: Probably better at that in the senate

Salient Characteristic: Is now open about ‘considering’ a 2020 presidential run

Bonus Fun Fact: Her presence in the field will keep Trump’s dull-witted racism front and center

Odds: 5.25 / 1

Bernie Sanders

Biggest Pro: Sincere, passionate, speaks for disenfranchised Americans

Biggest Con: Seems to feel Denmark (population: 5,700,000) is a role model for future US domestic policy

Salient Characteristic: Probably would have beaten Clinton without DNC intervention in 2016

Bonus Fun Fact: Probably would have beaten Trump without DNC intervention in 2016

Odds: 6.75 / 1

Gavin Newsom

Biggest Pro: Photogenic future governor of largest state, fairly effective mayor of a city that punches well above its demographic weight

Biggest Con: See Jerry Brown and Eric Garcetti, admitted adulterer (the adultery things plays better in the GOP these days, as we well know)

Salient Characteristic: Something of a Democratic Paul Ryan born with a silver spoon, well-connected (and even better funded), has not faced much political adversity

Bonus Fun Fact: Newsom’s grandfather was a strategist for Pat Brown and godfather of Jerry Brown’s sister Kathleen. Newsom’s father was appointed to the appellate court by Jerry Brown. Did we say connected?

Odds: 9.5 / 1

Your Humble Narrator

Biggest Pro: Super-Smart

Biggest Con: Too Smart

Salient Characteristic: Kind of a Smart-ass

Bonus Fun Fact: Thinks he’s smarter than Trump. Like everyone else does

Odds: ∞

  1. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/oscar-de-la-hoya-says-he-wants-to-run-for-president/ https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/07/the-rock-dwayne-johnson-skyscraper-president-2020Duane Johnson still wants to run, just not in 2020 apparently
  2. https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/12/politics/jamie-dimon-donald-trump/index.html

 

The Conversion of Donald Trump

During the 2016 presidential campaign it was repeatedly asserted by various parties that a ‘presidential pivot’ would occur if and when Trump was presented with the awesome responsibility of being president. The petulant and incessant tweeting would stop, the insults that would embarrass a half-bright 12 year old would cease, and Donald Trump, a vain and foolish man who probably did not even want the job, would suddenly become a sober, if not particularly wise, statesman.[1]

The idea of ‘Statesman Trump’ remains an abstract fiction that was never taken too seriously, even by his allies (a main part of his appeal continues to be that he is the opposite of a statesman, aka. a politician). It’s bad enough to continue to hear about ‘Master Negotiator’ Trump and ‘Business Genius’ Trump, two fairy tales that continue to retain traction among the faithful.

As we all learned, and have been witnessing ever since, Trump the narcissistic sociopath has eclipsed any version that might attempt at least a modicum of comity or respect. He has taken advantage of his new, larger (that would be largest) stage to reinforce and continue the United States’ latest experiment in democracy: what would happen if a spoiled teenage boy became president and decided he was king?[2]

In any case, belaboring the lack of the presidential pivot is old and tiresome news. But there is a presidential pivot that has occurred: the fond embrace between Donald Trump and the hyper-politicized Evangelical movement in the United States.

Evangelical support for the Republican Party is by now common knowledge. The worm turned permanently in the 1980 election when Ronald Reagan, a former actor not known for his piousness, was the overwhelming choice of the Evangelical movement over Jimmy Carter, an actual evangelical.

Jimmy Carter represents a now severely diminished branch of the American Evangelical movement commonly referred to as Progressive Evangelicalism, a movement focused on social reform and a rather socialistic view of wealth redistribution, e.g., “military restraint, a less imperial foreign policy, human rights, racial reconciliation, affordable healthcare, and equal rights for women.”[3]

For various reasons, mainly a tanking economy and the foreign policy disaster in Iran, Carter was largely unable to pursue these issues. It is important to note that Carter was swept into the office by a huge evangelical turnout, embracing his “born-again” proclamations and reveling in their nascent political power.

There are disparate views over the wholesale Evangelical rush over to Reagan and the GOP in 1980. One viewpoint claims that the ‘States’ Rights idea Reagan harped on endlessly (and far more frequently than anything like outlawing abortion or suppressing gay rights) was a green light towards continued segregation of religious academies.[4] There are other points of view that claim that, like a jilted lover, the Religious Right was sorely disappointed in “President Carter’s failure to actively oppose legalized abortion, homosexual rights, and the Equal Rights Amendment”.[5]

I would offer a third hypothesis: Carter was going down, Reagan was going to win. Not only was the Religious Right eager to embrace a winner, Reagan was willing to say whatever they wanted to hear. He claimed to be born again and repeatedly stressed his “new relationship with God”[6] Hey, everything’s good. Despite the fact that being previously divorced was formerly a deal breaker in Evangelical circles, little details like that could now be overlooked in the larger scheme. [7]

Thus the moral component of political evangelism was shunted aside and the GOP and the Evangelical movement now went hand in hand. And they still do.

