The room was full of derision when Jerry began to outline his plan, but grumblings were quickly replaced by the murmurs of the curious as he pressed on.
“How can you be certain that the President will say something that we can twist out of context like Bush's question about the product scanner at the supermarket?”
“We'll ambush him,” Jerry replied then added, “Rather, we'll 'Bush' him.”
The party members laughed at the prospect that “Bush” could one day join “Bork” in the lexicon of political warfare.
“Do you have a plan?”
Jerry took a drink of water to hide his smile and infuse the moment with pregnancy.
“Yes,” he replied when he had everyone's attention and the room had silenced.
“Yes, I do.”
Another pause informed the gathering that it couldn't be shared outside the inner circles of the party leadership.
“Can we count on the media?”
This was the critical question, the one that had given Jerry his greatest challenge. Ambushing the President, steering him to say something that could be grossly misinterpreted was the easy part. Everyone put their foot into their mouth on occasion. However, it took the media to broadcast the malapropism and put the proper spin on it. Once committed, they would never recant, as in the situation with Bush 41. It would be too embarrassing for the Fifth Estate to be caught playing politics with the truth.
Another pause, another sip, and then Jerry said again, “Yes.”
He kept his voice calm and punctuated his response with a shrug to emphasize his confidence. It is impossible to inspire confidence in a plan if the proponent has none.
Herb Newman, a long suffering party boss, wasn't having any of it if his expression could be trusted. The tip of his cigar had turned to mush as it traveled from side to side between his clenched teeth. “What about the bloggers?” he challenged.
“What about them?”
“There weren't any bloggers to contradict the establishment media when Bush 41 was embarrassed at the grocery store.”
Jerry shrugged again and waved his hand dismissively. He wasn't yet ready to share that he simply didn't respect the impact of the blogosphere. Just a bunch of has-been and wannabe journalists broadcasting to the lunatic fringe. Unfortunately, many of his colleagues were shell-shocked from the last election and feared any opposition, even social media gadflies.
A young man waited patiently as Jerry ignored him. Everyone in the room knew what he would say if recognized. “Why do they allow these idiots to attend leadership meetings?” Jerry wondered.
“We don't need political tricks,” the young man blurted without preamble.
The assembly emitted a groan.
“We should stick to our message,” he continued, ignoring the icy stares surrounding him. “Income inequality. The War on Women. Compassion.”
Jerry stared at the audience, challenging them with his eyes to save him the necessity of responding. After several moments, an older, wiser member pulled the young man back to his seat. “Don't worry, son,” he said, “we'll use all that to inspire the base. What Jerry is talking about is something to keep the conservatives at home.”
The young man stared at his neighbor, confusion clouding his eyes.
“Look,” the older man continued, “we've lost the last three elections because the conservatives voted. We need to lull them back into complacency.”
Jerry took another sip of water to again hide his smile. “Yes,” he thought to himself, “they understand. We just need to teach the young ones.”
He was interrupted by the party chair who stepped between Jerry and the podium to thank him and bang his gavel to end the meeting. The room emptied quickly, then partially refilled with the core leadership and the real meeting began.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” the chairman demanded glaring at Jerry. “You have a plan to embarrass the President? Good. But, do you have to announce it to everyone?”
“No,” Jerry began and was cut off.
“No, you don't,” the chair echoed. “Now let's hear it.”
The group of senior leaders gathered closer to hear Jerry's plan. He perspired, his confidence waning under their scrutiny.
The incident at the grocery checkout that cost Bush 41 his reelection was an accident or, at least, that's what everyone thought. Jerry had discovered that the whole thing had been carefully contrived by a prominent news anchor and he believed that he could recreate something similar. He had already contacted another prominent news anchor, an ideological confederate who would love nothing better than to bring down the Republicans and establish himself as the new dean of broadcast news. However, Jerry kept this information to himself. There was no telling how the party leaders would react if they learned that Jerry had set his plan in motion without their blessing.
There was the rub.
Jerry was about to secure his place in political history or join the lepers of failed ambition.