Please note well: In case you were wondering, even though November is over, I will be publishing the rest of this book here, section by section. But if you can’t wait to see how it ends, you can order this book in hard copy, and the link for that is here. In addition, audio chapters are being recorded and released on the new Canon App.
Del’s resignation from the campaign as the vice-presidential candidate had been accepted immediately. Nobody even had to think about it. But even though that was sewed up promptly, Del still had had a tumultuous week post-debate. The circumstances of his resignation had prompted demands from the party chiefs back in Virginia that he resign his office as senator. This was something that Del was entirely disinclined to do, not seeing the need, and also because the climate change emails had made life very festive for the state party.
A number of those guys were worried about their own offices, their own positions, not to mention their very own sinecures and fiefdoms. All Del had needed to do to get them all to calm down was to mention the possibility of him switching parties. Apart from the practical usefulness of such a move as a threat to keep those particular hounds at bay, it was a move that was starting to make more and more sense to Del every day that passed. He had even printed out a copy of the Republican Party platform to read over.
The scandal assumed the proportions it did because of all the guffaws and snorts in the emails. The revelation that the lead honchos of the climate change fraud knew that it was in fact a fraud, and had been chortling about it to one another in quite an unbridled fashion, is the element that caused the whole scandal to take on the demeanor and outlook of a mushroom cloud.
It would have been bad enough if the emails had revealed that the chief instigators of the climate change racket had known that the science was bad, but they were somehow really sorry that the science was bad. If only there had been more brow-furrowing or soul-searching or angst-riddenness or something. But there was nothing of the kind. There was no attitude visible in the email thread other than sheer, unrestrained glee. They were writing to one another like three pirates in a Caribbean cave somewhere who, having downed a couple of quarts of rum, had started to throw gold doubloons at one another in that playful way that pirates sometimes have.
They were not wrestling with the ethical issues at all and, following some well-known advice once given by Friedrich Nietzsche, had decided to move beyond good and evil, and to have as good a time as they possibly could while there. Like Vegas, the brochures promised that what happened there would stay there, which turned out, after all the pieces fell out of the sky, not to have been the case.
And this is why it chafed the American public in such a spectacular way. They were already in a state of high annoyance on the issue, having been able to observe climate change advocates fly off to Davos in their private jets, while they were being encouraged to do their part in saving the planet through buying toilets that didn’t flush, and shower heads that didn’t let any water through, and allowing nosy city officials to monitor the contents of their garbage. But despite all of that, they had managed to keep their annoyance in abeyance by telling themselves that a lot of these people were Hollywood types and couldn’t help themselves. They were just trained to recite their lines anyway. They were actors, for crying out loud. But when it came out that the ones imposing all the sacrificial burdens on the whole stinking country were themselves yukking it up over the high gullibility of a continent full of chumps, the chumps took it amiss.
These men, and by these men, we refer to Steven Lee, Martin Chao, and Leonid Ravinsky, had fallen prey to the ancient and deep trap that has snared so many who have somehow managed to make it to the top of the world, and by which we are writing metaphorically, and not about the North Pole. Up there on the top of the world, there is a deep pit that is lined with sharpened bamboo sticks, and all covered over with leafy fronds. Out in the middle of those fronds is a bowl of warm bread pudding, pudding that has been cooked in butter, conceit, flattery, hubris, and then covered over with some clotted cream. It is a rudimentary trap, and it is consistently surprising that it continues to work as well as it does. But there it is.
When Del had first read the emails, he knew that he could put them in play as a real political issue, and in a way that the major media would not be able to spike. And he knew that it would be a live issue straight through to the election. But in this he had seriously underestimated how big it would go over. The reaction was far, far beyond his expectations.
The country had gone up in a sheet of flame. To be strictly accurate, there were a handful of Maoists in a few English departments here and there who did not contribute to the heat, but everyone to the right of Brock Tilton was outraged, or had to pretend to be.
And this is why Del’s resignation from the campaign had gone as smoothly as it had. Among the close circle of Tilton’s advisors, the general sentiment was that they wanted to disembowel Del and march around the campaign headquarters with his intestines on a stick. They thought that this would serve as a caution to others. That was what they said behind closed doors while they were venting. But they were also hard-core politicos, and they knew that in that debate Martin had become an American hero. They knew that out in public, it at least needed to look like it was something of an amicable parting. And so it was.
At the same time, the crazed base of the party were demanding Del’s blood. It was for this reason that they got everything they were demanding when it came to the replacement veep pick. They demanded, and got, someone who, when it came to economics, believed in almost nothing other than her own pure thoughts. They wanted, and they got, a commie. And then, almost as soon as Brock Tilton ended the call in which he extended the offer to Casey Dupont-Sunder, which she accepted, he went into the kitchen to get himself a glass of milk, poured it, sat down at the table there, put his head on the table, and died of a heart attack.
The two major parties were in a state of absolute churn. Del, the number two man, had stepped off the ticket. A nobody lady with glassy eyes and with a yen for totalitarian solutions had replaced him. Then the number one man died on the party handlers, and they were all left staring at one another. Do we promote Dupont-Sunder to the lead slot?
Meanwhile, over on the Republican side, Billy Jerome was in the process of insisting that he step down as well. He was in the middle of the conversation he had so much dreaded, the one with Bryan McFetridge. McFetridge had been gracious enough on a personal level, and extended his forgiveness when Billy sought it. “But,” McFetridge had added, “this doesn’t let us off the hook. We still have to decide what to do.”
Most of his top advisors were in favor of sticking it out, including the one who had been swearing like a pirate in the sound booth at the debate. “No blood, no foul,” he said. “When those words first came out of Billy’s mouth, I thought we were going to talking about Thad from now to November and, thanks to Del, we won’t be.” A number of the others nodded agreement. “Leave well enough alone,” one of them said. Another one added, “If we pick a new guy, he will just be fresh meat. They will know within two weeks if he ever pushed anybody on the playground when he was in kindergarten. High risk, and no upside. And we have done three internal polls on Billy here, and a lot of the women think it is really sweet that he is reunited with his son.”
McFetridge looked at Billy. “And yet,” he said, “you want to step down.”
“Yes, I do,” Billy said.
“And how come?”
“Three reasons. First, I think it is the right thing for me to do. I thought about telling your vetting team about it, and I was too scared. I should just own it. Second, this whole thing has drained my ambition clean dry. My Senate seat is safe, and I am ten years older than you, which means that since you are likely to be president for eight years—now that the Dems look to be nominating someone from the Red Guard—it just doesn’t make much sense any more. And third, I do agree with what your worthy advisors have just said, and I have an idea for a replacement that I believe will cover all the bases.”
“Who?” Five voices spoke at once.
Del had left his phone on the coffee table in the living room, and while he and Gina were in a full clinch in the kitchen, it started to ring. “Let me get it for you,” Gina said. “I’m closer.”
She picked up a few seconds later. “Hello, this is Gina . . . no, no, this is Del’s phone. I just picked it up for him . . .”
She walked into the kitchen with the phone, handed it to Del, and said, “You’ll never guess.”