STEPHEN ELLIOTT

SMALL BATTLES IN A WAR OF ATTRITION

THREE POINTS OF VIEW ON GEORGE W. BUSH REVEAL AN ENTIRELY NEW METHOD OF COMMUNICATION (AND A VISION OF THE PRESIDENT WEARING AN ANIMAL CARCASS, GUARDING THE AUTHOR’S CAVE WITH A CLUB).

DISCUSSED: Justin Timberlake, Air Force One,The Evil-versus-Lazy Argument, A Burning McDonald’s, A Republican to Like, Defending My Cave, The Cheapest Car in the Hertz Lot, Cheap Trick, Giant Chanting Crowds, Saddam’s Torture Chambers, Merry Pranksters, Chrissy’s Good Skin

HOW TO MEET
THE PRESIDENT

It’s not easy to meet the president, but it can be done. The important thing is to sleep in your friend’s house in Dupont Circle. She’s a lawyer who also paints and she has a small dog. The night before you meet the president you’ll watch The Sopranos with her, the episode where Tony Soprano’s daughter gets engaged and his cousin is promoted to managing the casino. It’s also the episode where Vito gets caught giving a blowjob to a security guard outside the construction site. The Sopranos has nothing to do with meeting the president except that it’s during The Sopranos that you’ll find out your flight has been cancelled and you need to change airlines. Here is the connection between organized crime and the president of the United States you have been searching for all your life.

Go to sleep early. The small clock your friend leaves on the coffee table will not go off at 5 a.m. like it’s supposed to but your internal alarm will jolt you awake at 5:22 a.m. and you will look around wild-eyed until the shapes around you make sense in the dark. The difference between someone who meets the president is the difference between someone who rolls over, pulls on his pants, shoulders his backpack, and walks out the door—and someone who gives up and goes back to sleep. If you go back to sleep you’ll remember this failure for the rest of your life and will never again question why things didn’t work out for you quite the way they should have.

If it’s raining heavily there’ll be a cab downstairs waiting for the neighbor and that neighbor will be going to the same airport you’re going to so you’re in luck. Cross the mall and pass the tiny lights of the Treasury Building, drive over the Potomac swinging sharply to the right away from Pentagon City. Ignore the short blocky buildings with barricaded windows that house the nation’s machinery. Don’t question what you’re doing; it’s not that kind of a thing. Meeting the president is about finding purpose and being open to the unexpected, like the first time you caught yourself dancing to Justin Timberlake. The streets are so dark and wet they glow.

Part of meeting the president is forgetting the book you were reading on the origins of fascism. It will still be there when your friend wakes up two hours later, rubbing her eyes, confronted with the mess you left behind. She’s going back to California, and she’ll comfort herself with that thought, the percolator whistling, while her dog wraps himself around her ankle and your first plane begins its descent into Detroit.

But you can’t fly into Detroit unless you find out about the bus trip several days earlier when it’s mentioned in the Note, the daily brief rounding up all of the political stories published by the major papers every day. If you don’t read the Note your chances of meeting the president are zero. Because it won’t be mentioned anywhere else. It won’t be listed on the president’s calendar, ever. For security purposes the president’s schedule is not published. For political purposes only Republicans are invited to media events.

To find out where and when the first event will be you need the phone number for the Bush-Cheney ’04 press office. If you’re traveling with John Kerry at the time you can get that number from Michael Roselli, the senior producer for CNN. He always has a book open, something literary, and is a calming presence in what can be a very stressful environment. Michael has all the phone numbers you could ever need.

When you call you’ll get a recording that says the bus-tour information is not available yet. But it’s just a test—think about it. You have to prove you are serious to these people. You have to know not to trust anybody. People who trust never meet the president.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Stephen Elliott is the author of Happy Baby. His first nonfiction book, Looking Forward to It, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the American Electoral Process will be released from Picador in October.

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