Bill and Loretta

“Good afternoon, Mr. President, I — ”

“Please, it’s ‘Bill’. I’ve outlived my titles. You will too, Lori.”

“Loretta.”

“Thanks for stopping to meet an old bull like me.”

“Your plane blocked our access to the terminal.”

“Yeah, well, sorry about that. We never learned much about parallel parking back in Arkansas. You can take the boy out of the state, but the state of the boy don’t change. How’s your family, Lori?”

“Well, they —”

“Do you remember the time I invited them to the White House, back in ’99?”

“You didn’t invite my family to the White House, sir.”

“Well, that’s why I was asking if you remember, because I couldn’t! But that is just the sort of thing I would do, whenever I plucked an up-and-comer out of obscurity and put them on the fast track with a federal appointment. The circumstance is so much better with a little pomp added to it, don’t you think?”

“I always appreciated your confidence in me, sir.”

“Don’t thank me. Thank your parents. We needed a black woman who wouldn’t need any additional favors returned. It wasn’t a long list.”

“Nevertheless, I — ”

“I gave up on four-syllable words after Oxford. It’s worked out OK for me. And I must say, things have worked out OK for you too. Attorney General for America’s second black president! Look at you. Your children must be proud.”

“You’re a grandfather now, twice, I see. That must feel like something.”

“Chelsea is a great mom. You know why? She’s a worrier — always has been. When she was a teenager, she wanted to know how thick was the glass in the White House windows. Now the glass we talk about is the ceiling.”

“Sir, we really can’t — ”

“Of course WE can’t talk about Hillary’s future and how it’s gotten tangled up with your present, which only happened because of our past — yours and mine. We can’t talk about it, and WE won’t. But I will. Chelsea worries that her Mom won’t be remembered for her strengths. Maybe every daughter fears that. I don’t know.”

“Sir, we — ”

“Bill. I’ll ask my pilot to taxi out of your way in just a minute. I gotta first finish this part where we’re not talking about anything except family and stuff.”

“Thank you.”

“I want these grandkids of mine to know I made good choices. Good schools, good jobs, good people — like you — and a good wife. A wife who was better than me, except for the times when she knows it. I tell her all the time that bein’ smart ain’t always so smart. If we’re gonna make people’s lives better, we can’t be soundin’ so diff’rent from them or they won’t take it. Givin’ ’em what they need’s the easy part. Makin’ ’em want what they need — that’s tough sometimes.”

“You always did that folksy wisdom better than anyone.”

“Better than anyone white, anyway. You’re heading to Aspen next week. Much better than Phoenix in late June. Have they slotted you yet?”

“Friday.”

“Perfect. You’ll be talking to eggheads on a Friday. Rush and the TV folks won’t get to it until Monday. You’ll be asked about the ongoing investigation. That would be a good time to say things are wrapping up and that you’ll keep your thumb off the scale.”

“Things aren’t —”

“Whoop! Careful, Lori. WE can’t talk about this, remember? I’m just thinking out loud. Did you notice I haven’t asked you any questions except about your family? That’s all WE have talked about. That investigation will wrap up soon — it’s got to! We got an election to win. This old dog knows how to hurry things up, even when everybody’s busy doin’ nuthin’.”

“How is Seamus?”

“Beats me. But Buddy taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. Make a mess on the floor and the whole world starts spinning in a new direction. Our little accident today — this accidental meeting — will get things spinning.”

“I won’t tell anyone, sir.”

“No, but I will. Don’t let your pilot sit on the Tarmac much longer. The A/C on these planes isn’t built for idling. Say hello to my friends in Aspen. Give ’em an extra syllable for me.”

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) blogs at www.dksez.com.