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Wednesday, Mar 16, 2016 - 22:40 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Last Days Of Empire

He won again. Of course he did.

The forty-fourth President of the United States sat down.

This was a sanctum consecrated by history. Washington himself oversaw its design; Jefferson extended it. The very bricks themselves were fired in the kiln that was 1812; he sank back in his plush chair. This was the seat of Lincoln. Where Roosevelt charted the fate of the free world and the path of all humanity, he who walked the seas of destiny with wasted legs. He touched the oaken timbers of the ornate desk before him, resting as it always had, upon the carpet of the Seal of the President. Kennedy had chosen it himself.

And on that desk, was a television, and on that television, was a man. And the man opened his mouth, and he said:

"Look at these hands. Are they small hands?"

The forty-fourth President closed his eyes.

That man would be the forty-fifth.

And as it happened, that man had also been involved in the birth certificate nonsense several years back. Come to think about it, perhaps he should simply had released them from the get-go; instead, he allowed it to stew, and then, publicly made him the butt of his jokes at some black-tie dinner in 2011. It was... mildly satisfying then.

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best... they're bringing drugs, crime, they're rapists..."

No, this was a man who did not forget.

He had followed the campaigning assiduously. There wasn't all that much else to do; it was well into the final year of his second term. His legacy had, more or less, been solidified. And what a ride it had been. Obamacare, the Osama raid, Benghazi... having North Korea threaten to wipe out Manhattan with a hydrogen bomb was almost therapeutic by now. And there was Iran, and the various trade deals...

It was something that Presidents were not supposed to be concerned with, but he suspected that few could resist the lure. He checked his rankings against those of the greats, every so often. They were consistent - comfortably middle-of-the-pack, nothing more. Then again, it was only to be expected. The top ranks were reserved for those who had fought - and won - era-defining wars. Iraq and Syria, whatever else they might be, were not in that class.

"We don't win anymore... If I get elected, we will have so much winning that you may get bored with the winning..."

Well, he supposed it had to be true. He had tried his best, but would be remembered as a fairly average President. Nothing much one could do about that, of course. It meant there had been - mostly - peace, and peace was reward enough. And, in any case, he had always been a far, far better candidate. Which was exactly why that man... scared him.

(Original sources: wikipedia.org & forum.dancarlin.com)

He stared at the television set. It took him back. To 2008, when he had merely been an up-and-coming junior senator from Illinois, with no executive experience of note to speak of; and there he was, up against a former First Lady with a smorgasbord of connections, and "the establishment" behind her... just as they have been again this year.

It didn't save her then. It won't save her now.

How easily they forget. The media are slamming that man for his showmanship today, but he himself had gotten his start with Oprah's endorsement. He was loathe to admit it to himself, but if that man was contemptuously derided as "all sizzle", then he was hardly prime cut steak either.

For goodness' sake, he ran on "Hope"! And what was hope, but a nebulous dream? No, you didn't win elections these days on policy details. You didn't win because you figured out that 11.5% was better than 13%. The masses came out for a story, to be part of something bigger than themselves. Eight years ago, the choice was between "first black guy" and "first woman", and "first black guy" eventually won - barely.

Somehow, his nomination dovetailed straight into the biggest financial crisis in generations, which meant that he had struck the jackpot - twice, in fact, given that the outgoing President was George W. Bush. Things could only pick up after such a collapse, and his "hope" naturally became the zeitgeist of the times. McCain had little chance, heck, he would even pick up the Nobel Peace Prize having barely warmed the seat. Heck, Gandhi never got it. His hype was shit hot then, man.

"You know, it really doesn't matter what the media write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass..."

Reality would have to strike eventually, certainly. When it came down to it, he was just a man too. He tried to push bills, Congress blocked them, just like the rest. His enemies span, he spun back... and he gave some great speeches. Yeah, he always excelled at that part, the uplifting, oratorical delivery.

"My I.Q. is one of the highest - and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure; it's not your fault."

