As the president watched, two shapes solidified from the open air around him. However, unlike the other two, these men brought with them something else. The men were dressed similarly to the last two, one in a suit and one in jeans, but above their heads was a series of numbers that the president recognized as the national debt clock and the numbers were increasing at an alarming rate.
The man in the suit, bearing a serious and stern expression, was the first to speak. “I am Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury of these United States.”
“And I am Thomas Jefferson,” said the man in the jeans. “Third president of the United States, and we are here to show you the true state of the union at this time in American history.”
“Look,” the president stated. “I know the state of the union. It is my job to know it and I do my job quite well. It is a waste of all our times for you to show me something I already know.”
“I concur,” Jefferson said, “that it is in all probability a waste of our time.” At the current president’s smile and sigh of relief, Jefferson continued. “Not because you know the state of the union, but because you are staunchly resistant to any viewpoint but your own. However, I have been directed to show you what I will, and that direction comes from a power higher than either you or I could ever achieve.”
“We know,” added Hamilton, “that you believe yourself a god, but our directions come from the real God and nothing you say could sway us from carrying out any task assigned by Him.”
The president pointed above the heads of his visitors and said, “that clock is unnecessary. I am fully aware of the national debt that my predecessor ran up and the need for me to spend even more of the taxpayer’s money to right the wrongs he created.”
“By taking a bad situation and making it worse,” said Jefferson turning to look at Hamilton. “You were an economist, does that appear a sound plan to you?”
“Not particularly,” Hamilton replied, “But perhaps it could work if the money was spent wisely and could be paid back. Neither of which applies in this case. The money was spent foolishly, wasted in fact, did nothing to improve the situation, and cannot be paid back. But what will happen there is not ours to show, that will come with the next visit. Let’s stay on track, Tom, shall we?”
“Of course, Alex.” Though the words were spoken politely, there was a sense of strain in them.
“Wait a minute,” the president said, holding up both hands in the traditional stop gesture. “I get the feeling that the two of you don’t like each other much. I don’t want to be stuck in the middle of some personal battle between the two of you so if that’s what you’re going to do, then count me out.”
“You cannot be counted out,” said Jefferson, “and the disagreements between Hamilton and myself are the same disagreements we have with you. Not all of the founding fathers agreed on how the government should be instituted,” he continued, “Adams and Franklin should have already shown you that.”
The president nodded skeptically and said, “Yes, they did, but what does that have to do with the personal issues going on here.”
“The personal issue is that Secretary Hamilton and I disagreed on basic philosophies. He was a proponent of a large and powerful central government, and I was a proponent of leaving more power in the hands of the people.”
“And this disagreement has been going on for more than 200 years?”
“Off and on, yes,” said Hamilton, “but it has been raised to the forefront again in recent days. Jefferson,” Hamilton sneered, “said that I should be happy with the direction the country has been heading. I took exception to that gross exaggeration of my initial views on government.”
“Exaggeration,” Jefferson scoffed. “Eliminate the states all together and appoint a president for life. Isn’t that what you said?”
“A president for life sounds good to me,” said the president with a grin.
Jefferson spun back around to face him. “You must be joking. You’re one of the main examples we use to show just how flawed Hamilton’s plan was.”
“Ok, you know I only said that because the state governments were so power hungry and spiraling down a path of corruption.”
“A path the federal government is now emulating.”
Hamilton opened his mouth to continue the debate but Jefferson cut him off. “That brings us back to the reason we’re here.”
“I hate when you do that,” Hamilton mumbled.
Jefferson just grinned in response and waved his hands. Instead of travelling through space or time, space and time were brought to them. As the president watched a myriad of visions appeared around the room, all a live feed and the number of them constantly expanding. The images were of people in heated discussions or sitting at their computers reading, researching or typing.
As the pictures changed and the volume of them expanded until not a space in the oval office was left open, Jefferson said, “These are only a small portion of the people speaking out against your policies at this very moment in time. Just imagine, if you can what this would look like earlier in the day.”
The president waved his hand dismissively. “They’re just spouting the opposition’s talking points,” he said, “They’re paid by the Republicans to do that.”
“Really,” said Hamilton. “How shocking. But how do you know that? How can you be sure?”
“I’m sure,” said the president.
“But why are you so sure?” echoed Jefferson.
