“He is going to be fine. The President is going to be just fine,” the First Lady of the United States said in a fragile, glass-like voice. Her husband’s distant prolonged screaming gave lie to this. Standing behind her, both Liela and Ely firmly nodded their heads.
The usually cool secret service agents had sweat on their foreheads. Their constant threat scanning wasn’t calmly and smoothly professional tonight, so much as it was twitchy and jerky. Desperately seeking out threats that they could meet head on. Down the hall, there were detectable weeping sounds of two young girls, the President's daughters. The White House had been closed to visitors today. The press secretary had stated unspecified security concerns due to the Vice President’s upcoming funeral tomorrow. It was out of the ordinary but it didn’t attract any comments from FOX or the GOP, which is all that seemed matter in some quarters.
In others there were different concerns..
“We don’t tell anyone Brandon,” she said with unnatural calm. Another roaring howl made the First Lady shudder. “He is going to be fine,” Liela and Ely both bobbed their heads in agreement.
Brandon Allwhite was trying hard not to bite his lip, while he was breathing shallowly. A big part of him wanted to join the parade of denial that was marching around the White House. Just pretend it was all true and that there was absolutely nothing to worry about. The fact that the President of the United States was strapped to his bed with a rubber bite restraint jammed in his mouth was nothing to worry about. It was like making an argument in court. The facts didn’t matter, it was all about the right resolution.
Another prolonged roar, followed by the First Lady’s infuriating, jittering mantra, “He is going to be fine. The President is going to be just fine.”
Brandon nodded his head obediently while hearing but trying not to listen to, the soulless cries of the most powerful man in the world.
“Of course he will be fine,” Brandon mumbled the words formulaically. “No question at all.” Liela and Ely quickly added their voices to his, desperate to avoid being one upped.
“It's not SOD. It can’t be,” Liela trilled far too brightly. “He hasn’t had a chance to be exposed.”
“No chance at all,” Ely stated firmly forcing his well known smug smirk and arched eyebrows, into attendance. Daring any inconvenient fact to defy the power of his Harvard trained intellect. He tentatively placed a supporting hand on the First Lady’s shoulder, who smiled at him warmly before delicately, but firmly removing it.
“That said,” Brandon began carefully, “Old Mike’s funeral is tomorrow. Even assuming that the president recovers tonight. It wouldn’t be a good idea for the press to see him looking...” be careful here Brandon, “like he has been ill recently.”
“He will look fine,” Liela snapped her eyes narrowing in her slightly pudgy face.
“No he won’t!” Brandon barked in exasperation, “It takes weeks for ruptured blood vessel to clear out of eyes like that, he can’t wear sunglasses tomorrow, not at a funeral.”
Hackles were rising. Liela and Ely clenched soft fists.
“No Liela, Brandon is right, I’m afraid,” her contralto voice was raspy from crying. “I’ll have to attend the funeral tomorrow in his place.”
“Okay,” Ely said, “that sounds good.”
“Definitely for the best, even though we will have to talk him out of going himself,” the grinding of Leila's intellectual gears was suddenly producing frightening amounts of shrapnel.
“The Secretary of State will ...” Joel Boyd was interrupted by the First Lady.
“NOT be informed!” Then less emphatically “Jack has a enough on his plate at the moment,without worrying about any of this. The President is going to be just fine. For now anything that really needs the President’s authorization can be run past me. I’ll be making the decisions,” she said nodding her head in commitment.
“Sounds right to me!” piped Ely.
“Absolutely,” Liela added.
Oh my God, Brandon, heard his own inner voice flatly and distantly. She’s going to try to be Edith Wilson. When President Woodrow Wilson suffered a massive stroke in 1919 his wife began screening what things should and should not be brought before the President in his stricken condition. Edith Wilson became the final cut off valve in the flow of information. If she gave any issue her thumbs down, no issue came before the president. She had the power of “NO,” which is fifty percent of the power of “yes”. In effect, she ran the executive branch of the United States government. Between the years of 1919 and 1921, Edith Wilson was the United States’ first woman president.
“Problems, Brandon?” Ely said almost accusingly. Brandon had neglected to nod his head with the rest of them.
“Oh sorry. I drifted there for a moment,” Brandon’s mental hamster wheel spun frantically. “I...I had...” suddenly inspiration came flying out of the wheel, “...just remembered we haven’t released an official White House Photo for the Vice President’s funeral.”
“Oh that’s very important, Brandon,” The First Lady was grateful for any problem she could easily handle. “ Yes, that’s good.”
“One of the ones from the first election night perhaps. Showing the the Vice President smiling respectfully at the President, while he looks up and into the distance like the visionary that he is.” When Brandon said this, he became aware of a new sensation that had been alien to him since coming to work at the White House. Acute embarrassment.
“That sounds perfect Brandon,” The First Lady was smiling glassily and over broadly.
Brandon nodded sharply, “I’m all over it!”
Brandon became aware of second sensation that was new to him. Not caring in the least that the other Juice Boxers were glaring at his retreating back. He normally would have been ecstatically pleased he had one upped everyone. For five whole minutes they could suck his dick, until one of them one upped him and then his world would crash for someone else's five minutes of glory. And now he just didn’t care. It shocked him, that he couldn’t care in the least.
