The Ballad of Trump and McConnell

Trump’s whispers are heard in the atmosphere, hovering over the populace like clouds that threaten destructive floods to come. Someone reports seeing a blue bird, which has by now become the omen that foretells an inauspicious day. Another blue bird is reported, then another. The people have learned to let the flying beasts come, lest they risk attracting their attention and having the roofs of their houses collapse from the weight of the things. After a time, it becomes clear that Trump’s aviary, gold-plated and obtuse, no longer holds life, and instead hangs empty, extravagant, and dumb.

The blue birds perch on fire hydrants, stoplights, and cars. Their feathers are of such a brilliant blue as to appear celestial—somehow, they glow. The people can’t help but look at them, slack-jawed and mesmerized, in wonder of how creatures so strange could be seen every day and still look so new. But the people are careful around the blue birds, for the birds are eager to return to their aviary and feed their holder Trump with the bread crumbs gathered from the day. Added to the normal cacophony of the day are the blue birds’ cries: “McConnell! McConnell!”

“Oh, boy,” McConnell sighs.

Standing outside the Oval Office, McConnell faces the door that is currently the only thing showing him mercy. As long as the door remains closed, trepidation is McConnell’s welcomed companion, who holds his hand and remarks in a soft voice, “Maybe he isn’t there.” McConnell forgetfully looks out the receptionist’s office window and is instantly gripped in anguish by what he sees: the blue birds have assembled outside the window and perched on the clawed branch of a tree. They’re agitated and continually switch positions on the abused branch, the sound of their fluttering wings giving the appearance of just one winged-creature, like something out of myth. “McConnell! McConnell!” they screech, and McConnell freezes when he hears the door to the Oval Office creak open.

“Oh,” McConnell laments.

He turns to face the Oval Office. His tongue sand paper, his eyes blurry, as if afflicted by temporary cataracts, he stands for a moment and prays for weakness. Perhaps if I collapse, he thinks, I can pretend that this never happened. I can convince myself this was all an awful, terrible dream and I knew nothing about it and I couldn’t have done anything about it. But his knees remain firm; his body does not fail him. In the distance he sees him, Trump, holding a phone to his ear with one eyebrow raised and both eyes squinting, and hunched over his desk. Trump’s lips purse and it’s clear to McConnell, even from this distance, that Trump isn’t really on a phone call. He’s just pretending. And now it’s time for McConnell to pretend as well.

“Mr. President,” McConnell calls out in a faltering tone, with the characteristic drawl he attributes to his vowels. “Is this a good time?”

Trump raises a finger to McConnell without looking at him and nods, his face assuring McConnell that right now is not a good time, but it would be made into one through Trump’s benevolence.

“I wish you a good day, uh, Mr. Prime Minister and tell your wife I want to see her in that black dress for the ball, okay? Okay, bye bye.” Trump dropped the phone into the receiver and noisily stood up, as he seemed to push both the desk and the chair away from him. Extending his arm to shake McConnell’s hand, he said playfully, “Hiya, Mitch.”

“Hello, Mr. President,” McConnell replied, attempting the widest smile he could muster, and gripping Trump’s hand with both of his. He was here to set the record straight about what the blue birds had been saying, but that was no reason to show animosity. “I hope I didn’t interrupt your call with the Prime Minister.”

“No, no, that was, you know, it’s funny because he actually called me, and I thought—and I answered—yeah, you know no problem,” Trump answered, appearing to show genuine honesty and such guile that he had convinced himself that he really was on the phone. “I said I always have time, and anyway I’m just waiting for Mitch—that I was waiting for you—and, who I think is going to be late anyway—you know how I joke—so it’s okay. And I told him ‘I can spend some time with you.’”

“Well that’s good, Mr. President,” Mitch tried to laugh. It was better for him to go along with this fantasy rather than challenge it. He was here for something else, anyway. “Uh, Mr. President, before we go out to the rose garden, may I ask if anything’s bothering you?”

Trump squinted and looked to the far right corner of the room, pouting as he did so, “Mmm, no, I don’t think so. I mean, I’m not happy about this health care thing, you know, about how that turned out, but we’re going to do something about that. And on Sunday I was trying to watch the football games and a few people kneeled and I couldn’t believe it, I mean—it was just—but now you saw what happened? They’re not going to be doing that anymore, so that’s very good. And those people in Puerto Rico, I mean, I don’t know what they want. They want everything. They want everything and, you know, I’m the President of America, not Puerto Rico, so I can’t be there all the time.”

Trump looked at McConnell every now and again as he spoke, before turning his attention back to the far right corner of the ceiling, and McConnell had the impression that Trump was just talking to himself. McConnell expressed all the appropriate emotions whenever Trump looked at him: disappointment over health care, disgust over the football games, and incredulity over Puerto Rico, and once Trump stopped talking, sheepishness over what McConnell was about to say next.

“Mr. President,” McConnell began. “Regarding my performance in the Senate, if you feel there’s any way that I’ve wronged you, I would like it if you told it to me directly and that I didn’t find out about it from the blue birds.”

Trump, an adversary of face-to-face confrontation, was made immediately uncomfortable. “I mean, look, Mitch, I think you’ve done a tremendous job in the Senate—it’s those other senators we have to come after. They torpedoed—and after talking about it for so long—they torpedoed it and I know you’re doing everything you can.”

Mildly placated, McConnell felt his spirits rise and his eyes began to get heavy with tears. “I’m glad you understand, Mr. President. Don’t worry, we’re still very early into your presidency and I know that everything will come together in the end.”

The pair patted each other on the back and McConnell followed Trump out of the Oval Office and into the rose garden. The press corps were assembled in front of the podium where Trump was to hold a briefing. He walked heavy-footed across the garden and let out a sigh once he reached the podium. McConnell stood beside him, smiling, as if he had just made a new best friend. In an unconventional move, and one Trump thought would throw off the buzzing reporters, he began his briefing by asking for questions first. McConnell stood paralyzed. Trump, of course, was unaware that the press was given, ahead of time, an outline of what the President would be talking about.

“The blue birds were seen out in full force today, Mr. President, all of them delivering your disdain for Mr. McConnell and the Republicans,” a reporter began. “How would you describe your relationship?”

“Um, I would describe our relationship as very good, if not better,” Trump answered. “In fact, I think it’s the best it’s ever been, and Mitch here and I are having great talks about healthcare, about tax reform, and I think you’re going to see a lot of things come out in the next few weeks.”

He pointed at the crowd.

“The Archminister for the Reality of Trump, Mr. Bannon, has said that he wants to see Mr. McConnell dead or dying on the Senate floor. How do you respond to his efforts to oust Republican senators, and do his comments constitute a death threat?”

“No, I don’t think they’re a death threat,” Trump began. He answered in a stream of consciousness, completely unfazed by questions that all, if not each, seemed able to destroy his entire presidency. “And Mr. Bannon is doing good work, you know, Mitch and I were just talking about this, about how there are some Republicans that are just not gonna cut it anymore and Mr. Bannon is going to help us cut them out.”

“But Mr. Bannon hopes to challenge Mr. McConnell,” a reported asked in response. “He said so repeatedly in an interview.”

“No, I don’t think Mr. Bannon is going to do that,” Trump said in an even tone. “I think Mr. Bannon knows what we need to do to move our agenda forward and I think Mitch could really help us with that, so I’m not worried. I think we have a tremendous group of people already, a tremendous group, and a few more wouldn’t hurt, you know, so we’re going to get those more.”

Trump ended the briefing, forgetting to give the details of the actual briefing. McConnell mouthed thank-yous as he turned around with Trump and, for McConnell, the matter was over and resolved.

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