Ground rules

The Chairman pays a call

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[A room in MICHAEL BLOOMBERG’s townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It looks like a London men’s club; lots of rich wood paneling, fireplace, plush furnishings, 19th-century moldings, etc. Democratic Party chairman TOM PEREZ, wearing a business suit, is enthusiastically shaking the hand of BLOOMBERG, who is wearing linens, a smoking jacket, brown leather slippers, and a fez.]

PEREZ: So glad to see you again, Mike.

BLOOMBERG: Mr. Bloomberg, please.

PEREZ: Mr. Bloomberg. I believe we met on another floor of your home the last time.

BLOOMBERG: With the skylight? Yes, that’s nice in the daytime.

[A BUTLER enters and presents a tray with one flute and one rocks glass to PEREZ.]

I understand you like Kir Royales.

PEREZ: [Dazzled, takes one] How thoughtful, thank you.

BLOOMBERG: It’s one of my bartenders specialties. I don’t drink them but people who do say they’re excellent.

[BLOOMBERG takes the remaining glass.]

PEREZ: May I ask what you’re having?

BLOOMBERG: It’s my own private Scotch, actually. A distiller in Orkney came up with it for me.

PEREZ: Wow. Sometime I’ll have to try that.

BLOOMBERG: That would not be possible.

[BLOOMBERG looks at his watch.]

PEREZ: I know you’re busy, Mr. Bloomberg, so let’s get right to it. There’s certainly no trouble about having you in the Las Vegas debate. I don’t know if you have —

BLOOMBERG: Where will my podium be?

PEREZ: As you’re new to the debates, I guess you’ll be on the end. Do you prefer the right side, or —

BLOOMBERG: That’s no good. I’d like to be at the center.

PEREZ: [After a beat] Don’t you think that’d look a little weird?

BLOOMBERG: It might. But so what?

[PEREZ looks flustered.]

Look, Tom, as long as I’m closer to the middle than Joe Biden I’m fine.

PEREZ: Okay. Okay. We can do that. That was very expertly done, sir. I see you’re very good at negotiation.

BLOOMBERG: Please.

PEREZ: Do you need accommodations? You don’t strike me as a Vegas guy.

BLOOMBERG: I have some friends out there. Just tell me where and when and I’ll be fine.

[The BUTLER glides in and takes Perez’s glass, with which he was apparently not quite done, then glides away.]

One other thing, I don’t want to get screwed on the questions. I know you’re concerned with how things look, so just make it so I have as many questions as Bernie.

PEREZ: That shouldn’t be a problem.

BLOOMBERG: And nothing about stop and frisk.

PEREZ: Oh. Okay. I’m sure —

BLOOMBERG: I don’t want the other candidates asking about it either.

PEREZ: The other candidates? Well, I guess we can tell the moderators to be, to make sure they’re not bullying you or anybody else —

BLOOMBERG: [His voice rising slightly] I don’t care about bullying, I just don’t want to hear the question. And I’d appreciate it if no one mentioned it in the network pre-show and recap, either. Same thing for police violence or the settlements we had to pay. People don't want to hear that. They want to hear about how we’re going to make government work. National 311, opioid strike force, mandatory pre-school. That’s what I want to talk about and that’s what I want to hear discussed at this debate.

[Pause. PEREZ looks as if he’s trying to steel himself. Finally:]

PEREZ: There’s a lot I can do, Mr. Bloomberg, and I’ll do everything I can. I can’t do any better than that. There are a lot of different people involved and some of them I don't —

BLOOMBERG: [Quietly] Okay, Tom. It’s okay. I know you’ll do the right thing. Just wanted you to know how I feel.

[BLOOMBERG takes a drink, puts the glass down on a coaster on a table.]

I guess we’re caught up. I want to thank you for your time.

PEREZ: It’s been a pleasure, Mr. Bloomberg.

[PEREZ puts his hand out for a shake; BLOOMBERG instead hands PEREZ a thin piece of paper.]

What’s this?

BLOOMBERG: A check to the DNC.

PEREZ: Another one? Wow.

[The BUTLER materializes with a coat and, before PEREZ knows what’s happening, starts putting it on him.]

BLOOMBERG: Use it wisely. This is a very important election.

PEREZ: We will! Do you always use paper checks for, uh, this kind of amount?

BLOOMBERG: [Smiling] Of course. I love to see the looks at their faces when I present a big check. Don’t you?

[BLOOMBERG turns and walks out of the room. The BUTLER gestures PEREZ toward the opposite doorway. CURTAIN.]