A Political Portrait
Author's Note: I've always been pretty interested in politics, and have often considered going into politics. In first grade my best friend Carrie and I made an agreement that I would be the first woman president, and Carrie would be my V-P. But everyone who I tell that to says the same stupid negative things: "Do you mind lying?" "Are you a good liar?" "All politicians are dishonest, you know." And I'm no good at doing any of that. So perhaps some will think this is too wishy-washy, but this is what I want politics to be like. Please don't shatter my dreams and tell me how wrong I am when it comes to all this backstage politics stuff!
I actually got the idea for this short story as I was watching George W. Bush's acceptance speech on August 4th. The camera spanned the crowd for an instant as they were waiting for George W. to start speaking and I caught a very brief, very real, very charming picture of President Bush and Barbara Bush. George moved over a seat to talk to a young woman (I didn't know who), then turned back to his wife and adamantly patted the seat cushion for her to move over and join him. They are a very cute married couple. Anyway, I wanted to write a story about that, so here's what I packed around it. It's not a key feature in the story, just a 'what was really happening at that moment?' type thing. So without further 'waffling', here's "A Political Portrait."
November 6, 2000
"Yesterday was November 5th, 2000. Were you at the polls? The future President, to be inaugurated come Spring, is Robert Edward Harrison, Jr. whose father was in the White House just sixteen years ago. Quite a surprise! It was a come from behind finish for Mr. Harrison. Many are saying that his campaign wouldn't have had the turn-around booming finish that it did if it hadn't been for a picture taken of Mr. Harrison and his family the night of the Republican Convention. The picture portrays Robert Harrison as the hometown boy most Americans had hoped he was, and one critic in particular compared the photo with Jimmy Stewart at the end of that old classic "It's a Wonderful Life." Just moments after receiving the final tally of votes, a similar shot was taken of his family and has been splashed all over the front pages of newspapers all over America, today, pronouncing him the winner of this 2000 Presidential Election."
-- Tom Brokaw on the NBC "Nightly News"*
August 4, 2000
"Remember the ending."
"I will, Dad."
"And be sure to smile, but not like a cheese."
"Dad," the son sighed.
"I know, I know. Not my turn anymore. What can I say? It's a habit. Do good, Junior."
"That's what I'm here for."
"Such easy confidence!" the father chided jokingly. "I don't know whether they'll like that," he added more seriously.
"I don't know how they couldn't. I think it's just what we need right now! We need someone . . . but why am I defending my position to my father? You should be the one person who's behind me in this outfit."
"And your mother!"
"Yes, Mom, too."
"You're awfully young."
"That's why it will work."
"You're a Republican."
"The economy is doing great. We need to focus on helping Americans help themselves, now-- . . . You're a republican, too, Dad. There I go, again! I can't seem to stop talking like a politician!"
"It's in your blood."
"Yeah, Mom is pretty democratic-- "
"Haha. We're proud of you, Junior. And win or lose this race, you've given America something to think about."
"Does life ever go back to normal? Do you ever stop talking like a politician?"
"Nope. Only occasionally--around family. But would you really want a normal life? You've never had a normal life."
"That's true. I'm on."
"Don't forget the ending."
"Don't be nervous! That's my job!"
"I'd rather do it for you."
"That's your job."
"All right, smart aleck. You still act like you're twelve, not thirty-eight. Go get ‘em, Tiger."
"How's he doing?"
"He's doing fine. You're the nervous wreck."
"I always look like this."
"If you had always looked like that, I wouldn't have married you."
"Where are Cora and Sam and Jack?"
"With their mother, of course."
"Where's Maureen? Where's their mother?"
"Right next to you, old man," his wife chided.
"Oh! Oh, hello Maureen," he greeted across the empty seat. "You gave a very good speech. Maybe you should run for governor next term in your husband's place."
"I do like campaigning. But not for myself. Someone has to take care of the little rascals," she ruffled five year old Sam's shaggy blond hair.
"If you ever did, Bob and I wouldn't mind taking the kids while you're busy," the former first lady offered across her husband's now-vacant chair.
"Gerdie, stop yelling across the room and come sit with Maureen and me, will you?"
"The children will want their chair back pretty soon, won't they?"
"Nonsense, they're children. Hold them on your lap. Come sit by me, I'm fidgety."
"You're always fidgety at these things."
"Come sit by me, anyway."
"No. Then you'll be fidgety by me, and I really don't think I could handle all your little quips right now, Bob."
"You were much more pleasant when you were first lady."
"You were much more pleasant, too!"
"Impossible--I was never first lady! Come sit by me; I'll be good," he patted the cushion and Gerdie obliged, just as her littlest grandson skipped back over from bothering some of the camera men.