He watched as the man on television went on and on. Many, many very smart and very respected people agreed: that man was vulgar. He was uncouth. It was easy to see that. But they didn't see one other thing - that man was going to win.

This is the broad appeal of the man
(Source: imgur.com)

The thing about becoming President, is that one has to pledge many things in the process, things that cannot realistically be achieved. Along the way, it is inevitable that Faustian bargains will have to be struck, and souls sold. Few come out of it smelling of roses, and he was no exception. You burn political capital, your hair whitens at a tremendous pace, and at the end of it all, most will still think you're going in the wrong direction. Such is the life of the most powerful man on Earth.

And thus do the wheels of Washington turn. As swallows and salmon migrate, so do the men (so far) of the White House. Every so many years, the resident leaves - ever so slightly stooped - to spend more time with his family, to rustle funding for his Presidential Library, whatever it is that former Presidents do. And the new man, full of fire and zest and vim and vigour, walks in and begins rearranging the furniture.

It never lasts. It never does.

"You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever..."

He knew. He suspected the others knew. Surely, after all those years, they had to have cultivated some political sense? Oh, he said what he was expected to - that that man would never be President, that he had faith in the American people, that that man was a symptom of the decay of the GOP...

But, he had talked for eight years. He knew the limits of words. And, like him once, that man did not speak with words.

The forty-fourth President leaned back.

The memories remained vivid. The roar of the crowd, their adoring faces, the arms waving as if detached from their owners; the youth that he turned out, to an atmosphere electric; the men, dusky of skin, who would never have dreamt that one of them would reign over the White Man's Land. He saw their tears, heard their screams, whirling at the nexus of a vortex of raw potentiality, of meaning, of energy.

This was it, this was what the people craved. This was change. Who, then, would be the inheritor of this unstoppable spirit? Who then could get the masses out, to stand for him?

Not him, evidently.
(Source: imgur.com)

Behind all the crudeness, all the buffoonery, he saw mission. It was the substance, not the style. The GOP tried to duplicate him, clone his essence, and they got a Rubio who got thrashed in his home state. The only thing the public hates more than the establishment, it seems, is an establishment copycat.

"I have never seen any human being sweat like this guy."

Obviously, the Republicans couldn't steal "Hope and Change". Hillary in particular definitely couldn't get away with that. One's raison d'être for running had to resonate, and many candidates never got over that first hurdle. Jeb Bush positively stunk of "well, I happen to be next in line, so here I am". And, very unfortunately, Hillary is beginning to smell distinctly of "I'm a woman, and it's finally my turn, I'm owed this".

Neither were terribly exciting.

Eight years. Eight years brought him insight, an insight he at times wished he did not have. They were all against him, he couldn't win, right? The rednecks would never go for him. The South would never accept it. Well, actually, they didn't, but here he was. You didn't win by dwelling on the negatives, on the facts that you couldn't change, and wouldn't if you could anyway. "Yes we can". He had once chanted it.

He recognized that that man understood it too.

It was almost ironic that that man had won his states, Illinois and Hawaii, and by some margin. It was almost as if they were responding to something. Oh, Hillary would limp through on his side, of course, and he would dutifully endorse her, but the running would ultimately have to be her own. And, despite what prematurely early polling might suggest, she was eminently beatable. Of all people, he would know.

"I think Islam hates us."

No, he had no confidence. Leaders could not evince doubt in public, the President of the United States triply so, but he was allowed his private thoughts. He did not always like them.

He leant further back. Ceiling? Hah. If Hillary didn't wake her idea up very soon, this ceiling, beneath which her hubby had once been sucked off, would be that man's.

Well, it couldn't be helped. There was still some business to be taken care of, the Supreme Court dinner-and-dance, it would help to take his mind off... that man. He'd have to rack his mind for an excuse to skip the inauguration ceremony, too. "Hope and Change", indeed.

Shh. No tears, only dreams now...
(Original sources: history.com & tumblr.com)

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