As the current mutation of the bankruptcy of “faith-based politics”, Donald Trump has found religion. Or more accurately, he has found religious allies. The Trump cabinet has a huge Evangelical quotient, including rather radical believers such as Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo and Betsy DeVos, all of whom seek to bring a “Christian” perspective to national policy. What is ironic about all of this is they are in service to a leader whose personal ethics would seem to be contrary to any sort of Christian beliefs. Trump himself has played up his (nascent) Christianity, proclaiming “The Art of the Deal was his “second favourite book” after the Bible.”[8] Silliness like that has been offset by his clear unfamiliarity with basic tenets of Christianity. Nevertheless, there have been awkward attempt to put Trump firmly in the camp of what is referred to as prosperity theology – in a nutshell, if you’re rich and prosperous it means you are a good person, and if you are a ‘loser’, well, I guess that’s evidence of a lack of Godliness.[9]

Well, alright then. We’ve now reached the pinnacle; it seems, of the intermingling of the Religious Right. Trump, on his part, has aggressively nominated[10] extreme right wing federal judges to any and all vacancies, a process that has delighted even the doubters in his own party. Concomitant to the various judicial appointments (mostly Appeals court vacancies for now) is the current nomination of Brett Kavanaugh – by many accounts Kavanaugh was selected primarily for his views on “religious liberty” – one of those euphemisms that doesn’t not mean quite what it implies. In our current environment it primarily means erosion of the separation of church and state, or as one article put it: “Kavanaugh’s alleged emphasis on religious liberty is a political wet kiss for Trump. It shows Trump’s base that they were right in voting for him[11]

It is probably true that Trump has no qualms about accepting support from most any group that will give it to him (see: White Supremacists), and an opportunity to beat his chest in front of yet another gaggle of adorers is not to be underestimated. Yet there is a certain cynicism at work here that supersedes even the earlier twisted relationships between the Religious Right and the GOP. By now the mild pretensions to progressive thought that marked (some of) the pre-Reagan Evangelical movements have disintegrated and the alliance of Religion and State has become fully politicized, with no relevance to either morality or constitutional law.

  1. Even Barack Obama assumed Trump would moderate his loose approach to facts and truthfulness and moderate his attitude once in office http://fortune.com/2016/11/15/president-obama-donald-trump-wake-up-call-temperament/ Surprise!
  2. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about the ‘American Experiment’ in Democracy in America, but I wonder if he saw this phase coming?
  3. https://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2014-05/jimmy-carter-and-demise-progressive-evangelicalism
  4. It seems quaint and outdated today but the furor over racially segregated Christian academies was a sensational item at one time. Bob Jones University was the poster child for the fundamentalist outrage over the IRS crackdown on “segregation academies” (including Jerry Falwell’s), ironically initiated by Richard Nixon. https://newrepublic.com/minutes/140724/bob-jones-university-probably-like-forget-banned-interracial-dating
  5. https://www.csmonitor.com/1980/0625/062555.html
  6. See previous reference
  7. Ronald Regan was the first divorced politician widely endorsed for national office by Evangelicals http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/05/5216/
  8. https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5085318/donald-trump-religion-president-jewish/
  9. http://www.beliefnet.com/news/politics/the-strange-faith-of-donald-trump.aspx Despite harping on this for some degree, this article does briefly note that the main religion for Trump is money (and power), and that his appeal to Evangelicals and rural voters is his promise to sprinkle some cash their way
  10. In these divisive and bipartisan times, a nomination by Trump is a de facto appointment to office.
  11. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/09/07/to-trump-kavanaughs-testimony-about-religious-liberty-made-him-worth-the-pick/?utm_term=.0d6947e877f1 For more article on the current meaning of Religious Liberty please also see http://www.rightwingwatch.org/topics/religious-liberty/

Interview with the Emperor

Dateline Vancouver, British Columbia, sometime in 2026. Donald Trump is in town for a celebrity golf tournament. Steve Bannon is the current president of the United States.

The Press, as it may have looked prior to the 2020 purges, has essentially disappeared from the USA. Fox News functions as a government entity run by the Department of Homeland Security. CNN has moved to Switzerland and while it continues to cover American politics, its website is blocked by the DHS firewall. The firewall also restricts access to many other formerly prominent media outlets, such as the Washington Post Company, the New York Times, CBS and many others. Accessing any content, digital, printed or otherwise, is punishable by a 3 month jail sentence. Third (or more) time offenders are eligible for treason charges.

