Episode 17

Rebecca and the Winners Backlash

Neocon organizer Grover Norquist is going berserk. He calls a special meeting. He gets Carl Rove, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, R. James Woolsey, Elliot Abrams, Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Zoellick, John Boltonand several other members of the New American Century club to assemble on a Wednesday afternoon because they all know they’ve been taking Rebecca Whyte and her ARP far too lightly, like they had Donald Trump earlier in the campaign. They’re losing control of the whole situation, and because they believe they have been commissioned by God to control the world, they are determined to get that control back. 

Ordinarily, they would simply get a Mafia assistant to eliminate a troublesome opponent, but the Mafia has made it clear they will not take Rebecca out. Worse yet, they’re protecting her for some reason. It would be extremely difficult and dangerous to bump her off. They need another strategy. 

 After some discussion, they decide to launch a full-scale attack on her amateurishness, her inexperience and ignorance of the realities of fighting the war on terrorism. The ARP claims to have no interest in policy, only process. They’re committed to solving all problems through dialogue. That means, they’re committed to dialogue among liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, Trumpers and Sanderites. It even means they’re committed to dialogue with enemies, like China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, ISIS and other terrorists. The neocons are convinced that harping on this foolish weakness will make ARP appear ridiculous. What works in small town USA is dangerously inappropriate at the international level. That’s the message.

The right-wing echo chamber goes right to work. Day after day, Fox News and other corporate media outlets offer extensive interviews to right wing politicians, retired generals, economists, and other war culture devotees, all of whom do their best to ridicule Rebecca White and the ARP. Typical of these interviews is Greta Van Susteren interviewing Dick Cheney. 

Greta: I’m sure you’re aware of the sudden popularity of the American Resolutionary Party. Mayor Whyte recently made Forbes Magazine’s list of the 100 most powerful women in the world. What do you think about her approach to government?

Cheney: Rebecca is a sweet young woman, and I’m sure she means well, but she has no idea what she’s doing. She’s been successful as mayor of a small, homogeneous city in rural America. She has no experience whatsoever with real conflict, with real evil. She’s a fad. She’s nice to look at. She appeals to people who want dramatic change, but she’s an amateur, a lightweight. She’ll never rise to any significant national office. She lacks the understanding and the raw power required to function at the upper levels. 

Greta: She insists that the role of government is not to make policy. Public officials are supposed to manage the process through which the stakeholders get together, discuss an issue, and cooperate to make decisions and determine policy together. 

Cheney: Again, it’s an attractive vision, but totally impossible at high levels of power where the threat of violence is a part of the negotiating process. She’ll never be able to facilitate military decisions or any decision involving relations with rival nations. How can she negotiate with Al Qaeda or ISIL?  Those people don’t negotiate. They kill.

Greta: So you’re not taking her seriously as a candidate for president in the 2024 elections?

Cheney: The American people aren’t dumb. By that time, they’ll have seen through her gimmick and understand that only fully competent, hardnosed decision makers can possibly run our government safely and efficiently. 

Greta: Vice President Dick Cheney, thank you very much for being with us this morning.

Cheney: You’re very welcome.

 ARP members are getting worried. Thousands are calling or emailing or texting to report the latest media outrages and warn Rebecca about the support the neocon backlash is getting. Rebecca remains cheerful and optimistic. She’s already planning to win in 2020, not 2024. She waits patiently for the neocon overreach. Finally, it arrives. Rebecca is invited onto The O’Reilly Factor. O’Reilly, of course, is determined to humiliate her. 

O’Reilly: I’m pleased to have on the show today Rebecca Whyte, former mayor of Anytown. Thank you for joining us today.

Rebecca: Thank you. I’m looking forward to our discussion, but I have one request. 

O: A request? What might that be?

R: Let’s agree that we won’t interrupt each other. 

O: What in the world are you talking about?

R: I’ve seen this show a few times and have noticed that it often becomes a shouting match, literally. You make it difficult for interviewees to make their points. You even take station breaks to interrupt them when they get on a roll. I can’t take part in a discussion like that. It’s not an appropriate way to seek truth. 

O: So you’re coming in here to tell me how to run my show?

R: I’m not telling you how to run your show. I’m telling you what I need to take part. I need you to agree that we won’t interrupt each other. This is simple, grade school politeness, wouldn’t you agree? 

