Some links before getting underway today. Norma wrote about captchas. Parsnip had a Square Dog Friday post. Eve has been carrying on with the A-Z Challenge. Krisztina had spring decorating ideas. Mark had thoughts on spring and a book announcement. And Lynn featured ducklings.
Today I feature something entirely different.
It was a dark and stormy night. Mostly because the writer knew he could never get away with using that as a first line in a proper book, given the fact that it has long since been considered a cheesy, bad opening line. At any rate, it was indeed a dark and stormy night in the skies over the capital of Canada. In his study at 24 Sussex Drive, the Prime Minister of the nation, Stephen Harper (Emperor Stephen the First, as he secretly planned to be called once he launched his plan to seize power for life) sat brooding. He often brooded, for his was a blackened soul devoid of humour and empathy, thinking only of vendettas, driven mad by power, yearning to destroy any who stood before him. It was said by many that the Prime Minister lacked the capacity to smile or laugh. Oh, yes, he would try from time to time, but an attempted smile always came out more like a glare of malevolence and disgust.
He was lost in thought, ignoring the lightning outside, thinking only of ways to manipulate the polls, to launch more attack ads at his opponents, to find ways to undermine them. It was, after all, his way. He had learned at the feet of the master, his old mentor, the Reform party founder Preston Manning. “Stephen,” Preston once said back in the day. “Above all else, democracy only works if we’re in power and doing everything we can to absolutely obliterate any dissent. You might say one thing. I mean, go on and on about transparency and accountability, but once you’re in power, dissent must be destroyed, and anyone asking questions must be silenced. Oh, and you have to do everything you can to pander to your base. They’d support you no matter what you do. Now, how about we have a corn roast? That plays well with the base.”
Time had passed- he came out of his musings, wondering about the hour, the quiet of the house. He looked up in the darkened room, and saw that he was not alone. Someone stood there in the shadows, barely perceptible in the gloom. How had he gotten in? Harper was certain, after all, that if anyone had come in, he would have noticed. The figure advanced, the lone light from the desk lamp starting to illuminate some of his features. The dark circles under the eyes, the severe looking face, the widow’s peak hairline, all of it familiar, all of it resonating with the Prime Minister. This was, after all, one of his influences- even if he could never actually admit it publicly.
It was Richard Nixon.
How was that possible? Had Richard Nixon not passed away in 1994? Twenty years after his fall from grace. Those pesky reporters, Harper had often thought, even from his youth, one of the many reasons he had ended up developing a profound loathing for the media. How dare they make trouble for a politician. Particularly one that I admire. If it had been up to Harper, Woodward and Bernstein would have been arrested for treason instead of admired for their role in exposing Watergate and ending up being played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffmann. Of course, that was a different time, a different country, and one of the many reasons the Prime Minister would never acknowledge the existence of Robert Redford or the Sundance Festival. How is it possible? Richard Nixon is dead.
“Um... hello? Are you....?” Harper began.
“Hello, Mr. Prime Minister,” Nixon said in that familiar growl of his, a mixture of bemusement and contempt underlying his tone. “I am.”
“Hello, Mr. President,” Harper replied, rising. ‘This is... this is quite an honour. Of course. Though... I guess you’re not really here, are you?”
“No, I’m a ghost,” Nixon admitted.
“I see. Well. I must ask, why are you here?”
“I come as a warning, Stephen,” Nixon explained with a sigh. “It is too late for me. My fate was my own making, not that I could really admit that in life. My need to have enemy lists, to poke at old wounds, to cheat at any cost... it turned me into a shell of a man. It destroyed my own place in history. I often thought in the years after I left office that if only I had won the election in 1960, I might not have become this paranoid win at all costs ultra partisan figure of history. I might have been the better man for it. But no, America fell in love with that Marilyn Monroe screwing twit who couldn’t pronounce an R to save his life, I looked bad on television, and there went the whole election. Does that sound bitter? I’m never quite sure.”
“Not bitter at all!” Harper insisted.
“Yes, well, however it happened, it happened,” Nixon told the Prime Minister. “I lost in 1960, came back years later, won, but was so cynical, distrusting, and vindictive that I was willing to do anything and screw anyone over just to get elected.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Harper noted with a shrug.
“It’s a terrible thing!” Nixon countered.
Nixon shook his head. “Stephen, you must listen to me. When I met my end, and went to that awful infernal place, it was explained to me that I had been the most vindictive politician yet to have walked the earth. But that was not to last. One day, north of the border, there would come a politician whose vindictiveness and need to destroy his political enemies would exceed even my own. Stephen, it is you.”
“Oh, now come on, is this a joke?” Harper asked with a sigh of dismay.
“It’s no joke, Stephen,” Nixon warned. “You have come too far down this road of vindictiveness. You have silenced anyone in the public service who can speak out against you. You have taken steps to cripple your political rivals. You have spent millions upon millions of dollars toasting yourself. You have secret plans already set to remove basic rights from your citizens. I’m just surprised you haven’t bugged your rival’s campaign offices.”
“Yes, well, I have time before the election to get to that,” Harper replied in a self-satisfied way.
“Stephen!!!” Nixon shouted in an outraged way. “That’s what did me in!”
Harper nodded. “Yes, well, your guys were third rate burglars. I’ve got much better and more discreet guys at my disposal.”
Nixon sighed and rolled his eyes. “I see it is entirely too late to reason with you. You are on the path you have chosen, and nothing will remove you from it. Where you will go from here is a disaster of your own making. I would have thought my bad example would have been enough to drive you from that path. I was wrong. About a great many things.”
“Never say that!” Harper insisted. “True conservatives like us are never wrong. I mean, come on, this can’t be you. Richard Nixon would never admit he was wrong. Why would you say such things to me?”
“Death changes a man, Stephen,” Nixon admitted.
“This has got to be a dream,” Harper told himself. “I’m dreaming. Why aren’t I dreaming of my political foes in the stocks in the shadow of the Peace Tower? That’s a good dream. Not to mention that’s where I’ll have them sooner or later for daring to defy me and demand accountability and good order in my government. How dare they question me!”
Nixon shook his head in a sad way. “Oh, sure, Stephen, go ahead, tell yourself it’s a dream. Tell yourself that this isn’t happening. Perhaps these are all the musings of a writer who really dislikes you and looks forward to the day when you’re voted out of office. Perhaps he is using this as a way to amuse his readers.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Harper objected.
“Such things rarely do,” Nixon informed him.
Harper shook his head. “A dream. That’s all it is. My hero, Richard Nixon, would never say such things to me. This is nothing more than a bit of undigested steak acting up. Yes, that’s it. A very Dickensian trick, I would say, like that Christmas Carol thing. That’s about all I remember of that story. Aside from thinking that the moral to the story was really badly thought out. Why that book is considered a classic is beyond me.”
“You are aware that the writer once put you in the Scrooge role in a Christmas Carol parody?” Nixon asked.
“Rubbish!” Harper declared. “My minions would have told me if anyone was disrespecting me in such a fashion.”
Nixon looked up at the ceiling and sighed again. “Don’t say I didn’t at least give it a try.”
The spectral presence faded. Harper sat down at his desk once more. He shook his head. No, he decided. It couldn’t have been. If Richard Nixon had really been here, he would have also brought my other personal heroes. Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Ayn Rand. He smiled to himself- as much as his limited facial expressions and bitter soul would allow a smile, and went back to work, plotting the next intricate phase of how to annihilate his enemies in the coming election.
And somewhere else, in an infernal and hot place, Richard Nixon rested content, knowing that sooner or later he would be remembered merely as the second most vindictive politician in history.