A pure hypothetical: You are 70-years old and entering your second term as vice president of the United States. You are pondering running for president, but your party already has a ruthless front-runner expected to be the nominee and succeed your party’s incumbent. Besides, your past campaigns for the top spot have yielded less than optimal or encouraging results. You’ll monitor the presidential sweepstakes, in case your party’s front-runner slips up and an opportunity presents itself for you to seize. But you know this isn’t likely; what is more likely is that your political career is nearing its end.
In the meantime, you want to identify other opportunities. Having been surrounded and solicited by the nation’s rich and mega-rich all throughout the nearly 50 years you’ve helped helm the ship of state as a federal elected official, a lifetime lived on a government salary doesn’t seem the reward to which you feel entitled.
What to do?
With no time to waste in what you believe to be your final term in federal office, you grab two cutouts whom you can trust not to sell you out. One is a son with substance abuse issues to serve as the bag man; the other a sibling to help oversee the troubled son, who will be traipsing the globe to pocket the lucre from foreign sources in exchange for your perceived ability to influence events.
The foreign money is crucial, as it doesn’t have quite the troublesome reporting requirements of domestic revenue sources; and far less attention from the press, though they wouldn’t pay much attention anyways since you’re on the “good team.” Further, the incurious press will allow you to take your son along on your federal travels. Not a bad way to lower your overhead. Even if the president knew about your “unofficial” use of federal resources, he wouldn’t raise a stink, because it would ruin his legacy’s risible “no scandals” talking point.
Of course, the perception of your ability to peddle influence will wane when your time in federal office concludes. Still, given your impending status in some quarters as an expert in foreign policy and an elder statesman, there will still be those willing to pay to play. Best to establish a foundation or chair at a friendly university. Such institutions will love the prestige that comes with hosting someone of your stature on campus, almost as much as your ability to help tap your old network to raise funds for the university. And, hey, neither you nor that university have any qualms taking foreign money—lots and lots of foreign money.
Near the end of your term, your party’s ruthless front-runner stumbles from an unforced error. From your perch as vice president, you let it be known you are willing to run for president if it helps your party and the country. But the ruthless front-runner manages to weather the storm and to put a shot across your bow.
Versed in the myriad means of accumulating foreign money for one’s personal benefit, the ruthless front-runner lets it be known she will tell the world about your “mom and pop” grift; and when, as expected, the ruthless front-runner becomes president, you and yours will be investigated by her Justice Department and FBI—which, by the way, had just given her a “clean bill of health” despite some highly “questionable” activities. You’ve never been accused of being smart, but you’re not suicidal either. You duck back down into your resplendent fox hole, persist in the grift, and look forward to your literal “golden years.”
Then the conventional political wisdom and world are upended: your party’s ruthless front-runner blows the election; and a crass political newcomer wins the presidency. You collect your cash and bide your time, while for the next three years or so your party and their media allies do everything in their power to undermine the unexpected president. Nevertheless, the incumbent’s economy is extremely good; and your party’s candidates for president aren’t expected to win. And none of them have the intel or the political chops to take you down over you and your family’s foreign grift. Though you’re not as sharp as you once were, you throw your hat into the presidential sweepstakes.
Two events converge—one anticipated, one not. A socialist senator looks as if he will be your party’s nominee. This is unacceptable due to the unanticipated event: a global pandemic that has wreaked havoc with the incumbent president’s economy and made him vulnerable—but not to the socialist senator. Thus, when every other candidate fails to take flight (including you, early in your campaign), the party establishment ensures you win the primary and become the “moderate” elder statesman who will put “adults” back in charge of public policy and calm a deeply divided and distressed nation.
The pandemic facilitates your party’s narrative by allowing you to run a “virtual” campaign that doesn’t demand the arduous physical and mental rigors of a normal presidential run, and further allows your party and its billionaire supporters to facilitate “emergency” changes to election laws that tilt the field in your favor. Your opponent, hamstrung by the pandemic and his own incomparable ability to shoot himself in the foot, seems destined to go down to defeat.
Until your troubled son loses his laptop.
On the laptop, among other unsavory matters, is enough information about your family’s grifting to sink your candidacy and maybe land you all in the pokey. But an unholy combination of the corporate media, Big Tech, and old intel community cronies ride to your rescue by falsely claiming your son’s laptop is “Russian disinformation.” These allies censor and silence any and all references to the laptop and its contents as “mis- and disinformation” and foreign election interference. In the end, by roughly 17,000 votes spread over three states, you are elevated to the presidency.
Wither the grift?
Closing in on 80 years-old, you are tempted to let it go, perhaps more so now that your erstwhile campaign allies in the corporate media have fessed up that the laptop was, in fact, your troubled son’s. Your presidency has been beset by problems; and your party’s fortunes heading into the midterm elections appear bleak. Thus, the question: Does your hand-picked attorney general appoint a special prosecutor to investigate you and your family’s overseas influence-peddling grift?
I’m guessing . . . no.