On the Road to the Real Thing - 3

I close my portfolio and shrug at Leo. "Ainsley and I will be going over the figures later."

Which reminds me – I'd better make sure there's food in my office. The thought makes me want to chuckle, but I'll save it for later.

Leo makes a note and nods. "Okay, that's settled, then. Anybody else?"

We all shake our heads. The President dismissed us a few minutes ago, and the post-briefing with Leo is quiet today. Nice change.

I take off my glasses and stand, ready to leave, but Leo's voice stops me. "One more thing: We might have a situation with Hoynes."

Oh, no. What's his problem this time? Probably jealous that the cameras took more shots of the First Lady during the State of the Union than they did of him.

I look around the room, exchanging a quick glance with Josh. He nods at me, then jerks his head up toward Leo. He sighs. "We really can't afford that right now."

"Y'think?" Leo's voice is sharper than usual.

I can hear CJ sigh behind me. "All we need are a few sentences, a sound bite. Something short, something simple, something sweet."

A few sentences? Why do I get the feeling that I don't know what she's talking about? Oh, right – it's because I don't. "A few sentences for what?"

Toby clears his throat and fingers the corner of Leo's desk. "Hoynes is giving a speech at a rally for the American Auto Workers Union in Detroit on Thursday."

"Yeah, I heard. So?"

"We want him to him to do a drop-in about the protests in Seattle."

A drop-in? "Why?"

Josh rubs his face, stands up, and begins to walk the room. He looks tired. "We need the press. Numbers from the polls were low on the President's stance on the environment. They'll be watching, and this'll give us back a few points with them, even things up."

More fall-out from the GDC debacle. It's done, it's over. This is getting annoying.

I shake my head. "Look, the damage is done. We can't even up the score now."

"We're going to try." Toby's voice is firm.

And he's not looking at me.

Not again.

"I don't agree with this." I try to keep my voice quiet, but my face already feels hot. "I don't agree with this. I think this is going to make a bigger mess of things. The environmentalists are already angry with us; let's not make labor angry with us, too. It's time to let it go. It's time to find some positive press, rather than doing these drop-ins that make us look like-"

Toby shakes is head. "Seth Gillette's numbers are solid and gaining. We can't let him in any further."

"Two weeks ago, you said that Seth Gillette was from North Dakota. And that no one cares about North Dakota."

Is it me, or is getting warmer in this office?

Toby's still not looking at me.

Look at me, Toby.

"Two weeks ago, you told me to take a meeting with Gillette. I did. This is what I've found out, and this is what we need to do."

Look at me!

"Sam, we're doing the drop-in." Leo sits down. That's his signal for us to leave. "You're going with Hoynes-"

"What?" I look at Leo, then Josh. What the hell?

Leo's voice is steady. "I know you don't agree with this; that's why I'm sending you with Hoynes. You'll write the drop-in for the Detroit speech, and you'll make sure it isn't too harsh." He looks up at me. "We're not going to make the same mistake twice. That's what you're going there to ensure."

"I have other respons-"

"This comes first. They're expecting over forty thousand people at that rally on Thursday. That's about twenty times more than the GDC, and it'll be more press coverage, too. We need this to work."

I stare at Leo for a beat. He stares back. He's serious; he really wants me to go with Hoynes.

Leo leans forward, still staring at me. "Listen, Sam: forget the drop-in. Rewrite his whole damn speech, if you want. But we need some air-time from this; we need to balance the books a little on this one."

Toby looks at me.

I can hear Josh's pacing slow down.

CJ is behind me, still.

I don't know what I did, but this is really...

The Vice-President.

Am I being fired? Am I? Cause that's what this feels like. A little exile, a little humiliation...maybe I'm supposed to resign when I get back.

Toby's looking at me, though. His head is sloped downward, and his eyes quickly shift toward the floor, then back at me, then at the floor again.

I see.

I'm not being fired.

Toby needs my help.

Okay. I'll clean this one up for you, Toby. But we're doing it my way.

I shrug at Leo. "Fine. I'll rewrite the speech. No drop-in."

"Sounds good to me."

I look at Toby, and he gazes back at me. Quick nod. Then he stands and walks out of the office.

I'm worried about this.

***

"...what the hell happened?..."

Shhh, I'm sleeping. I still have a few more hours to sleep, don't I?

"...get me out of here!..."

It's cold.

"...what happened?...bus went...off the road..."

Something hurts.

"...I want to get outta here!...get me outta here!...John, get me outta here!....John..."

My chest hurts. Too much pizza with Josh.

