Wednesday, January 29, 2014

17. Sufficient ground for impeachment

That evening, that night and the following morning, the White House was besieged with calls, faxes and emails from media near and far, local and global, friend and foe. Their common questions were two. 

First, “Why did the president hunt an endangered species?” 

And second, “Why did the president claim that he was the one who killed the rhino when the mysterious video showed in no uncertain terms that it was a woman and another man who killed it?” 
President Gardner had no problem answering the first question with the usual trophy-hunter's line about “conservation”. In fact, it had been dealt with when his own press release touting his success went out earlier that day before the video surfaced. The second question simply had no good answer, and for this reason, the White House press office was buttoned down tight, and the question evaded if not ignored.

First Lady Patricia Gardner did not know anything about the second question until her personal assistant Deana Wilson led it to her attention at 9:13 pm DC time in her own office. 
"What is it, Deana?”

Something about the President. I emailed you a link of a video that I think you should see.”

Without another word, Deana left the room, and closed the door behind her.

The First Lady found the email, opened it, and saw in it nothing but a link to a Youtube video. She clicked on the link, and noted that it was just five minutes long, posted just two hours earlier, but had already garnered over a million hits. The alarm of “Viral!” rang in her head. It was filmed from some kind of aircraft. It showed her husband approaching the rhino, then hunkering down for the shot, then the flash-bang and him falling on his back, misfiring then dropping his rifle, then the rhino moving away, then a woman firing five shots, then the rhino collapsing in a heap. The video was cut off at that point without comment. It was posted by “And Justice for All”.

So, this is what Tim is having his emergency meeting about. I can see why I'm not invited,” she thought to herself.

She was not the type to make a scene. She could have barged into the conference room in her inviolate majesty and no one would have stopped her, including Tim Gardner himself. Instead, she just went about her usual business as if nothing had happened. When all details pertaining to her status had been attended to, she buzzed Leana to thank her, then said “good-night” without other comment. But all the while, her mind was reeling, stumbling this way and that, and seeing no way out. When Tim finally came into their bedroom, she was already in bed, pretending to be asleep.

The next morning, she was greeted by a not-so-presidential president who looked plainly guilty as hell, and what King Louis XVI might have looked like when marching to the guillotine.

Look, Pat, there is something I've got to tell you,” he said, obviously after having steeled himself for the occasion, and none too successfully.

Don't bother. I've seen it. All I want to know at this point is what you're going to do about it. Ignoring it won't make it go away. You do know that to do nothing is not an option, don't you?”

He stared at her in disbelief, then, like a deflated balloon, he slumped in his chair and said, “I will have to beg the nation's forgiveness.”

At noon, he called a media conference and made a public display of remorse, which the pundits mercilessly ripped apart. Senator Alan Wells, D-WA, openly said, quote, “Lying to the people, with hard evidence, is sufficient ground for impeachment." Senator John Buchanan, D-MI, was slightly less hard line, but perhaps deeper hitting by saying, “I'm afraid that President Gardner's character has been forever tainted, his moral authority significantly diminished, and his reputation irreparably damaged.”

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