"Come here, Jack. Sit on Grandpa's lap." He grunted and groaned as he pulled the four-year-old up onto his knees.
"You're an actor," Gerdie accused.
"Quiet, you." he turned his grandson to face him. "So, Jack! Do you want to be president like your grandpapa and your daddy when you grow up?"
"Don't say ‘yeah' say ‘yes'. Maureen, what are you teaching these children? Now. Do you want to be president?"
"Good. And who will your Vice-President be?"
"Me? Well, thank you, but no. You'll have to find someone else."
"I think Sam would be a very good running mate."
"Dad, we really don't want to encourage him. We want him to decide for himself what he wants to do," Maureen interrupted.
"Robert decided for himself. Jack will decide for himself. He is deciding for himself! He was over there soaking up the lime light with the reporters and making a general spectacle of himself a minute ago."
"I hope he didn't say anything," the mother mused.
"William was with him; there's no harm."
"Porter. Robert's left hand man."
"Booob," Gerdie admonished. "Be nice to William. He's very good with the kids, and he's an asset to Robert."
"Kids say the strangest things, sometimes. You never know. Didn't Robert ever embarrass you?"
"Once. We were in the store, and he was still young enough to be in the seat in the cart. I was pushing him down the isles while Gertrude looked for stockings, or something, and he started burping up a storm. Belching as loud as a truck driver! I was mortified, and had been running for mayor at the time, so I couldn't just walk away, which I did contemplate doing. Belched the whole way down the isle just when everyone was out shopping for their dinners. Never fed that kid lima beans again!"
"Oh, Cora loves her lima beans, don't you, Cora?" Maureen asked her curly blonde haired three-year-old daughter, who looked up from her discussion with her grandma to nod happily.
"Just don't take her to the store afterwards. She may turn out to be like her father."
"Are you telling that silly story again, Bob? Honestly. That was thirty-six years ago," Gerdie said exasperatedly. "You'd think you'd be over it by now. Tell a cute story. Tell the one about him singing all through the mall."
The former President of the United States of America groaned. "Yes, that was cute, all right. We took Robert to the mall to buy him some clothes. Maybe a toy, if he was good. You know--the usual. The whole two hours we were there, he was singing ‘Jesus loves me, yes I know, for the Bible tells me so' at the top of his lungs. Oh, yes. He was quite a cute little spectacle."
"You loved it, Bob. Especially," Gerdie started laughing at the thought, "Especially when Father Greene walked by and heard him!" she remembered joyfully as the others started laughing, too. "Every Sunday after that, Father Greene tried to get him to sing the song for him! And he never would! It went on for two years!"
"Father Greene finally gave up!"
Maureen gasped with a sudden realization. "So that's why Robert keeps trying to get Sam to sing that song during church!"
The grandparents chuckled and hugged their grandchildren closer to them.
"When is Daddy going to talk?"
"Oh, in a minute or so, dear."
"Will he wave to us?"
"You know he always does," she smiled fondly at her granddaughter. "And a special wink for you, of course."
"Is Daddy going to go away?"
"Well, why on Earth should he?"
"They said if Daddy is the pres'dnt, he'll go to . . . to Washville A.B.C."
Gerdie grinned at the little girl's misunderstanding. "Your daddy will never leave you. If he goes to Washington D.C., you'll go too."
"Is it nice there?"
"Ohhh, yes. Very pretty."
"Will Tuck come?"
"Why, I suppose so. Your daddy had a dog when we lived in the White House."
"Will you live with us?"
"No, we'll stay here. But we'll come and visit a lot-- Oh, now listen! They just said you're daddy's coming on now!"
"Daddy!!" the youngster squealed, as she stood up on her seat in her yellow sundress and white sandals.
Presently, Robert Harrison, Jr. walked out onto the stage, waving and smiling. As he reached the podium and the crowd quieted down, he gave his last wave and the wink to his family.
"HI DADDY!!" the little voices screamed. The microphone nearby picked up the message and broadcasted it to the audience.
The congregation laughed and cooed at the family spectacle. "Hello, Sammy, Jack, and Cora. Family. Hello, friends. Thank you for coming."
An hour later, two grandparents, and a mother, with a sleeping child apiece, paraded backstage to congratulate their father/husband/son on his acceptance speech.
"Oh, Robert, you did wonderful! I loved the ending!"
"Robert! Good speech, bad ending. Why didn't you do the one I told you to?"
"Dad!!" and then there were but two sleeping children.
"Jack-a-roo!" the son leapt from his grandfather's arms to his father's arms.
"I think we may turn into a legacy, Robert. Jack here says he wants to be president like his dad and grandfather when he grows up."
"Oh, yeah?" he scratched his little boy's tummy as Jack loosened his tie for him. "Who's going to be your running mate?"