Trump weighs 350 pounds and is confined to a wheelchair with Type 2 diabetes. Bannon’s first action as president was to execute an order placing Trump’s visage on all American currency (congressional ratification of any policy or law is a formality and always 100%, effective with the Anti-Treason Executive Action of 2023).

Today Donald Trump has invited Canadian journalist Peter Sensibaugh for a no-holds barred interview, where he promises to speak candidly about his time in office. He has agreed that no question or topic is off limits, excepting his family’s finances. This interview could not take place on American soli anymore, due to the Anti-Treason laws executed in 2021. Many suspect Trump wishes to unburden himself after a controversial 8 years that reshaped American society and the world order. Others in Canada speculate he simply wants more attention, as he has somewhat faded from the daily news cycle.

Peter Sensibaugh (PS): Good Morning Sir

Donald Trump (DT): Good Morning

PS: There are a large number of topics that Canadians are curious about. As you know, President Bannon recently threatened to terminate diplomatic relations with Canada and has hinted about arming the border. This comes on the heels of suspending trade with Canada last year. This has many people nervous. Is it your opinion that this state of affairs is preferable to the relationship in place prior to 2016?

DT: No question about it. I made border security a top priority during my terms and I delivered. The wall finally got built and once we added those machine guns at the top (chuckles to himself, trails off …). In any case the Canadians have laughed at us for decades over the porous border and I’m glad Steve’s putting a stop to it. No one’s laughing at the USA anymore. That free trade nonsense was a great source of comedy to the rest of the world.

We offered Canada a prime role in a new USA that would include Canada in the federation and allow provinces to maintain states’ rights similar to what we enjoy in the US. That was a pretty good deal, and Canada turned it down.

PS: The inflation rate in the US is now over 20% and the dollar has been replaced with Bitcoin II as the primary international currency.

DT: The inflation is whatever we say it is. Black market currency dealing is a treasonous offense.

PS: Let’s talk about the press purge in 2021. May feel that was a decisive turning point both in US history and the world events.

DT: I think when you have an institution that is spreading lies, and won’t stop doing it despite repeated warnings, then action has to be taken.

PS: Freedom of the Press is in the 1st Amendment.

DT: (glares silently)

DT: We’ve heard this nonsense before and I’m glad we’ve put a stop to it. If you yell Fire! In a theater, that’s not covered. The lying ‘press’ was yelling fire every single day. The got what they deserved. As early as 2016 I mentioned that the constant stream of fake news was treasonous. We cannot condone treasonous activity.

PS: The subsequent suicides of several journalists in jail seemed very tragic and also a remarkable coincidence.

DT: Listen, these were unstable individuals. Pathological liars really. They were going to be in jail for a long time anyway after the treason convictions, and my only regret is that we did not guard more fully against these actions prior to the trials.

PS: The subsequent trials were compared to Stalinist show trials.

DT: Not by anyone in the American media. We effectively cleaned that up. And we’ve relocated a lot of those characters to work camps. If they show proper change of attitude, they’re back in society in a few years from now.

PS: You claimed that coverage of the 2020 election was pretext for the Journalism purge

DT: After the widespread fraud and misreporting of the 2018 midterms we could not tolerate more fake news. The Liberal press was complicit in both trying to bring down the administration as well as spreading the lie that the elections were honest

Note: The Democrats decisively won the house and took control of the senate in the 2018 midterms. The Trump administration immediately filed suit to invalidate the election, and as Supreme Court ruling prevented the newly elected representatives and senators from taking office until further study and full recounts and investigations into voter fraud.

PS: Would you entertain the possibility that the Democrats won the midterms?

DT: Not a chance. Completely fraudulent. Wake up man! The Russians have colluded with the Democrats from the start, and we have evidence that millions of illegal aliens voted Democratic, some several times.

PS: Have you released that evidence?

DT: It’s classified. We have acted appropriately.

PS: Are you referring to the 2020 election, where Latinos were not allowed to vote?

DT: You are misstating the facts. I thought you Canadians had learned from events to the South. No American citizens were prevented from voting. However we had overwhelming reports of potential fraud in certain areas and among certain groups. We had to take precautions.

PS: It was reported that it could take Latino voters over an hour to cast their vote, and that each voter was interrogated regarding their citizenship status.

DT: That was necessary to safeguard the election.

Note: Even with a record low Latino turnout, Trump barely won the election. It was widely speculated that the vote totals were fraudulent in many precincts and, based on exit polls and pre-election polling that he lost decisively.

DT: After the misreporting in 2020 we had to take action. The Liberal press were no longer journalists, they were traitors. Continuing to question policy and criticize the countrys’leaders plays right into the hands of our enemies. Our enemies laughed at us when they read the liberal press reports.