"...sir?...yeah...sir?...yes...sir?...goddamnit, I can hear you just fine, Nathan!...sir, are you okay?..."

I remember a loud noise.

"...I'm fine...hold on...damnit, Janeane, stop screaming...I'm coming..."

Probably my alarm clock. It's screaming...shhh...be quiet.

"...help me, please...that hurts!...oh, god, my leg, it hurts!...help me, someone!...here, I'm over here..."

I should get up.

"...Miller?...Miller?...Eddie, can you hear me?..."

Just ten more minutes, that's all I need.

"...Mr. DiMarcato, stay still...we got you...Miller?...oh, shit...what?...sir, he's dead..."

I've got to get up. Time for work.

"...damnit it all to hell!...get me outta here...get me outta here, oh please...I've got you, I've got you...it's okay...stop crying, Janeane..."

I don't want to go to work.

"...there you go...you're okay, now...you got her?...yeah...Thomson?...that you?...Thomson, hang on a minute, stop moving...we're coming to get you...I'm okay, sir..."

I have to go to work.

"...you okay?...yes, sir...you hurt?...no, sir...you sure?...yes, I'm okay, sir...good man, Thomson..."

Has my alarm gone off yet? I don't remember.

"...who else are we missin'?...just Seaborn, sir...someone get me a flashlight...Seaborn?...Seaborn, you hear me?..."

I'm so tired...so tired.

"...Seaborn?..."

I'm just gonna sleep for a little while longer, I think.

***

===

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

-------------------------------------------

For Immediate Release February 28th, 2001

Press Briefing by

CJ Cregg

Press Briefing Room

10:45 AM EST

...

Ms. Cregg: Okay, if you'll all quiet down, I have some information on events that occurred early this morning involving Vice-President John Hoynes.

At approximately six-thirty am, Central Standard Time...that's about two hours ago, our time...Vice-President John Hoynes' motorcade was involved in an accident some seventy miles outside of Detroit. The Vice-President was conducting a three-day tour of twelve cities in the Michigan; tomorrow, he was scheduled to give a speech to over forty thousand auto workers at a labor rally in Detroit. This was the second day of the tour. While traveling to Carson, Michigan, the Vice-President's motorcade encountered ice on the roads, and his bus consequently overturned. Several people were injured, including the Vice-President.

On the bus were the Vice-President, his Secret Service detail, several members of his staff, and White House Deputy Communications Director Samuel Seaborn. The Vice-President suffered some non-life-threatening...let me repeat that, non-life-threatening injuries...including a concussion. When rescue crews arrived, the Vice-President was transported to Ann Arbor Memorial Hospital, where he is listed in fair condition.

Q: What are the other casualties-

Q: Can you repeat-

Ms. Cregg: Hold your questions, please. As I said, the Vice-President suffered a concussion. He also has an eight-inch laceration on his left leg and several torn ligaments. There was no arterial damage, and there were no broken bones. He is expected to recover fully.

Several members of the Vice-President's staff were also injured in the accident. Most of the injuries were minor...contusions, abrasions, sprains...cuts and bruises, that sort of thing. Those who were taken to the hospital include two members of Vice-President Hoynes' Secret Service detail. Their injuries were minor, and they have been released from the hospital and have resumed their duties.

The Vice-President's executive assistant, Janeane Lindley, was also admitted to the hospital. She broke her right ankle, and she has a concussion. The Chief of Staff for the Vice-President, Carl DiMarcato, fractured three ribs, dislocated his right shoulder, and he also suffered a concussion.

White House Deputy Communications Director Samuel Seaborn, who was traveling with the Vice-President as a special advisor for the duration of this short tour, was seriously injured. He is currently in surgery, and he is listed in critical condition.

Q: What are his injuries?

Ms. Cregg: I don't have that information at this time. To continue...there was one fatality. The bus driver, Edward Miller, was killed. He was declared dead at the scene. He is the only fatality... He is the only fatality at this time. The White House extends its most heartfelt condolences to his family.

We don't have any more information right now, but the White House is in contact with the Governor of Michigan, James H. Roland. We are also working with the Michigan State Troopers and other state and federal authorities. White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman, and Communications Director Toby Ziegler have left for Michigan to oversee the investigation of the accident and to work with Governor Roland during this difficult time.

I expect to give you another briefing as soon as we have more information. That will probably be in another hour or so. That's all. Thank you.

Q: CJ!

Q: CJ, could you tell us-

Q: CJ, why was Sam Seaborn with the Vice-President?

End transcript. 2/28/01

***

 

Part 4

 

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