Not only did he not care but Brandon could barely keep himself from running away from them. There had been such a blanket of insular paranoia wrapping around the White House for years that they had all suffocated under it, without realizing it.
Brandon was suddenly resuscitated, awake and breathing clean air again. The President of the United States is crippled, no kidding, probably for the rest of his life, mentally crippled. The nation is facing a disaster and I am the only one here who seems to be able to face it.
All right then Brandon, this is important, think. What is the first thing I need to do?
Find out if there is any hope for the President.
That is A number one. If the President is going to recover and be just fine, everything else can go fuck itself. Course corrections can be made later. Apologies can be offered for decisions that were made in the name of loyalty. The president is staggeringly forgiving under some circumstances. And if he won’t recover...
Find the hell out if he will!
He pulled out his iPhone, ran down the contact list until he found her name and then he hesitated.
She wears a uniform. That was a problem for Brandon. He had been raised to view the wearing of any uniform as a serious moral failing unless it prominently featured a red star.
However, she was the only one in uniform he was able to trust. It had to be her, even if she was American military.
He tapped the phone and waited after two rings he heard the the welcome sound of her voice of, “General Combs.”
A few minutes, that felt like a few lifetimes, later.
“Well,” Brandon frantically demanded.
“No, I’m sorry. There has never been a case of recovery from SOD. We must assume that the President’s condition is permanent,” then the phone went silent.
“Is that all?!” Brandon nearly shrieked.
“Please give me a moment, sir,” General Combs said. “I’m considering several courses of potential action.”
After a long pause. “Mister Allwhite...Brandon, I am speaking to you with the utmost sincerity. Who you call next is critically important to the future of the people of the United States of America, it’s government, it’s people and, of course, yourself,” Combs said.
“I know that...Dee. But who do I call first?” Brandon Allwhite wailed.
“I quote, section four of the twenty fifth amendment to the constitution of the United States,
‘Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.’ end quote.
And there is our problem Brandon.
There is no Vice President. Under subsection B. the Speaker of the House becomes acting president.”
“I know, I know,” Brandon groaned. After the last Speakers fall from power, the far right had finally installed one of their own in the Speaker’s chair. The honorable representative from Grand Rapids MI was a one-man worst case scenario so far as Brandon was concerned. Everything, every single reform, every desperately needed regulation they had fought so bitterly for, would be gone within the year.
“Brandon,” Combs voice was intensely sincere, “God only knows what that maniac will do if he gets ahold of the West Wing. He will be a complete and unmitigated disaster.” General Combs voice sounded terrifyingly urgent. “You know that, don’t you?”
“Of course I do, Dee but, Jesus Christ, what am I supposed to do?!?” Brandon wailed.
“Contact the Secretary of State immediately,” Combs gave him his orders. But then in defiance of a lifetime of training, explained them. “The key is in the wording of the twenty fifth amendment. Neither Representatives nor Senators have ever been considered “officers,” in any and all previous iterations of the Constitution of the United States. Yet all earlier amendments to the constitution clearly states the secretariat ...”
“...Clearly states the executive secretaries are the “officers, not the legislators,” Brandon almost shouted then looked over his shoulder to see if he had been heard. He licked his lips with nervous energy. “Are you saying that I should act on the assumption that the Twenty Fifth amendment to the Constitution is... unconstitutional?”
“You might think that, Brandon. I couldn’t possibly comment,” Combs replied dryly.
“Oh my God. You are right. You are so right,” Brandon had tears at the corners of his eyes. Maybe all their work could be saved. “I knew you were the one to talk to.” Brandon straightened up. This was his moment. His all important contribution to American history. He knew it was time to sound commanding and serious. “Thank you, General. I won’t forget this.”
Allwhite tapped red hangup button and then scrolled down his call list until he reached the Secretary of State’s home number.
Michigan State University, Lansing Michigan.
“Shocker!” Combs called out.then looked back down at her Galaxy S waiting for Cahn to do his usual genie like appearance behind her.
“Ma’am?” She was pleased with herself for not flinching.
“You have contacts in the Speaker of the House’s office. Yes?” She asked.
“I-ieee,” he drawled in a worrying tone, “did. I don’t know if she will still take my calls.”
“Don't tell me you were stupid enough to piss in that well.” Combs wasn’t asking, she was ordering him to tell her he hadn’t done something as moronic as pump and dump a U.S. Rep’s staffer.
“No, that wouldn't be a problem if I had,” Shocker said with a dismissive wave. “I know she’d return my calls then.”
Probably true, Combs shrugged. Shocker wasn’t so much a ‘bad boy’ as he was a ‘worse boy.’ That tended to provoke some fairly extreme responses from some women.
“I was careful to let the Representative take pictures with me whenever possible during the run up to the last election. His staff was at one time on decent terms with me but he is now Speaker of the House and after the...unpleasantness, those photos have proven embarrassing.”
“Call anyway and be sure you get through, no matter what,” Combs decided
“And what am I going to do then, Ma’am?” Shocker asked
She sighed with some regret, “You are going to bring down the government of the United States of America.”