Chapter 2: State of the Union
President Scott McGowan marched through the wide, double doors, into the House chamber. Politicians from both sides of the political aisle lined his path, waiting to shake his hand. They were all smiling, but very few smiles reached their eyes.
Scotty sighed, as he began shaking hands and thanking men for their false well wishes. It looked like most of the Congressmen had read the advance copy of his speech, and they weren't happy about it. That was okay. They weren't meant to be happy about it. He knew how dysfunctional Congress was from personal experience, which had been another reason he had yearned for retirement. Even the most well-intentioned Congressmen could be rendered ineffective in the quagmire called the US Congress. If the fate of mankind weren't hanging in the balance, he would have walked away, and let the whole thing collapse. Scotty was sure the US Government would collapse, either from within, or from outside influences, if these 'leaders' didn't get their act together. If that meant making them unhappy, so be it.
"Are you going to tell them about the terrorist plot that was just foiled?" George, Scotty's Companion, asked in his mind.
"I think I will," Scotty replied, as he smiled, shook another hand, and said something completely nonsensical.
They couldn't hear his words in the tumult anyway.
"I'll change the beginning to include tonight's attempted assault," Scotty continued. "Maybe it will help drive my point home. Better yet," Scotty thoughtfully told his mental symbiote, "I think I'll dump the whole speech and build a speech around tonight's attack."
Scotty had always felt uncomfortable shaking hands in a crowd like this. It made him feel like he was being assaulted. He understood why, after he received a Companion. Every person has a mental 'signature' that includes the makeup of their character. All men can feel and react to those signatures, unconsciously. He became conscious of the bombardment after he was joined by George, named for his hero, George Patton. Being aware of the issue allowed Scotty to learn to filter the mental impressions he received while shaking hands in a crowd.
His Companion liked shaking a lot of hands. He was able to collect memories from the people they touched. That's what Companions did: they collected memories. Cats scratch. Dogs dig, and Companions collect memories. Scotty didn't need to pay attention to them. George would let him know if any of the memories were a threat, and they would be available later, if any of the memories could be used to help accomplish their goals.
Finally, he arrived at the dais, and he was shaking the hands of the Congressional leaders. At times, after running a gauntlet like he had just experienced, he felt like he needed a bath. Scotty wondered why that was a more common occurrence when dealing with elected officials.
"Because often, elected officials are more interested in personal power, than in governing for the good of the nation," George answered his unasked question.
"We're here," Caleb announced in Scotty's mind, and the President turned towards the podium.
The chamber quieted as Scotty looked around. He let the silence deepen, and lengthen, his eyes seeking out those that were still whispering. They fell silent, too.
George was emoting, enhancing Scotty's natural charisma, and broadcasting it across the chamber. This was a talent the host/Companion pair had identified, and perfected, over the last four years. It was a powerful tool when used in a crowd like this, and was enhanced when he spoke. The timbre of his voice also seemed to project some of that emotion through the airwaves.
All sound in the vast chamber ceased, before Scotty quietly greeted the leadership, dignitaries, and the American people. His voice was pitched low, causing both the representatives of the nations citizens, and citizens watching on television, to lean forward, when he said, "Thank you for inviting me to your house. I must apologize for being late," softly expressing his regret. "I had to wait until an ISIS mortar team was captured. They tried to set up their mortar about a half mile from the United States Capitol building."
Whispers broke out around the room, as men and women nervously looked around. Scotty was glad that he had decided to scrap his prepared speech, and go with his gut instinct. His confidence swelled as the focused attention of the crowd caressed his senses.
"This could get addictive," Scotty told George, his Companion, as the sound in the room swelled, and then died away.
"Don't worry," George told him drily. "I'll just keep reminding you that you too are mortal. Maybe you'll also remember it the next time you do something stupid that might get you shot," George complained in frustration.
"Don't worry," Scotty continued, his voice stronger, seeming to be talking to his audience and his Companion. "The danger is past, and once again America's champions were successful in protecting American Citizens. There is a question that each of you, in this room, and every American Citizen, should ask yourselves. Why does any nation or organization dare attack US Citizens on US soil? Never mind that you are the legislative body of this nation," he said with a scoffing manner. "Simply the fact that you are citizens should be enough to raise that question. Would this have been possible ten years ago, or even eight years ago?"
There were more whispers, and a few louder voices. The crowd didn't know what to expect, because he had gone completely off the script of the speech Scotty's office had supplied earlier.
He held up his copy of the prepared speech, and announced, "You have all read what I have prepared. The news media have copies and can report my thoughts in the prepared speech to the American people. I have been informed by people I trust, that everyone in this body can read." Scotty paused for a moment to let the nervous laughter die out before saying, "You don't need me to read it to you. Consider my prepared speech to be my suggestions to this body. They encompass the economy, immigration ... and ... America's security," he enunciated, speaking softly again. "Tonight's attack on America has highlighted a different need ... a different message ... that needs to be sent to our nation and to the world."