"Does he know this?"
" . . . No."
"Oh. Well, if things don't work out with Sam, you always have Cora, too!"
At the sound of her name she awoke, leaving only one child asleep in his mother's arms.
"Cora-dor!" she leaped unexpectedly from her grandmama to her dad, who practically dropped Jack, trying to catch Cora.
"Hey, a munchkin on each arm. This is the life."
"Dad!" Sam tried to worm away from his mother and into his father's arms, heedless of the fact that they were full of his sister and brother.
"Whoa! Hold on, Sam. Jack, have your grandpa put you on my shoulders." With a daughter clinging to his left side, his eldest on his right, and the middle one right on top, he made quite a charming picture. The newspapers agreed.
"If we have every school let their state government know how it's doing, it really serves two purposes. Parents can choose where their children go to school, and the bad, well, I don't want to say ‘bad', but less adept schools will eventually be forced to change . . ."**
-- Robert Harrison at a Press Conference in Seattle, Washington, August 15, 2000.
"If we meet the international forum's standards, I believe it will be the most effectual, easiest, quickest, and most lasting way, to cut down on pollution. In fact, if the estimates are correct, it should clear up pollution by 5%. Just think--your children will be breathing air that is 5% cleaner than the air that you and I are breathing right now my mind..."**
-- Robert Harrison on Good Morning America, August 23, 2000.*
"I know that I'm not advocating as big of a tax cut as my friend Mr. Grant, but I truly believe that if we take that big of a cut, we won't have a surplus again next year. Do you know how much use a surplus would be each year? Our Social Security System would be almost flawless. We could cut down on the National Debt! The statistic right now is that every man, woman, and child would have to pay $19,000 each if we wanted to get rid of the National Debt altogether... "***
-- Robert Harrison in an interview with Connie Chung, September 3, 2000.*
"I want to stop labor unions and corporations from donating soft money to campaigns, because members of the unions, or shareholders in the corporation have no say in who that money supports; the top management makes that decision... "**
-- Robert Harrison in a press conference in Detroit, Michigan, September 8, 2000.
"Sir, if elected, do you plan to go through with new gun laws?"
"No, Sir, I don't."
"But Sir, our current laws are ineffective. Wouldn't you like to have good laws replacing the old ones?"
"No, I wouldn't. We have good laws. We just don't enforce them. If we need to hire more people in order to do so, then that's even better, because we're creating more jobs, but what we need to do is actually enforce them. Our gun laws are enforced just about as much as our littering laws."**
"What do you think about gun registration?"
"Gun registration is a good idea. But it's impractical, and quite frankly, an impossible nuisance. The people who follow the laws will register their guns, and the people who choose not to, will not..."
-- Robert Harrison in a press conference September 30, 2000.
"Voting is very important for young people. I know that some of your watchers are turning of age, now, and come November they can vote and be a part of electing the next President of the United States of America. Right now only about 33-45% of people vote... "
-- Robert Harrison in an interview with Gotham Chopra on Channel One news, October 8, 2000.*
Three months, two days, and too many stressful hours of campaigning, debates, commercials, and publicity acts after Robert Harrison accepted the Republican Nomination, voters, not as many as in past years, but a few more than most recent years, turned out at the polls to vote for the President of the United States of America.
Democrat: Garret "Gary" Gregory Grant, Age: 52; Education: smaller schools, smaller classes, teacher evaluation to determine pay; Environment: opposed to standards set at international forum, plans to conserve land with more parks; Taxes: cut by restoring 10% deduction for two-income married couples; Campaign Finance: ban all soft money contributions; Gun Control: require photo registration, child-safety locks on all guns.****
Republican: Robert Edward Harrison, Age: 38; Education: require individual ‘school report cards' of each school in every state, encourage more government regulations on state level, give federal funding to private schools; Environment: meet international forum standards to reduce gas emissions, prevent rollback of environmental protections already effective; Taxes: cut taxes but at 7%, eliminate marriage penalty, use surplus to save Social Security System; Campaign Finance: end labor union and corporation donating of "soft money"; Gun Control: stronger enforcement of laws, ban automatic weapons, opposes gun registration, instant background checks at gun shows.
Reform: Bartholomew "Bart" James Scott, Age: 63; Education: cut federal funding from well-to-do schools to give to poorer districts; Environment: enforce laws already standing; Taxes: proposes new tax plan that will further cut taxes for the elderly and the young; Campaign Finance: all soft money to be equally divided between each candidate; Gun Control: opposes guns entirely.
"Tonight's the big night," Maureen commented as she straightened her husband's tie.
"Tonight I'm either Governor of Arizona, or President of the United States of America."
"It's going on! Right now! All over the country, millions of people are voting either for or against you!"
