Monday, November 19, 2012
John and Mitch sink a drink
Scene: Friday night, November 16th, 2012. Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sit at an elegant bar. A few hours earlier, they stood with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at a joint press announcement, expressing optimism in the coming "fiscal cliff" negotiations. Boehner is well into his fourth apple martini. McConnell sips gingerly at a mint julep. They sit in silence for a long time.
Boehner (glancing at McConnell): One of us is going to have to say it.
McConnell (removing his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose): John, I'm not in the mood for this.
Boehner: Oh, really, Mitch? Is that right? I'm sorry. Didn't mean to spoil your aperitif. If you need a little time, it's not a problem. It's not like I'm holding you responsible for humiliating me in front of the entire nation.
[McConnell sips his julep.]
Boehner: Remember what they were saying back in 2010, Mitch? They said you were a shoo-in for Harry's office. They said the Democrats were defending so many Senate seats that even a fool like John Cornyn couldn't screw it up for you. [Boehner knocks back his drink, waves the empty glass at the bartender.] Well, here we are, Mitch. Here we are.
McConnell: Before you climb up on your high horse, let's not forget that the only reason you're in the Speaker's office is because of the Tea Party. Without Eric Cantor you're nothing but a sad-sack inebriate stuck on a bar stool.
Boehner (smiling): Here's lookin' at you, kid.
[Senator Jim DeMint enters the bar, espies the two of them and approaches.]
DeMint: Well, well, well... John Boehner and my very own leader. Just saw you boys on the boob tube with Harry and Nancy. Mitch, you looked like you just licked a toad.
[McConnell rubs his temples.]
Boehner: Say, Jim, too bad about your friends. The caucus room won't be nearly as much fun without Richard Mourdock and Todd Aiken crackin' wise, eh?
DeMint: Win some, lose some, John. You, of all people, should know how that goes.
Boehner: And how! But I thought you were gonna lead the Tea Party revolution. What the hell happened?
DeMint: John, don't get all sassy on me, now. We've had a setback. There's still time to set things to right.
Boehner: That's what they said after Gettysburg.
McConnell: Jim, the Speaker and I were having a private conversation. Do you mind?
DeMint: Fine, fine. You boys enjoy your pity party. I got better things to do. [Exit.]
Boehner (watching him go): That's the difference in our jobs, Mitch. I can make the idiots in my caucus shut up. You can only wish you had it so good.
McConnell: Tell me, John. Do you think it might be helpful for us to discuss how we're going to coordinate strategy for the fiscal cliff negotiations? Or would you rather just sit here and bait each other?
Boehner: Strategy? There's no strategy. Tax rates go up on Sheldon Anderson. Grover Norquist blows a gasket. We all end up with primary opponents.
McConnell: You're still the Speaker of the House, John. That counts for something.
[Boehner stares, open-mouthed.]
McConnell: Don't give me that look. We've managed in the past. All we have to do is find the right dog whistle.
Boehner: Mitch, if Rove's meltdown on Fox News didn't convince you, I suggest you take a look at the exit poll data. There just aren't enough Jim DeMints in this country for us to win that way. Not anymore.
McConnell: Demographic trends are what they are, but we've got Marco Rubio. We've got Bobby Jindall.
Boehner (shaking his head): Are you serious?
[The frosted glass door to the bar bursts open to produce former Republican presidential candidates Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich along with their coteries. Sarah Palin is among them. One of Cain's aides is carrying a stack of Godfather's pizza boxes. Boehner and McConnell watch from their bar stools as Cain's party lays the pizzas out on the tables, then distributes paper plates.]
Palin: Hey, look! It's Mitch and John! Perfect. They can join the discussion!
Cain: Howdy, boys! Glad to see you're putting your heads together. Come join us at the pizza table. We're going to discuss how to expand our appeal.
Gingrich: Yes, gentlemen. Come join us! You can share all you've learned from your failures.
Boehner (aside): I think I'm going to be sick.
[He glances at McConnell, waiting for a response, but there is none. McConnell dabs at the corners of his eyes with a handkerchief.]
Cain (holding up a slice of pizza): Future of our party? It's all about minority outreach! Two-for-one taco pizza from Godfather's during election season!
Santorum: That's right, Herman. Splash taco sauce on a cardboard box and they'll come runnin'. Fence or no fence.
[Boehner slugs down his fifth apple martini. McConnell, sobbing quietly, is inconsolable.]