Warren Hendrian was disappointed to be meeting Speaker Glick at the off-Beltway McDonald's. He'd been hoping she'd agree to a new little place in Georgetown he'd been wanting to try, but she vetoed that without hesitation.
“Warren dear, we don't want to be recognized, do we? I've been wanting to try Hoolio's, too, the brisket is supposed to be devine, but not today...” Her trademark nonstop ramble rambled on oblivious of Hendrian's efforts to break in until he finally gave in.
“You're right, Edie. McDonald's it is,” he said, trying to sound enthusiastic. He knew better than to try to argue with “Satin Edie”, as she was known by allies and adversaries and in the press corps, because she loved to argue, rarely conceded a point and never, in her mind anyway, lost. Oddly, she never came across as stubborn. A key to her political success was an uncanny knack for making others feel that she agreed with them, when, in fact, she had subtly persuaded them to agree with her. In this instance, Warren Hendrian knew she was right, yet he secretly felt he'd be in no danger of having anyone remember him were an investigation to be conducted into the outrageous behavior of Vice President Quentin Kudlow. That is, assuming Edie could manage to get a dose of Vulcana into the fatuous, bumbling former senator from Virginia.
It was Ruth's idea to drug Kudlow. Might have been a hard sell even for Ruth, herself no slouch in the persuasion game, had it not been for one irresistible inducement: the scheme, mad as it seemed at first blush, could vault Speaker Glick into the seat she'd most coveted as far back as she could remember.
“You're mad, Ruth! What on earth have you been smoking?”
“In normal times...Ha! Let me start again. These are the times that try...Nah. Yikes, Edie, WACKO's setting that pompous asshole up to move in after they take Morowitz out. It's a coup in the making, pure and simple...”
“OK, sure. I agree Morowitz is shrinking by the day – by the hour – but you're not suggesting they're actually going to...kill him, are you?
“They won't have to, Edie, although I certainly wouldn't put it past them. All they'll need is for Morowitz somehow to be declared incompetent. They could drug him so he's incoherent in, say, a press conference or some other public appearance. Once the folks in the white coats tote him away, that's all she wrote for Good King Geoff.”
“Jesus, Ruth. Weak Sister Geoff, I know. But, you know, I like the guy? He really does have a good heart.”
“He does. But we both know a good heart doesn't get you much in politics. Not in the bigs, anyway.”
“Not in the littles, either. Doesn't say much for us, does it, kiddo?”
They smiled at their smart phones. Ruth's face was tinged with sadness; Glick's, less scrutable.
Ruth had decided not to share her knowledge of the president's plan to undergo “Vulcana therapy” with live telecast coverage. It wasn't a matter of trust, despite the fierce rivalry between them when the House Speaker and Ruth butted heads for the presidential nomination before Ruth's first term. There had never been a public display of animosity between them, and Glick had been a loyal supporter of Ruth's programs as president. Her opposition to Morowitz's legislation, while effective, wasn't enough in a season of growing dissatisfaction with incumbents in general to keep her own influence from sliding along with the president's diminishing popularity. And although her decline was not as noticeable as the president's, Glick knew she was probably serving her last term as speaker, and possibly as a member of Congress.
“It's this damned rider on the...”
“I know. I know. It's unconstitutional as hell. You can't outlaw something before you can prove it exists. And I know Morowitz says he'll veto it, and that's got WACKO mad as hell and they figure if Geoff is out dumbo Kudlow will sign whatever they tell him to sign. I know, Ruth. The whole thing stinks.”
“Can't you kill it in committee?”
“Too late. Senate's already passed it and I can't get the votes to kill it on our side. Still two or three holdouts, but I ain't holding my breath.”
“Edie, this is why we need to take Kudlow out of the game. We simply can't take the chance.”
“You saying something's gonna happen to the president?”
“If he won't change his mind on that veto, you know WACKO will make something happen. It's in the air. I can feel it.”
“I know. Me, too.”
“Yes, Ruth, I'm in. Tell me what you want me to do.”