Travis H. Newsome and Julia Starnes waited outside the President’s office while the Secret Service briefed the President on the morning’s events. It was not an uneventful wait, just quiet. Lily, the President’s secretary, was managing to keep the mayhem outside the Oval Office anteroom, and thus away from the President. She did, however, bend her own “no media” rule a little this morning, and allow a TV to be turned on so as to keep abreast of the situation – though muted.
Travis was switching his attention between the TV, his smartphone, and the speech notes he was reviewing for the President’s statement later this afternoon. Julia was doing the same, but her statement notes were on her phone instead of printed out. The network was running commercial-free (and to Travis’ mind, coherence-free) commentary on the assassination, bringing in every “expert” they could to contribute whatever they could to the story. So far, he had counted four ex-Special Forces operators (one of which was the obligatory sniper), two former Supreme Court clerks, and a medical examiner from somewhere in flyover country. The local one had been too busy for an interview, apparently.
The door to the Oval opened and the Secret Service detail walked out. Travis and Julia stood and waited for the President to sign some files Lily had for him, then waved for the duo to follow him back into his office.
“Okay, where do we stand with whatever else is going to hell in this town?” The Connecticut Democrat was known for his blunt manner of speaking, but only in private. In public he was still the well-mannered, grandfatherly man that, as of last week’s poll, was sitting four points above his election percentage, a good place to be with a year left before the campaign.
“We’ve come to an agreement with the House and Senate leaders that all legislative business will be postponed until Chief Justice Hatterly is buried,” Travis said. “But we had to let the Senate stay in session instead of adjourning. They don’t want you making a recess appointment.”
“Yeah, sucks that they have to be included in the process. How about the press conference later this afternoon?”
“We’re going over the remarks and will have the edits back to Andrew so you can have first draft within the hour, Mister President,” Julia said. “There are the standard parts about how he was a good man and a great justice, committed to the law, sorely missed.”
“Anything anecdotal? We’ll have to make him sound human, even if his jurisdictional framework was still stuck in the 1850s.”
“I’ve got Robin working on that,” Travis answered. “He’s calling Congressmen and asking for personal stories. I’ll owe him a drink for that assignment.”
“Just make sure it’s something good, you heartless jerk. Making a junior staff member talk to Congressmen might just turn him off from further public service. Anything else?”
“No, Mister President,” they both answered in unison.
“Okay, then put this on your back burners.” He leaned in closer, to make sure they got the sense of where he was going. “We’re not going to politicize the Chief Justice’s death, but we are going to start pushing an agenda about a month after the flags go back up the flagstaff, understand?” They both nodded. “Nothing heavy, nothing overpowering, but I want it known to the Senate Democrats, quietly, that we are not going to let this opportunity pass us by.”
“Are you talking gun control, Mr. President? Because if you are …”
“No, Julia, no specific policies yet. Just let them get a signal from the third-base coach, as it were, that we’re going to advance the White House agenda after a respectful period. We’ll come up with specific policy items in the intervening time, flesh them out, but only internally, understand?” Heads nodded again. “After next week I want you guys splitting your time between vetting potential replacements and drawing up policies that I can run on in a year.” President Richard Enson looked them both in the eye. “Now get to work, I’ve got an appointment across town I can’t miss.” He turned and walked out the side door as they replied in unison, “Yes, Mister President.”
Travis turned to Julia. “Appointment?”
“He’s going over to the Chief Justice’s house to talk with Mrs. Hatterly personally.”