Tallahassee, FL. Year 2032
The press room at the Governor’s Mansion is jam packed for an important announcement. Rumors of the governor’s expected bid for the presidency have been the focus of media speculation for months. In an effort to preclude the governor’s announcement, the incumbent president’s staff has worked day and night to try and dig up dirt on the potential rival, and have thus far come up empty. Evidently this candidate has had no life experience whatsoever, which makes him the most powerful political force since the advent of world-wide media. The president is nervous.
The journalists surge through the room picking each other’s brains like pigs rooting for truffles. Each has a hidden recorder in his pocket, recording every word within earshot. They find seats just before the press conference gets underway. A government press liaison enters and proceeds to the podium, holding her hands up for attention. The room falls silent, save for tiny rustlings of adjustment and the whisper of paper.
”Ladies and gentlemen of the press, welcome to the governor’s mansion. Shortly, Governor Bird will enter and make a short statement, followed by a brief question and answer period. Please be advised that we will tolerate no gubernatorial abuse and your questions will be limited in scope.
Without further ado, allow me to introduce Governor Christian Bird. She begins applauding enthusiastically, echoed half-heartedly by the press. The governor strides confidently into the room, waving and smiling. His hair is perfectly groomed, and his suit impeccable. He is the very image of the perfect politician. He flashes his campaign smile, displaying his perfectly even white teeth.
”Ladies and gentlemen of the press, I will get right to the heart of today’s conference by announcing my intention to run for president of the United States!” His enthusiasm is contagious, and the journalists find themselves applauding. When the noise dies, he continues. “I feel that this country has sunk into a deep morass of moral bankruptcy. It is my personal quest to lead us out of the darkness and into the light. I promise to campaign on a platform built of my own moral fiber, rescuing the drowning masses with a lifesaver of right! I promise to save this country from itself. Join me and be a better person, a better country. Let me be your lighthouse. Thank you very much. Any questions?” He is very proud of this speech. He wrote it himself, against the advice of his speechwriters and campaign manager. He knew just what he wanted to say, regardless of how self-righteous they thought it made him sound. He knew his constituents would understand.
The journalists are stunned. The depth of his arrogance has left them speechless. They cannot understand how he got elected to his current office, but this is a republican state, and a large portion of it lies in the bible belt.
A hand goes up in the back, followed by another and another until every hand is raised. Gov. Bird nods at a journalist in the second row and a trim young woman stands. “Ellen Garner, sir, Washington Post. Governor, you have stated that you believe that women should not have abortions. Does this mean you will campaign against legalized abortion?”
”Very good question, Ms. Garner. I have stated in the past that sex is for procreation. God intended for men and women to have sex in order to have children. Therefore, if you do not intend to have children, you should not have sex. Personally, I have had sex only four times. It should have been three times, but one of them did not take and my wife and I had to do it again. We grieve daily over our lost child, the lost seed that never had a chance to be born.”
The room erupted, each writer trying to shout down the next. The press secretary waved her arms for silence, and the security detail called for backup. Gov. Bird pointed at another reporter, who jumped to his feet and asked the question that was on all their minds. “Jim Coucher, the Times. Gov. Bird, are you saying you and your wife have had sex only four times in the eighteen years you have been married?”
Gov. Bird sighed impatiently. “Mr. Coucher, surely you can count. My children are over there.” He points to an attractive wife and three teenage children. “As I stated, we did lose one possibility.”
Coucher spoke again. “Gov. Bird, do you suggest this ideal be met by every man and woman in this country?”
”Why, yes, I do. It is the only proper way to behave. I’ll not take the chance of an unexpected pregnancy. If everyone followed my example of perfection, there would be no unwanted pregnancies and no unwanted children. Women, in particular should take more responsibility for their actions. It is they who get pregnant, and as such, they should not have sex unless they want a baby and are ready to take care of it. The world would be a better place if more women said no to sex. It is wrong to use abortion as birth control, and I intend to see that practice stopped.”
Gov. Bird pointed to another reporter, but Coucher persisted. “Gov. Bird, this view of morality is ridiculous. It’s offensive, misogynistic and demeaning to women.” He tried to say more, but Gov Bird had nodded to security and they were dragging him out.
Gov Bird held up his hands for silence. “I believe it was said that I would not tolerate abuse. You may not abuse me for my beliefs. Next question.”
Struggling to word her question so that she will not be thrown out, a woman in the middle of the crowd stands up. The other reporters look on sympathetically, they already know that she will be thrown out, and indeed, that sooner or later they all would. Tentatively, she begins, “Lucy Tolan, CNN. Governor Bird, when you were running for governorship, you stated that you formed your opinions when you were fourteen years old and never wavered. Do you still stick by this statement?” She sat down abruptly, so as not to seem threatening. Her editor would kill her if she was throw out.
