This is the fourth installment of Fictionalizing the News, a writing exercise I set for myself where I write a short story based on an article in the news. Please be aware as you read this, that though it is based on an actual event, I am not attempting to describe reality or tell the truth in any way, it is just a story that I made up. The characters in this story may have names that correspond to those of real people, but they are entirely fictional. I call this story The Trump Letter and it is based on this article.
They were serious men who gathered around the conference table that morning, all dark suits and no-nonsense facial expressions. At the head of the table was John Bellinger, a former State Department legal adviser under Condoleezza Rice. A number of other prominent men were spread around the table, among them Michael Hayden, former director of both CIA and NSA, previous Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and former Homeland Security secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff.
John Bellinger cleared his throat then took the floor “Gentlemen, thank you for coming on such short notice, I called you here today to discuss a very important matter.” “Skip the formalities” John Negroponte interrupted, “We all know why we are here.” “Let the man speak, Negroponte” Michael Hayden retorted. Negroponte leaned back in his chair and Bellinger continued “Right, like Mr. Negroponte said, you all know why are here, that is, to discuss our party’s so-called presidential candidate. His latest statements are even more dubious than previous ones and I think it’s high time that we, as prominent Republicans involved with national security, make it clear that we do not stand by him.”
“Like Bellinger said, Trump has made plenty of dubious statements throughout his campaign, how can we be sure he is sincere this time?” Tom Ridge broke in. “If he is sincere or not doesn’t actually matter” Tom’s ex colleague Michael Chertoff countered, “it’s the fact that he keeps spouting all these lies, half-truths and other bullshit that makes him unqualified for the presidency.” A murmur of approval spread around the table.
“Definitely,” came the voice of Michael Hayden, “but that doesn’t mean that the contents of that bullshit is unimportant. I speak to foreign dignitaries on a regular basis and some of the stuff Mr. Trump is saying has them worried, especially so his latest comments about the Russians hacking of Mrs. Clinton’s emails. We cannot have a president who time and time again upsets our closest allies with his erratic behavior.” “Not only that” Eric Edelman remarked, “I’ve kept track of several national security issues since I was adviser for Dick Cheney, and I fear Trump’s recklessness could invite recklessness on the part of America’s enemies.” These last two statements sent a wave of agreement through the assembled men, several of them commenting that they sensed the same thing in talks with foreign diplomats.
“It wouldn’t be so bad if he would only be willing to listen,” John Negroponte commented, “but it seems he has no tolerance for criticism whatsoever. He keeps lashing out at people, even his own supporters, in a childish way. I will say he simply doesn’t have the proper temperament to be president of the United States.” Another murmur of agreement, several people indicating that they had been rudely turned down by Trump when trying to give him advice. Once everyone settled down, John Bellinger took the floor again.
“It seems that we all agree that Mr. Trump possesses several qualities that are very dangerous in a person aspiring to be, not only President, but also Commander-in-Chief with control over the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The question is, what should we, as patriotic Republicans, do about it. Back in the primaries, several of us assembled here cosigned a letter opposing Mr. Trump’s candidacy. I propose that we write a similar letter, letting the American public know that Mr. Trump is not qualified to be president. I invited all of you to this meeting because I hope you will all agree to sign such a letter; you are all prominent figures within the Republican Party, many of you with first hand knowledge of what it takes to be president of this country, I believe our signatures would lend weight to the letter.”
“Hold on a moment” John Negroponte broke in, “the previous letter was written when other candidates were still viable but now we only have Trump, are you saying we should endorse Clinton?” “I didn’t say what at all” Bellinger replied. “Actually, I think we should endorse Clinton” Hayden interrupted “I have my concerns about her, and I suspect the rest of you do too, but I think it’s a case of choosing between two evils, and she is definitely the lesser.” “I’m with you on that” Michael Chertoff agreed, “we should make it clear to our voters that of the two candidates that exist, Clinton is the preferable option.” “You can’t be serious, Mike!” Tom Ridge exclaimed. “I am serious” Chertoff replied, “We all know absentee voters benefit the Republican candidate; if we are serious about opposing Trump, we have to get people voting for the opposition. If that means endorsing Hillary Clinton then so be it.”
This last comment sent a wave of unrest through the assembled men who, normally so calm and collected, started arguing with each other in a lively manner. It didn’t stop until Bellinger stood up and dropped his $50 leather-bound notebook on the table with a loud slap. “All right, so we can’t agree on endorsing Mrs. Clinton or not. However, let’s not get caught in the details. I have more than 15 years experience of legal writing so unless anyone disagrees,” here he made a pause to let people object if they wanted to, but no one said anything, “ I will draft the letter, with support from Messrs. Blackwill and Cohen. As regards to endorsing Mrs. Clinton I will include formulations to the effect that we, as do many of the American people, have our doubts about her but we are unified in our belief that Mr. Trump is not qualified to be President of the United States.” At this, cries of approval were heard from several places around the table. Bellinger continued: “I also want to make it clear to the Republican voters that even for longtime Clinton critics, Trump poses too big a risk to both short-term, and long-term national security.” This triggered more approval from the assembled men.
“Now, if any of you want to endorse Mrs. Clinton privately, that is fine, but we will not mention it in the letter. Any more comments on the matter?” No one said anything. “In that case, I think it’s time we finish up here. When the letter is drafted I will circulate it for comments and once everyone has approved it, I will send out the final version to be signed. Does anyone have anything more to say?” he made a short pause “then this meeting is adjourned.” With those words Bellinger concluded his speech and the men started getting up from their seats and filing out of the room, all of them hoping that the letter would, in some small measure, set a stop to the man who could potentially trigger world war three.