The Loyal Opposition

Doing the unity thing

© 2016 Gage Skidmore, used under a Creative Commons license

[The President's Dining Room in the White House. Seated at the table are PEGGY NOONAN, ROSS DOUTHAT, and ANDREW SULLIVAN, all dressed very expensively, as if they were going to a publisher’s funeral. Several MARINES and WAITERS stand at attention near the walls. The pundits eat quietly. PRESIDENT BIDEN enters in a dark blue suit; all rise.]

BIDEN. OK, folks, hey, don’t get up. This is informal. Everyone comfortable?

[They all murmur agreeably, sit down.]

Terrific. OK. Now my old friend Barack told me he found it helpful to meet with the very top conservative writers and get their opinion about things. Now we excluded the ones who don’t think I’m actually president or who say I should be executed, and that narrowed it down considerably. But Andy, Ross, Peggy, I’ve been reading your stuff for years and I respect the heck out of all of you and, well, [chuckles] I know you sure won’t be shy about telling me what you think I should be doing, so fire away.

NOONAN. [Immediately] Well, Mr. President, let me first say how happy I am that you’ve replaced that vile man who was here before you.

SULIVAN: Hear, hear.

DOUTHAT: Oh my, yes.

NOONAN: But at the same time I have to say that you are making another Trump inevitable with your radical socialist agenda.

BIDEN: Well, what socialist agenda is that, Peggy?

NOONAN: [Frostily] Well, if you had bothered to look, I wrote a column on the very subject just this month. [Calling] Waiter! More chablis. [WAITER refills her glass.]

BIDEN: You don’t mean the one that starts “The word now is radicalized,” do you?

NOONAN: [Hand to chest] Ah! Mr. President, I’m so flattered you took the time, thank you so much for noticing. [In a low tone, to the others, raising her eyebrows] They all read me, you know. [Drinks deeply]

BIDEN: But Peggy, all of that critical race theory stuff you were talking about, that has to do with school boards and so forth, local stuff, but that has nothing to do with what this administration does.

NOONAN: Oh, does it not! I’ve seen you, sir, talking about “Black Lives Matter,” picking up the ghetto lingo of the day — like Clinton playing the saxophone on Arsenio Hall, and you see where that led to! Monica Lewinsky! And this so-called Black Lives Matter is pretty much the same thing as critical race theory, except for the school and teaching parts.

SULLIVAN: It all ties together, sir. You tell people that the blacks have legitimate grievances, and the whites, the suggestible ones anyway, they start teaching that to the children. This totally breaks faith with the Anglospheric tradition, whereby some naturally lead and some naturally follow.  [Looks around the table, presses finger to the side of his nose.] I think we all know what I mean, eh? And when you teach that Black Lives thing to children, you know what it leads to? Eh? You know what’s next? Hormone replacement therapy, which [Gesturing to the others] I think we all agree is a grotesque abomination against the natural order.

NOONAN: Well, I take it this is something sexual and I just want to say I am so grateful that the tide is starting to turn from all the deviancy of the past fifty years. [To SULLIVAN, toasting] Andrew, welcome back to the blue team! [To BIDEN] I’m talking about homosexuals, Mr. President. Blue and pink teams. It’s a New York thing.

SULLIVAN: Peggy, I’m still gay.

NOONAN: Really? Bari Weiss told me different.

SULLIVAN: [Angry] Ugh, that crazy bitch! What do I have to do — [To BIDEN] Sorry, Mr. President.

BIDEN: Ross, you’ve been pretty quiet, maybe you’d like to contribute?

DOUTHAT: [Pulling a laminated card out of his pocket] First, Mr. President, I’d like to present you with a Mass card from my bishop, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, who supports the true Church against the heretic clerisy. [He has the others pass the card down to BIDEN] His Eminence hopes it will help focus your mind in these trying times on the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

BIDEN: [Examining the card] Ross, there must be some mistake. This card is covered with crosses and at the bottom here is a little spiral. Little tiny type at the bottom: [Reads, with difficulty] “Obey, submit.”

DOUTHAT: [Staring at BIDEN; shaken] You — you can still speak? Your tongue, your throat has not been stopped?

BIDEN: Sure I can speak. [Sniffs the card] Whoa. Smells like incense. Ha ha, boy that takes me back! Where’d you say you got this thing?

DOUTHAT: [Nervously, shifty-eyed] Oh, just from my bishop, sir, it’s no big deal, glad you like it.

SULLIVAN: If I may, sir, I’d like to return to the subject of the blacks.

BIDEN: You seem sort of fixated on that, Andy. Don’t you want to talk about all the money I’m spending? Time was that’d be all you guys would want to talk about.

SULLIVAN: Sir, times have changed, and for conservatives today the big issues are critical race theory, which is about the blacks, and defunding the police, which is also about the blacks, and reparations, again, the blacks, and the border which is about the browns which is almost the blacks, and the trans but I yield to the consensus, first and foremost the blacks. To put it plainly, sir, this Kamala Harris has got to go.

BIDEN: Kamala? But why?

DOUTHAT: The polls show she’s a liability, sir, to your agenda, which with certain major exceptions you must believe we all support.

BIDEN: Never mind the polls. What exactly have you folks got against her?

NOONAN: [After knocking back a big drink] Her socialist ideas, sir.

BIDEN: Okay, what socialist ideas?

NOONAN: [Laughing wildly, looking at the others] What socialist ideas! [To BIDEN] Come on, buddy, I was here before you and I’ll be here after you!

BIDEN: Well, I certainly hope so, Peggy.

NOONAN: [Vehemently, pointing at BIDEN] Don’t you try and butter me up, Delaware!

DOUTHAT: Sir, she’s very divisive, and we all agree we want America to be united, not divided, don’t we?

[Murmurs of approbation all around.]

BIDEN: But what exactly do you find divisive about her?

[Pause.]

DOUTHAT: Her… laugh!

NOONAN: That’s right! She has a very laugh like, like… lemme see, what does she remind me of… like Ethel Waters, or whatshername, Weezie on “The Jeffersons,” but bad, not good, because… because… oh, shit! WAITER! [Waiter fills her glass]

[SULLIVAN stands, produces a set of calipers from his jacket, clacks them menacingly]

SULLIVAN: Sir, get her in here and I’ll show you just what we mean!

BIDEN: I’m afraid we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one, folks.

NOONAN: [Leaping to her feet, grandly] I thought so! Democrats always say they want unity, but always — they always —

[NOONAN vomits copiously on the table. EVERYONE stands.  The MARINES grab NOONAN under her arms and carry her out of the room; DOUTHAT and SULLIVAN follow her. Long pause. A door opens and KAMALA HARRIS walks in and up to BIDEN, looking him dead in the eye, BIDEN pulls out a fifty and hands it to HARRIS, who puts it in her jacket. They leave the room together. The WAITERS begins, with some trepidation, to clean the table. CURTAIN.]