”Ms. Tolan, was it?” She nodded. “I stand by that statement. I have strong views that have never changed, and I have read everything people told me to read. I learned all about abortion in middle school, I learned about morality in church, and anything I did not learn there, I asked my parents and the other people in my church group. I feel I have a well rounded education on abortion, founded on extensive research.”
She could not resist. Sighing, she rose to her feet. “Gov. Bird, your information seems to be a bit shallow and one-sided. Have you ever gotten to know someone who was faced with an unwanted child? A woman who was pregnant by a man she loved who dumped her, perhaps one who lost her job due to morning sickness and cannot pay her rent or buy food? A woman forced to submit by a controlling husband or boyfriend?”
”People like that are immoral. I have no wish to know a woman who will not take responsibility for choosing to have sex.” He held up a hand when she opened her mouth to add something and pointed to a man to his right. “Let the next person have a turn, missy. Anxious to explore the matter further, but relieved to be off the hook and still in the room, Lucy collapsed into her seat.
”Paul Keifer, World Herald. Governor, frankly, that is the most immature view I have ever heard expressed in public. It may be suitable for a young teenager, but it is hardly an adult view.”
Gov. Bird shouted, “Security!” and the reporter was dragged out.
A reporter in the center front row stood and cleared his throat, commanding immediate attention. “Billingsley, Spotlight on the World.” James Billingsley hardly needed an introduction. He was one of the legends of television journalism, a household name with millions of fans. The room fell silent, waiting for the legendary newsman to speak. “Governor Bird, I wish to ask about your environmental views. If elected president, how do you plan to protect the environment?”
”I throw my trash in the garbage. If everyone follows my example, the environment will not need saving.” The governor was beginning to get impatient. These questions did not reflect the adulation he deserved as the most moral man in the world. He had decided when he was a teenager that his views should be adopted by all. If these brainless cretins did not agree with him, they were all against him. It was not fair for them to level such mean personal attacks.
”Governor, with all due respect to your office, the deforestation of the rainforests are a major ecological issue affecting every living thing on the planet. If something is not done now, there will not be a single acre of rainforest left in twenty years. How do you plan to address this issue?”
Obviously, this Billingsley character was not going to go away. Bird wondered whether he should have him tossed, but prudently decided that it might be bad political decision to have this great big hero removed in front of the TV cameras.
He decided to answer. “Do you live in a house, Mr. Billingsley?”
”Yes, I do, why do you ask?” Billingsley looked confused.
”Houses are made from wood. We need wood. If we don’t cut the rainforest people will not have a place to live. End of story.” That should shut him up.
”My home is constructed of concrete block over a steel frame, Governor Bird. Clearly you have researched this issue with the same degree of integrity you used to form your views on abortion.”
The remark sounded suspiciously like an insult, but it went over Bird’s head. “Thank you, indeed I have” he answered. The implication would be explained to him much later by his advisors.
”One more question Governor Bird.”
Man, Bird thought, this guy is persistent. He shook his head authoritatively. “Sorry, but I am out of time.” His staff took his cue and hustled him quickly out.
The reporters left in the room exploded to find quiet places to use their satphones outside. Billingsley stayed in place, calmly addressing the camera. “There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, our latest presidential candidate, Governor Christian Bird. Thank you for joining “Spotlight on the World”. This is Jim Billingsley, saying if you can’t be right, be outspoken.” He always ended his broadcast with a humorous little quip relating to the subject. His audience loved it. A nearby reporter hung up his satphone. He turned to Billingsley. “Hey, Jim, how’d this guy get elected governor, anyway?”
”Ironic, really”, Billingsley replied. “In a field of four candidates, he was the only one who had led such a sheltered life that he had never done anything wrong. It turned out that Anisa Herring, his democratic rival, had become pregnant a week before her wedding 25 years ago. She was an exemplary politician, completely honest, intelligent and full of integrity. Her decision to sleep with her fiance during the week prior to the wedding completely did her in. Bird crucified her in the press. She runs a chain of bakeries now. One of the independents had been arrested for peeing on the side of a building when he was seventeen years old. He had drunk a beer. The third was not registered as a churchgoer. The bible presses handed out leaflets reading: “Do you want to be led by an ATHIEST?” He was toast before the campaign was really underway. By the time of the vote, there was no opposition.”
The second reporter shook his head. “God help us”, he muttered.
Copyright © 2003 by Sherry Gray