Dick Tracy: In politics, truth is stranger than fiction
October 10, 2018
Suppose John Grisham, one of my favorite authors, were to approach a publisher with an outline for a book with the working title: "The Presidency."
In it, a billionaire and egotistical show-biz celebrity — who's never run for any elected office — outmaneuvers a clutch of traditional candidates by grabbing headlines for every preposterous thing he says. Then, with a groundswell of support from people sick to death of traditional politicians, becomes the party's candidate. Most analysts shrug. His opponent is a female shark and an absolute shoo-in for the White House. Even though she is widely distrusted. Even by her own party.
True to form, she gets 3 million more votes than Mr. Wiseguy, but the Electoral College decides he is the winner. This is the guy who told voters, "Elections are rigged" preparing for his expected loss.
Stunned, he's suddenly in office without a clue of how things really operate. The President, see, is really little more than an actor crossing stage for a term or two, doing what the audience of billionaires and power mongers have written in their script.
Just read the teleprompter, follow the script and be polite.
They're in a fury because he doesn't need them. And the unsuspecting candidate is overwhelmed with forming a cabinet, dealing with boring security briefings, keeping members of the staff from killing each other, dueling with the media and all the other rigors of the job. Not at all the fun he imagined. What's he to do? He finds solace in golf weekends at his Florida resort with his gorgeous young wife and "Tweeting" his base. They give him an approving wave for just not being a traditional politician. He responds by trying to fulfill foolish campaign promises, like walling off Mexico.
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Whoops! Then a couple of stories come to light about him canoodling with a porn queen and former Playboy Playmate and how his lawyer and "fixer" has funneled handsome amounts of cash to the women to forget what happened. Are his conservative supporters outraged? Not a bit.
The publisher, who'd been trying to stifle a laugh, shakes his head back and forth: "John, you're one of our most prolific authors, but I think you've been working too hard. Who in hell would believe this plot? Have you considered taking a nice cruise up the Alaskan Inland Passage … just to get away from it all?"
Grisham waves his hands: "Wait, there's more. The Justice Department gets word that the Russians were messing around with false information on the internet because they hated the female candidate when she was Secretary of State. And maybe they're partly responsible for the curious election results!"
"Aw, c'mon John," the publisher chuckles.
"Hang with me!" Grisham says: "The President tries to cajole his FBI director to go easy on one of his staff members who's under investigation, and when it doesn't work he fires the FBI chief! Then the heat is on to investigate collusion with the Russians and a hard-nosed special prosecutor is hired to get the facts!"
"Y'know," the suddenly somber publisher offers, "I think you'd love taking a leisurely walk around Sitka. And don't watch any TV newscasts while you're on the boat."
Grisham only shakes his head and keeps talking: "The attorney general smells a rat and recuses himself from the investigation, which drives the President bonkers. But he can't fire him because the guy's old pals in the Senate would block any other nominee for the job.
"Meanwhile, amazingly, he makes some good conservative choices for the Supreme Court. The stock market soars; unemployment is so low that manufacturers are scrambling to find workers; he starts nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea and busts China's chops with a trade war for undercutting American steel and aluminum producers!"
Drawing a deep breath, the publisher glances up from his desk: "Stop me if I'm wrong, but the story winds up with impeachment hearings, right? And how many pages do you suppose it will it take to tell the story?"
Grisham, staring into space, nods in silent acknowledgment.
"I'm sorry … I'm late for lunch," the publisher says, pushing back from his desk. "And you need the relaxation of the cruise. You'll love Juneau, and maybe the trip will give you inspiration for another novel!"
He leaves, laughing to himself … "Sure, a TV celebrity becomes president …"
Dick Tracy, who lives in Grass Valley, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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