Sunday, October 24, 2004

Down to the Wire

It's 2 am.

The phone rings. The President wants to talk. Private-like.

I slip into my alligator skin boots. I grab my laptop and shove it in it's eelskin case. I Walk down to the garage where my new, black Lamborghini Murcielago sits alone in the darkness like some phantom shadow. I enter the access code on my remote and the door for the vehicle slides open upwards, the glint of red leather inviting me to slip behind the wheel. The chrome shifter handle sits like a small golfball in the palm of my hand, a perfect fit. With the turn of key the engine comes to life noisily--like some Goliath whose slumber has been rudely interrupted. The green 220 mph speedometer lights up with the twist of a dial. With the press of a button the garage door opens slowly and I ease the awakened beast out of its cage. Yes, it's very good to be rich, conservative and Republican.

The hands free built into the electronic system is scrambled and I hear Karl Rove get on the line after the security code achieves signal access to one of the lines used for the President's motorcade. It's been a long while and his voice sounds tired, as if he hasn't gotten enough sleep.

"Meet us at the airfield. We're only here for a pitstop between state jumping. Hurry. We leave at 3:15."

Rove hangs up. No messages. No chit-chat. Pure business. Besides the Kerry camp supposedly has tried to follow the President around with scanners for any insights or tidbits into strategy or fears. Telephone discussions are now off the table.

I downshift and depress the accelerator. The orange hand leaps from 70 on the speedo and the angry giant pushes me back into the seat with a violent shove. When next I look at the hand its pointing to 100. The freeway is abandoned save for a semi or two in the second lane. Good.

Exiting the freeway now and on an exit that seems to lead to nothing but darkness. No buildings. No gas stations and no trees. Nothing but parched Arizona earth and some hastily laid asphalt. The path to the military airfield is a lonely two lane affair. Miles of nothing in the middle of nowhere, leading to a base that doesn't really exist. I glance at my submariner.

2:16 am.

I pick up the pace and depress the pedal again. This time the angry behemoth punches me in the gut. The speedometer leaps from 20 to 80 in the space of a few heartbeats. Soon its reading 140 and the endless tarmac passes underneath the tires as an astounding blur of darkness. The tire temperature sensor flashes after a minute or two and so I let my foot off of the beast's back and bring it back down to 90.

2:21 am

I see the motorcade. I watch as Air Force One takes to the air. Several armored Suburbans and the armored Cadillac are being loaded onto a C-130 Hercules nearby.

Did I miss it? Impossible.

Then I spot it--the other Air Force One. The real one and not the decoy which will accompany the President's plane and land first at his next stop. State police have the area secured. I approach the motorcade and the beast idles noisily breaking the silence of the dark desert night. I park and emerge. The secret service descend upon me quickly, some with weapons drawn like vipers in the night. After a discussion with his earpiece and a glance at my identification I am escorted towards one of the rear doors of Air Force One and as I arrive on-board I pass the lowly media kennel at the back of the plane and head toward the front where resides President Bush's flying Oval office. It's a collection of familiar faces as I pass Karen Hughes chatting with some media types in the kennel. She looks up and smiles, but continues with her discourse on Kerry's misstatements without missing a stride.

Few see this part of Air Force One. I know some of the Techs who designed the security retrofitting after 9-11 and get to admire their ingenuity at work. The secret service agent frisks me before opening the door. The President's office is the color of the desert sand at dusk, a sandy olive.

"Good to see you again, cowboy. Hope you don't mind the late night stuff, but I asked Rove to fetch you sort of spur of the moment."

He extends a hand and I shake it. His grip is as firm as ever.

"Not a problem. How are you holding up? This part of the job is murder."

"Now you see why I used to run so much. It keeps me up here and the media back there trying to catch me. I wanted to hear from the horses mouth what's the latest on Osama and Al-Zarqawi"

He's dressed casually, wearing a blue denim shirt and jeans. I notice he's got his boots on as well. I take a seat. He has a CIA report in front of him but I know he relies more on our intelligence now that the CIA has let him down and has become too insecure.

"We have some leads on Zarqawi. He's on the run. We almost have him. The reward for information leading to his capture was a good idea. Some folks are coming out of the woodwork. We may actually have him before November 2nd. Osama is another story. We have satellites dedicated to monitoring Al-Qaida friendly safe houses, but nothing has turned up. As best we can tell he is pulling a Saddam. He's traveling with a few key associates and security people. Probably no more than 10. He trusts no one and some of his aides are unknown. These are the ones who probably deliver his messages, etc."

"Is there anything else we can do to get this guy? I want every effort made. Every rock turned over. Do you guys need more manpower?"

"More bodies would just scare him away. Whenever a US force enters a region it's like the circus has come to town. These folks are inbred locals and know everyone and their brother. Even a single new stranger in town sets off alarm bells. This has to be done technologically. We need to gather intelligence then when we suspect we simply pounce. When we pounce we have all the manpower we need. I laughed aloud when Kerry said you let Osama get away. What an ass. He's got some gaul."

"Kerry has Gaul in his corner..everybody knows that."

The unexpected joke relieves the tension and I laugh. Bush seems relaxed and confident. I see his bed, in the corner, Presidential seals on the pillowcases seem like two eyes of the bed staring back at me.

Andy Card's voice over a desk intercom is heard: "Sir everything is loaded up and we are ready to go."

Bush presses a button and speaks: "Just a minute or two and we'll be wrapped up in here. Thanks Andy."

"I saw Karen on board. She back full time right now?"

"Karen chewed my head off after the first debate. She said I had become a slacker and she would get me back into shape. So, yeah, she's here for the home stretch. Bless her. She's a trooper. Don't tell her, but I missed her. I missed her a lot. She's a good woman. God gave her a voice!"

Bush smiles, adjusts the report on his desk and then gets serious again.

"Now about Zarqawi--keep me informed on what you guys pick up will you? He's a mad dog, he's desperate and he's out of control. He's picking up native aid workers? Can you believe it? It's like Al Capone kidnapping the street corner Salvation Army Santa Claus...what the heck does he expect to gain from such a stupid act? Get this guy. That's an order. Too much is at stake."

"I know. If the world only knew how many close calls it's had. Then again, sometimes I think it's best they don't know. It allows life and the economy to go on as usual."

Bush nods. He extends his hand which has a small business card in it.

"Here take this number. It's one of the latest unofficial numbers that can get through to me anywhere even on the campaign trail."

I take the card and slide it in a pouch on the side of my laptop case. It simply says "W" and a number and beneath it "L" and another number. Classy.

Bush stands up and I know my visit is over. As I exit the loading ramp and descend the steps I see the press plane take to the air in the distance.

I see my car being admired by a few State Police officers and it is time for me to go and awaken the sleeping beast and take it back to its lair--at a more conservative pace. The secret service are wearing cool dark wool trench-coats in the cooler desert air and the desert wind is whipping up dust devils across the airfield tarmac. So much is at stake for America and the world and so few know how lucky we have been to have George Bush as President. America must soon choose it's destiny and we are indeed down to the wire.

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Components of the previous entry may be fictional. Any similarity to actual events or people is purely coincidental.
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