“Because that’s what …..” the president allowed his sentence to trail off.
“What you do,” finished Hamilton. “That’s what you do in order to get your message out there. But what if I told you you’re wrong. That those people are not paid and are not echoing the opposition’s talking points as you put it?”
“I wouldn’t believe you,” the president replied.
“It’s not even possible,” asked Jefferson, “that they’re writing and expressing their own thoughts on the issues?”
“No,” was the president’s monosyllabic reply.
“So in your opinion, the masses are incapable of forming their own opinions?”
“Not on matters of such importance. They may be told by their party’s leadership to object but they don’t really know why. The masses are woefully ignorant of just about everything.”
“Just to be sure, you’re absolutely positive that all of these people are paid to express the minority party’s opinion?”
“Yes, as I’ve already told you. Why are you pushing this so hard?”
“Because,” said Hamilton with a flourish, “these are members of your party.”
The president’s jaw dropped and his eyes flew open. “My party? That’s not possible.”
“You can’t be surprised,” proclaimed Jefferson. “You’ve had to buy votes from representatives and senators alike who feared they would lose their seat if they voted for your policies. Having had to resort to such machinations how can you possibly be surprised that members of your own party are upset?”
“Yes, well, they’ll come to their senses, of that I’m sure.”
“But it doesn’t really matter, does it,” asked Hamilton. “You have a plan in place to deal with the situation already; to ensure that your party members are not voted out of office.”
“What are you talking about?”
A look was exchanged between the two ghosts and before the president could blink an eye they were swirling through time. When they came to an abrupt halt after a very short trip, an image of a conference room filled with people formed before them.
“Do you know who this group of individuals is,” asked Hamilton.
“No, of course I don’t,” replied the president even though the ghosts knew he was lying.
“This is the Secretary of State project. Those people on your side of the political aisle who believe, as Stalin did, that those who cast the votes are nowhere near as powerful as those who count them.”
“Voter fraud and intimidation is the Republican’s specialty, no ours.”
Jefferson cocked his head to the side and studied the president before saying to Hamilton, “I think he’s beginning to believe his own lies. How interesting.”
“I don’t believe so,” replied Hamilton. “I think he truly believes that not allowing the dead to vote is fraud and insisting that people are actually eligible to cast their vote is intimidation. A load of poppycock of course, but he believes it.”
“Hmm,” said Jefferson before turning back to the group in the conference room. They listened as the plan was set out to spend at least as much money on electing the Secretary of State who would be responsible for counting the votes, as they spent on electing the person the people would be voting for. They had figured out a way to ensure the perpetuation of their own power and it disturbed them not a bit that they would be cheating.
“How can you allow this to happen,” Jefferson asked. “It is your job to enforce the laws and protect the republic, how can you support the undermining of the linchpin of our democratic process? Is it all just to feed your own power?”
“I’m doing what’s right for the people,” the president replied.
“As to that,” Hamilton quipped, “the people appear to disagree with you.”
“They may disagree, but most of them need somebody to tell them what to do or what they need.”
Hamilton shook his head sadly at this. “Oh sir, government controlled liberty is no liberty at all. It is one thing to tell somebody what to do, it is another thing entirely to control the doing of it.”
“I’m still confident that the people are on my side. They simply require some time to adjust.”
“Shall we show him,” Jefferson asked of Hamilton.
“Yes, I believe we shall.”
With that they took another spin, but before they could make even one full tumble in the annals of time, they were at their destination.
The president looked around the room in the modest house and sneered. Why would the ghosts be showing him these people. With their curio cabinets full of whatnots and their walls covered in framed family photos, these were not people who mattered in the decision making process. Why would the ghosts be wasting their time on such people as these?
“We’ll show you,” said Jefferson, “why, though you don’t think these people matter, we believe they are representative of the cornerstone of this nation.”
“They’re watching your state of the union address. Shall we see how they react,” Hamilton asked.
The couple appeared to be in their early to mid 60’s. The man was sitting in a recliner with the foot kicked up and the woman was curled up on the couch with her knitting, both listening intently to the words of the president on the screen when, out of the blue, the man said, “Dear.”
The woman’s head snapped up, her knitting needles still clicking away though her gaze was on her husband. “Yes, honey?”
“We need to go out tomorrow and get ammunition.”
“Ammunition? For what?”