O: It may be polite, but this show is not polite. We offer rough and tumble debate. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Besides, this is TV. We’re under incredible time pressure. If I can’t interrupt you, you could go on for ten minutes and run out the entire show.

R: OK, then, let’s also agree that no one can speak for more than one minute at a time. I’d be fine with that. 

O: This is ridiculous. You’ve already used several minutes of my time just talking about procedure. I’m not going to agree to any special rules with you.

R: Your time? This is our time, right? Or am I really just a pawn in your game? If so, I’ll be glad to take my leave, and you can figure out how to fill the rest of the hour. It was nice meeting you. (She begins to stand up.)

O: I invited you in good faith. You knew what kind of program I run, and you agreed to come on. Now you’re going to take your toys and go home just because I won’t play by your rules? 

R: I came on this show hoping I could persuade you to accept one little rule that would make rational, civilized conversation possible. You have refused. I’m not going to play your game on your turf by your rules. 

O: What you’ve done is demonstrated exactly what I’ve been saying about you. You’ll never be able to handle serious, high-level conflict. You certainly won’t get ISIL to agree to any rules. 

R: I’ve demonstrated exactly why I need to be president. People with power refuse to give it up. If I were president, and if this discussion were related to a policy decision, you wouldn’t be able to refuse. I would bring the stakeholders together. We would all agree on a set of ground rules, and we would proceed accordingly because nothing would get done unless we work together. The purpose of rules is to level the playing field, to help those with less power participate in the problem solving process. Bullies don’t like rules. Decent human beings do. You’ve demonstrated that mediators like me need the power of government to get people like you to act like decent human beings. 

O: Are you saying I’m not a decent human being?  

R: Are you surprised? Your show is a verbal boxing match on your turf where you can use your rules, your timing, your carefully honed techniques to beat me up and make me look stupid. That is not civilized discussion. I’m interested in letting your viewers know who I really am, what I think, and why they should vote for me. But you don’t want that, do you? 

O: My viewers will find out more about who you really are if I’m in control of the conversation. I won’t let you get away with your stump speech. I’ll push hard and force you to tell the truth.

R: You won’t find the truth by keeping control and forcing others off balance. I suspect you’re more interested in control and winning than the truth, but let’s say you’re genuinely seeking truth. Do you honestly believe you’ve revealed important truths through the talk show equivalent of enhanced interrogation? Tell me one case where you got someone to reveal some important truth.

O: I’m not on the hot seat here, you are. You say you want to tell the viewers who you are, but you’re not saying anything at all. You’re doing nothing but talking about talking. 

R: Precisely, that’s my job. I’m not here to have opinions. I’m here to illustrate the importance of process. As president I wouldn’t defend or attack anyone. All I’d do is bring everyone together to come to a decision we can all be happy with. Wouldn’t that be a good thing? 

O: Here you go questioning me again. 

R: Here you go not answering again. How can we have a discussion if you won’t even answer my questions?

O: You’ve done nothing but dance and evade this whole show. 

R: Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. 

O: So you admit you’re being uncooperative? You’re trying to sting me?

R: Come on, Bill. You refuse my rule about not interrupting and you’re calling me uncooperative? What do you want me to do, lie down and let you walk on me?

O: I expect you to answer my questions.

R: You haven’t asked me any, and I won’t answer any question you ask unless you agree not to interrupt my answer. 

O: So now we’re back to zero. So let’s start over.

R: Do you agree we won’t interrupt each other?

O: Of course not, I think I’ve made that pretty clear. 

R: OK, I’ll see you later. 

O: You’ll never be president at this rate.

R: Watch me.  (Said with penetrating, almost frightening intensity; then changing to a lighter tone.)

   Thank you for inviting me. If you change your mind about process and the rules of engagement, let me know. I’ll be happy to join a civilized conversation. Forgive me, but I think now would be a good time to leave. 

The show goes viral. Of course the right wing echo chamber goes on the attack, calling her bossy or bitchy and, especially, “not ready for prime time.” Over and over, corporate commentators assure the viewing public that she could never manage a high level conflict or negotiate with Russia or China. And over and over, those commentators make fools of themselves. Rebecca has just demonstrated the power of process. She entered the lion’s den and took control. She made the lion appear barbaric and foolish, and she emerged unscathed. ARP membership continues its astoundingly rapid growth.

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