"Let's just stick with ‘All over the country millions of people are voting,' Dad. When you think about it, it's not that big of a difference. Governor is easier, I guess."
"Quite an actor! You know you're just as nervous as I am!"
"Quiet, Bob! He's acting like you did," Gerdie shushed him.
"Five minutes," Maureen announced.
"Daddy, are you nervous?" Jack asked, climbing into his father's lap and loosening his tie for him.
"Just a little, Jack-a-roo. This is a very important night for Daddy."
"Is that why we have to dress up?"
"Yeah, that's why."
"Yes, that's why," Jack corrected him.
"Dad, you've been talking to Jack again, haven't you?"
"You youngsters need to learn to speak properly. Better to teach the new ones at a young age so we won't go through the hassle we're going through with you."
Robert gave a huge sigh, and Jack wrapped his arms around his father's neck, sensing that he needed comfort.
"Here, Robert." Maureen gave her husband a glass of water and gathered the children around him.
"What did you do today, Cora?" he asked his little girl.
"Grandmama and Mommy took me to the zoo!"
"Oh? And what did you like best about the zoo?"
"The lemurs?! That's very interesting. Do lemurs make noises?"
"What . . . ?"
"Tell Daddy about Zoboo, honey."
"Zoboomafoo***** has his own TV show! He's a lemur! And every day when he visits Martin and Chris, they feed him and then he burps! Then he can talk! But not before," she informed him wisely.
"Ohhh! I see! Yes, that's very interesting. Very smart lemur, he is. Jack and Sam, what did you do with your Grandpa today?"
"We went fishing!"
"Did you? Where?"
"The lake by Mount Vermin!" Sam supplied.
"Mount Vernon,"****** Robert laughed. "Yes, I hear that's a very good lake. Did you catch anythi-- Maureen, look at the time. Jack, grab my jacket, please. Maurreeeeen, my tie!"
"Stay calm, darling. Being flustered isn't one of your strong points," she straightened his tie for him as Jack brought his jacket, which he slipped on. "Cora, kiss your daddy. Jack and Sam, you too."
"All right, Maureen. This is it. Let's go out there."
A barrage of cheers and screaming met the ears of the candidates and their families as they stepped onstage and waited for the final count of votes to be posted on the huge television screen. Only a few percent difference between Robert Harrison and Garret Grant with Bartholomew Scott trailing with only 12% of the votes so far.
Just minutes to go . . . seconds to go...the arena is packed with screaming, overcrowded citizens, all waving banners and shouting chants through megaphones.
Final count just in! Grant-Ternetti with 37% of votes total . . . Scott-Fitzgerald with 14% of votes total . . . and Harrison-McCune with 49% of votes total!
The stadium erupted in cheers as the new President and Vice-President shook hands.
"Daddy! Did you win?" Cora shouted to her father, who was shaking hands with Scott's running mate.
"Yes, honey! I won!" he swung his baby girl into the air and kissed her, then gathered all three of his children into his arms.
"Congratulations, Robert!" his mother cried and hugged him and kissed him and hugged him and kissed him repeatedly.
"I'm proud of you, Son."
"I hope I do as well as you."
"Don't you dare do as well as I. I'm expecting you to do ten times better. Congratulations, Robert."
The proud parents stepped aside as the First Lady finally approached her husband and whispered coyly in his ear, "Congratulations, Mr. President," before kissing his cheek.
Flash! Snap! Flash! Flash! Snap! Flash! Snap! Snap!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the picture that appeared in the next morning's paper, all over the country. His loving wife at his side, two proud parents with their arms around each other on the other side, his daughter on his left arm . . . his eldest on his right . . . and the middle child right atop the future President of the United States' shoulders.
And just so I don't get sued:
* Some of the names I use are not fictional; the events that I write about with them in it, are.
** The viewpoints I write about are those of George W. Bush and Al Gore; all information was gathered from "scholastic.com".
*** All statistics I used were gathered from "scholastic.com". The one I use about pollution (5%) was made up.
**** I took all of Gore's views that I didn't like and all of Bush's views that I didn't like and put them in the fictional character "Garret ‘Gary' Gregory Grant" (please forgive the terrible name). Vice-versa with the fictional character ‘Robert Edward Harrison.' I made up everything about "Bartholomew ‘Bart' James Scott."
***** "Zoboomafoo" is a kids TV show on PBS about animals, starring, directed, and invented by animal experts Martin and Chris Kratt. Recommended to all, whether you have/are a kid or not! And yes, he really does burp. But very politely.
****** I don't know if there's a lake by Mount Vernon! That's just another thing I made up for the sake of comedic-relief! =)
© 2000 Copyright held by the author.
Back to Novel Idea