“My shotgun,” he said with barely any emotion.
“You haven’t fired that gun in nearly forty years, why the need for ammunition now?”
“Protection,” was his simple reply.
“We have a security system,” the wife said as a bewildered expression covered her face.
"That may work on a burglar, but it won’t do a thing to keep the government out.”
“Ah, yes. I see your point. Shall we pick up another gun while we’re out?”
The man focused his gaze on her intently. “I think we had better get them before they’re banned.”
“Revolution does appear to be imminent. If things don’t change dramatically, and fast, we’re going to need a way to protect ourselves from the government.”
Their discussion continued as to the reasons behind their beliefs and what they expected to happen.
“The people are beginning to believe that the only option left to protect their liberties is to rise up against their government,” said Jefferson. “This is what you’ve done.”
“They’ve just been listening to Glenn beck or Rush Limbaugh too much. Those men and their ideas are dangerous to the country.”
“Which is why you’re looking for ways to silence them against the express protection of free speech in the Constitution,” said Jefferson.
“Even if they did,” added Hamilton, “if they are preparing for revolution against your policies and your control, does it matter where the idea originated?”
“Of course it matters,” cried the president, “with their lies they are inciting insurrection. They have to be silenced.”
“The problem is,” said Hamilton, “that they’re telling the truth and the people know it.”
With this statement the ghosts took the president on a short hop into the past. They materialized outside the capitol building where hundreds of thousands of Americans were protesting the government spending and irresponsibility.
“Look at them,” said Jefferson. “This country stands upon a precipice; it will either return to liberty or sink into tyranny. In which direction will you lead it?”
The president looked at the mass of people holding signs and calling for change, and for the very first time began to question what he was doing. He had been so sure that people wouldn’t be paying attention, that they wouldn’t see what was happening, but he’d been wrong about that. Could he be, was it possible that he was wrong about other things? No, surely not.
Before he could decide how to respond, they were travelling again, this time landing back in the white house though not in the oval office. They were in a fairly small room dominated by a large desk, behind which sat his speech writer, John Alexander. However, instead of working on the speech the young man was on the phone.
The president’s lips pursed in displeasure at this sight. No wonder the boy wasn’t getting the speech written correctly.
“I’m sorry, honey,” John said.
“You need to quit that job,” replied a feminine voice that filled the room.
“I know, I do,” John replied. “And I’m going to as soon as this speech is turned in. I can’t take it anymore.”
“And I don’t like what it’s done to you. I want my husband back. My real husband and not the stressed out, disappointed and disillusioned man that jackass has turned you into.”
“I know, baby. I just have to stay long enough to make him think I’m rewriting the speech and then I’ll be home.”
“You’re not re-writing it?”
The presidents lips had pursed tighter and his hands had clenched in anger at this statement.
“He revises the speeches and revises them again,” John said, “until they are almost exactly what I wrote the first time and I’ve had enough of it. I’m going to turn in my first version and I can almost guarantee he won’t even notice.”
“And then you’ll quit and come back to me?”
“Yes, I’m coming home and I’m getting the hell out of politics. Ronald Reagan was right. It’s the second oldest profession and bears a striking resemblance to the first. And I find that I don’t make a very good whore.”
“While that president that you were so excited over has proven himself to be one of history’s most exceptional courtesans.”
“Yes,” John replied. “A lousy leader but a truly great politician.”
The couple was still talking as the ghosts led the president from the room and through the halls of the white house until they walked right past the secret service and back in to the oval office.
“You’ve seen where we come from,” said Jefferson, “and now you see where we are.”
“Balanced on the razors edge of revolution again,” said Hamilton. “The next ghosts will show you in which direction you tip the nation.”
“We’ll leave you now,” Jefferson said as he pointed to the clock. “This time with an opportunity to think about what you’ve seen before the next ghosts appear. I suggest you use that time to your advantage.”
And with that, their forms thinned and faded until they were no more, the last thing to fade was the debt clock which had remained above their heads the entire time and now reflected a debt that had grown by millions in the space of their trip. The president stared at the empty space where the ghosts had stood, his mind full and his conscience heavy, but for all that still sure that he was doing the right thing. Still sure that the people needed what he had to offer and that it was for their own good, even if they disagreed. He was still sure. Wasn’t he?
Chapter 6 will be posted Wednesday, Jan 20th