PS: So you arrested them all.

DT: We arrested traitors based on the constitution.

PS: Can you go into the disenfranchisement of Latinos, another 2021 policy initiative?

DT: Well, you fellows to the North are just as bad as the traitors in jail. There is no disenfranchisement. Our investigators have uncovered overwhelming evidence of citizenship fraud among Latinos, mostly Mexicans of course.

PS: And this is related to the voter fraud?

DT: There is a large overlap.

PS: Is it fair to completely suspend all Social Security, Disability and other government payments to the groups while under investigation.

DT: Of course. Eventually we will reveal that they are not really citizens and they will be lawfully deported. In the meantime why would we give them money they are not entitled to? We have overwhelming support from real Americans on this issue.

PS: Let’s talk a bit about the rehabilitation of President Bannon. You did an about face on his presidential candidacy, several years after forcing his resignation from your administration.

Steve Bannon won the presidency in 2024 with 85% of Electoral College votes. International election watchers consider the results fraudulent. Following widespread rioting, there were mass arrests, leading to the establishment of ‘tent prisons’ in the Nevada desert. These tented camps have been growing and are estimated to hold over 30,000 political prisoners at this time.

DT: Steve and I never disagreed; he was just getting too far ahead of the script and trying to do his own thing. No one usurps Donald Trump. In any case we have a good team in place – Donald Jr. as VP, Jared at State and Ivanka doing Defense. We think Steve will step down after one term and let Donald Jr. run. We like his chances. (winks, gives thumbs up)

DT: OK, we are done Peter. I have a little surprise. The joke is on you, and this interview will never be published.

Trumps nods to his bodyguard, who opens the door and lets in several more large men in black suits.

DT: You’re under arrest for treason. I’ll tell you, I don’t have that much opportunity for fun like this anymore. But Steve, Jared and I were planning this for a while. You dumb Canadians should not have turned down the alliance

Roughly at this time the United States declared that Canada was now part of the North American Federation of America. US Troops move aggressively over the border. Martial law has been declared in Canada. The Stock Market closes slightly down.

 

Meet the New Candidate

The scene is the Roosevelt Room. Most of the Cabinet and higher level staffers are in attendance. SEM has a good-sized German Shepherd on a leash. The dog is slightly agitated but not hostile.

SEM: Ladies and Gentleman meet Rusty. We are running him for the 10th District in California.

CBI is eating a hamburger. There is another hamburger on a plate to his right.

SEM: Sir, We’d like you to meet Rusty, one of the new faces of the new Republican party. He is the first of what we hope will be a successful group of alternatives to business as usual in Washington and state legislatures.

BS: We’re cleaning up the swamp! Nothing is cleaner than a dog!

There is a brief silence in the room. CBI takes another bite of his hamburger.

CBI: (mumbling with mouth full). You KNOW I don’t like dogs. OK, never mind, let’s get this over with.

PS: We need a quick group of photos sir, then we’ll leave you alone

LZ1 and LZ2 enter the room smiling

CBI: Do they have to be in the shot too?

PS: Party unity sir. There will be a series of shots and we need the Lizard twins in there just to show we are behind Rusty 100%. He IS incorruptible.

LZ1: After that Pruitt mess we need someone a little more likable.

SEM leads Rusty to CBI. CBI has just started on the second hamburger. The photographers and videographers are ready to record the meeting. SEM is grinning broadly. Rusty is slightly more agitated.

SEM: Sir I’d like you to meet Rusty, Republican candidate. Shake, Rusty!

CBI extends his non-burger hand. Rusty the German Shepherd leaps for the (almost whole) hamburger in the other hand. CBI is bowled over backwards. Rusty is grabbing for the burger but CBI is showing impressive dexterity in keeping it barely out of reach. SEM has maintained hold of the leash but has been capsized and is on the floor desperately preventing Rusty from getting at CBI’s burger.

The 3 tussle on the floor in a maze of suits, dog and burger. There is bedlam in the room. CBI continues to wrestle on the floor with Rusty. Rusty has gained control of the burger and is finishing wolfing it down. SEM has lost his grasp on the leash and is trapped on the floor adjacent to Rusty and CBI; the leash is now wrapped around SEM.

After several staffers intervene order is restore. PS has taken control of the leash. SEM is attempting to straighten his wrinkled suit, which has a large tear at the left knee. CBI’s suit appears intact but is severely wrinkled and has large spots of dog saliva in several places.

CBI: Shoot this animal!

PS: No sir! The publicity campaign has begun already

CBI: Bannon was right about this party!

Rusty is hustled out of the room. He seems a bit calmer.

CBI: I am not to be bothered the rest of the day. Everyone in this room is fired.