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May 24 , 2011

Political Ducks

Lucky, Lame and Dead


“You have what it takes to sit in this office. You’re on the launch pad, fueled and ready; Senator, start the countdown,” says Republican President Bob Davids, now a lame duck, to ingratiate himself with Democrat Earl Eastwood, offering him a remarkable, unprecedented sharing of presidential authority. Eastwood, unknowingly recruited to redress the President’s badly damaged image, would receive Davids’ blessing to bypass bungling federal investigators. He promised the young senator “whatever it might take” to find the perpetrators of a terrorist attack on Washington, which killed Eastwood’s predecessor, the widely beloved Senator Bill Rice. Just two years ago, Eastwood, an African-American, was Connecticut’s attorney general. He was appointed by Governor Domenic Guillermo to succeed Senator Bill Rice, killed by an assassin’s bullet at the instant a US Air Force F-16 fighter was downed by Washington-based defensive missiles, exploding over Rice’s head. The aircraft was on an angle of attack toward the US Capitol. Rice had been Eastwood’s lifelong mentor, his meal ticket. He had managed Eastwood’s appointment to West Point, entry to Yale Law School, court clerkship, Senate staff job, and designation as state attorney general. Senator Eastwood, with both a carte blanche from the President and surreptitiously provided Israeli intelligence, redirects a feckless federal inquiry to identify the perpetrators of the air attack, and Rice’s assassin. His success has a few political liabilities; but the rewards cast him onto the national political stage. Governor Guillermo appointed Eastwood to the senate, hoping he would promote his presidential aspirations. Eastwood is not consciously disloyal to Guillermo; rather, he is swept up by changing political winds. Terrorism moves to the top of the public’s issue agenda for the presidential race. Eastwood catches the draft. But Guillermo remains mired in issues of fading significance. His gubernatorial re-election in 2006 is at risk. With typical guile, Davids makes a proposition to Eastwood. He would appoint Guillermo as ambassador to the Vatican. The deal included a corrupt arrangement with an Italian aviation firm, AviTalia, which had just won a contract to provide the White House Marine One helicopter. The appointment to the Vatican would gracefully remove Guillermo from his failing gubernatorial re-election, opening it to a Republican win but rescuing Eastwood from hostile state Democrats. Some were thinking a recall of Eastwood from the US Senate, believing his quick leap to fame, and a certain presidential nod for the 2008 race, had come at Guillermo’s expense. But Eastwood rejects involvement in Davids’ scheme; his high-minded image of the President shattered forever. Even Atlas shrugged, Eastwood thinks. The story tempts the genre of political thrillers. Washington’s decision-making machinery is portrayed with zealous accuracy. For the neo-realist, facts buttress good fiction. Political Ducks’ characters live the real hypocrisy and risks of the American political culture. Their pathology of political ambition confirms even the most pessimistic impressions of democracy.
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