"You Senators and Representatives from my party can blame the last President for the barbarians at the gate, and some of that blame may be warranted, but THIS is where money is allocated, and our laws are passed. A president can't even buy toilet paper for the Oval Office unless this body allocates the money for it. You have been in charge of the House and Senate for two years. What have you done to make America safer?" his voice rising through the entire statement, until he is almost shouting.
Scotty waited until the agitated whispers died away before softly continuing with, "You Senators and Representatives from the opposing party can blame your colleagues across the aisle for being stubborn for the last two years, and of having the wrong agenda. You had the majority, in at least one chamber, for the eight years prior. What did you do to make America safer? Why are America's cities experiencing the highest murder rate in decades? And why do foreign entities believe that attacking us on our own soil is a good idea? The Japanese attacked us in 1941, and America stood up and said, 'NO! We Will Not Let This Stand!' and we entered World War Two. On 9/11 we lost more citizens than at Pearl Harbor. We have been attacked multiple times since. There was outrage on 9/11, and we sent our young men to war. This assembly, and our political masters, immediately began the process of using the divisive nature of war to further a political agenda. We had to bring our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines home while the enemy was still strong and attacking us because political gain was more important than American lives. This political forum represents the heart and soul of America. When the members of this forum no longer represent America's heart and soul, America will replace you."
"This is the political body that creates laws, so why haven't those laws been effective in protecting American Citizens from foreign governments on our own soil?" Scotty asked into the silence. "Why do American Citizens fear their own government, more than they fear terrorists?" he asked a little louder. "Why does the United States have an eighteen trillion dollar debt that hampers every action we take?" he asked louder yet. He leaned towards the microphone and softly asked, "Why do we have laws on the books that make our borders less secure? Why do we have tax laws that ensures the middle class can't advance their financial status, while multi-billion dollar companies pay nothing." Scotty paused, allowing the congressmen to formulate the answers in their minds before thundering, "Those conditions ... those tax laws and loop holes ... the border conditions ... the national debt ... the reasons why a mortar team dared to set up within range of our nation's Capitol Building ... originated right here in this room." He expression was angry when he continued, at a more normal volume, but the timbre of his voice was still tight with anger, "Our military is smaller than our forces were at the beginning of the Second World War, and we're in the middle of a war! The men and women in this room allowed that to happen. We have been reduced to fighting the enemy on our soil because we no longer have the capability to project the required strength to take the fight to the enemy. Whether by design, stupidity, or misguided ignorance, America has been emasculated!"
The silence that had fallen over the room was almost palpable, and after a moment, he continued quietly, "The answers to all those questions, and more, reside in the men and women in this room. THIS is where US Federal laws are made! THIS is where the Federal budget is hammered out. And WE are ALL responsible for solving the problems of this great Nation."
Scotty paused, and let that jell in their minds, before saying, "Every one of you was elected by US Citizens to represent them, and to bring their ideas into this forum. They were hoping that YOU, by championing their ideals, would create a better life for their children and grandchildren. I am not excusing myself! Until a few months ago, I was a member of the Senate. I believe that I served my constituents to the best of my ability, and I am sure many of you feel the same. The mistake I made, and that you are making is, we were elected as Democrats, or Republicans, and we continued functioning as part of those separate bodies after we arrived at Congress. Congress is not here to serve a political party. Congress is here to serve United States of America and her Citizens. You ... No, we ... have failed. Fortunately, I have part of the solution."
Scotty looked around the chamber, seeing the look of confusion on many faces, and raw anger on others.
"First of all, I am not going to do your job." Scotty held up the folder that contained the speech that he had prepared, and said, "Traditionally, the State of the Union is where I'm supposed to announce a bunch of grandiose programs and plans that will solve all of America's problems." He looked directly into the camera and said, "It's not going to be that easy, folks. I do have some ideas that might solve some problems. Rather than announcing them tonight, I will let you read the speech. I'll post it on the White House web-site, in case someone wants to read it that hasn't yet. The items in my prepared speech are not demands. They are suggestions for the agenda I would like to follow during my term in office. However, it is the job of Congress to write the laws, and send them to me to sign. They are suggestions for the priorities and possible solutions to the challenges facing America. They are derived from what American Citizens told me during the election a few months ago. It is the job of Congress to create the laws, and approve a budget that allows me to implement the laws you pass. I, as the head of the Executive Branch, and Commander in Chief, have my own job. I promise to do my job, and I expect you to do yours."
He waited until the buzzing of whispered words died down before he continued with, "Now we get to the question of what will I sign, and what will I veto," and the chamber became dead silent again. "The current budget will max out the debt limit, again, in October of this year. The Ship of State is slow to turn, so we may need to increase the debt limit this year. I can assure you the increase will be much less than you want, and it will be the last time the budget will increase while I am in office. It is up to the men and women in this chamber to determine how the United States is going to live within her means and defend herself. Next, any law that is forced through, locking out the opposing party from the debate, will not be signed. That often happened in the last eight years. It will not happen on my watch."
He met the eyes of some of the Congressmen, recognizing approval is some, confusion in others, and anger in many more.