Post 60 – My President requests that I come to the White House – excerpts from WEIMAR VIBES

Chapter 25

            Twenty-four hours later, the moon’s up over Kent, or maybe it’s Surrey. We’ve had a blissful idyll. It’s over though. A car with a police driver has arrived to take Julia back to London.

            ‘Next stop New York,’ Battersby tells me when he calls from Whitehall. It’s payback time for a rural break. I try not to think about what’s to follow. Would Julia spend the rest of her life with me? Will Saulie have a second family with Mairead? Will Oscar Kerner’s Nationalist Alliance win enough seats to form a Government at Westminster?

            Fidgety dreams turn to nightmares. I’m in the dreaded Danzig Corridor: A depressing place where reason is sidelined. Unemployed Hitler Youth Brownshirts chant aggressively. They’re up against Communist teenagers who are waving pictures of Lenin.

            In the morning, Mrs Beamish brings me tea and toast. ‘Your driver’s waiting downstairs,’ she tells me. ‘Mr Battersby says you need to check in by nine.’

            No time to lounge in the bath, although I do manage a shave. My driver talks about footballers WAGs all the way to Heathrow. He wants to open a bar in Palma with the girlfriend of a disgraced Middlesborough player.

            ‘I’ve had it with the UK,’ he says. ‘There’s no common sense any more. It’s all going South, believe me, I was brought up in Streatham … it was just white families then.’

            At Heathrow, a female newscaster smiles sweetly from a TV monitor. ‘During the night, in Uzbeckistan,’ she says, ‘the Russian Army rounded up more dissidents and there were missile attacks across the border with Chechnya …there have also been riots in several European cities, and this morning Oscar Kerner addressed supporters of the French National Front …’

            There’s a shot of the Bois de Bologne in Paris. I can see acres of militant rightists, and then a close-up of Oscar.

            ‘The right is on the march all over Europe,’ he declares confidently. He’s definitely speaking from the diaphragm. ‘Our cause is just, and we will win,’ he adds. ‘For we want full employment in Europe – for Europeans …the Turks may return to Anatolia …the Bosnians to Yugoslavia …the Africans to Africa …the Chinese to China …and the Asians to India and Pakistan …we want Europe for the Europeans!’

            The TV film cuts off after the first cheers. It’s worrying, and I’m aware of a little old lady sitting opposite me in the departure lounge.

            ‘Are you concerned about this?’ she asks.

            ‘Yes … I am.’

            ‘My aunt was taken from Bratislava by the Germans,’ she says after a while. ‘She taught mathematics to children at a Czech concentration camp. It was quite civilised for a while. Then, gradually, they started to eliminate the detainees … I saw some of the children’s drawings recently at a Jewish museum in Prague. They were very evocative.’

            We’re separated when we get on board the British Airways flight to New York. The little old lady goes up to First Class while I stay somewhere between business and economy. We meet again briefly when we land, and she puts a hand on my arm.

            ‘Take care,’ she says, ‘and try not to forget some of what has happened in the past.’

            A discreet and respectful New England type of chauffeur meets her. He puts her bags into a limousine, and we’re waving goodbye to each other when Levinia Howarth arrives.

            ‘Rudi,’ she says, taking my hand. ‘It’s good to see you.’

            Likewise, ma’am. He cheekbones are incredible and she’s uber cool. I’m getting stress in her eyes though. I’m also sensing a little distance between us on the cab ride to Manhattan.

            ‘You’re articulating a legitimate conservative position,’ she tells me when our Lebanese driver goes through a red light. ‘You’re already up and running as an acceptable right wing brand figure in the UK. Appearing on the Rad Budley show will give you serious international credibility … are you ready for this?’

            I don’t think so. I’m not sure where Levinia’s going. When I first met her in Whitehall, I was knocked out. I thought she was awesome. Cool, in control and tantalising. I was an outsider coming from nowhere’sville. I slavered over her ankles, the possibility of her breasts, the silkiness of her hair and all sorts of other stuff. Now, I don’t know. She’s going through the motions. But I’m not sure if her heart’s still thrusting along with whatever it is she’s meant to be doing.

            I can cope with Rad Budley though, I hope. I’ve already jumped into the pool. At times I think I’m drowning. I need a new therapist; a proper analyst. McVeigh’s been OK. Up to now, he’s reassured me in times of crisis. Only I feel he’s just been telling me whatever it is he thinks I want to hear. Which is fine; it keeps me going. But I need more challenging goals.

            ‘There are just two things to remember,’ Levinia says when we get to the downtown TV studios. ‘Don’t accept any alcohol and … no one wants to encourage extremists – ‘

            ‘Right – ‘

            ‘But the view in Whitehall now is that red fascists on the streets are more of a problem than the other sort.’

            I’m confused by this. What she seems to be saying is that libs, lefties and PC persons are – once they start demonstrating – more of a threat to stability than Kerner’s Nationalists. I thought it was the other way around, but I’m in the hands of a production assistant who’s offering me a drink.

            ‘We’ve got spirits or soft drinks,’ she says.

            ‘Whisky would be great, thanks … maybe Scotch if you have any.’

            I can see Levinia in the front row of the auditorium. There are several hundred guests and many of them are black. I’m trying to imagine an intimate moment with my controller. It’s out of the question now, of course, but I’m fantasising around her physical and mental assets, which are considerable and tempting, when I get a hearty thump on the back.

            ‘Hi ye, Rudi … it’s good to meet you, sir,’ Rad Budley says. ‘I’ve seen a tape of your show in London on the BBC. It sure as hell was scary… we’re ready for you here now though … we’re on when you see the red light. You got that, my man?’

            I nod and follow my seriously overweight talk show host out a stage. There’s a bit of hand clapping from the audience when we sit grinning at each around a curved desk.

            ‘Hello …good day …and welcome,’ Rad says to a camera. He then waves at the audience who clap back with enthusiasm. ‘We got a visitor from London, England, folks … and I’d like you to give a genuine, all American, Big Apple hand for our first guest today … ladies and gentlemen …it’s Rudi Flynn!’

            I remember to grin and open my hands in welcoming acknowledgement as the audience shows their appreciation.

            ‘Rudi …you’ve got problems in England right now …’

            ‘We certainly have, Rad … in fact, I’d say this is the most challenging period British people have had to face since the end of the Second World War.’

            ‘Gee – that’s kinda awesome – ‘

            ‘It certainly is … but there’s a similar situation in the rest of Europe. I think it’s true to say that the problems we’re facing are now fanning out around the world.’

            ‘We have indications of that,’ Rad says, gesturing up at the studio TV monitors, ‘and it’s kinda unbelievable!’

            The pictures show noisy left and right-wing activists rioting around Europe. There’s also a report on violent eruptions in Australia. Workers in Sydney, Perth and Adelaide are unhappy about losing their jobs. What’s really getting to them, however, is that their Government can’t afford to reimburse them for being unemployed, so they’re totally broke.

            ‘Rudi – you’re a pretty outspoken guy back in England …can you tell us what’s causing all of this mayhem and disorder?’

            ‘Unemployment, Rad. People are loosing their jobs because of a downturn in the international economy. There just isn’t the cash any more to give us the sort of welfare cushion most of us have come to expect … and it’s starting to hurt.’

            Rad’s grinning and nodding. What he really wants to talk about are the Nationalists in the UK. How come some of these guys recently had poster pictures of Adolf Hitler, which they were waving enthusiastically on demonstrations?

            ‘And my researchers tell me, Rudi, that you once hung out with the Nazi, Oscar Kerner …now correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t he happy to call himself a fascist …he’s certainly on record as saying that Hitler, Mussolini and Franco were all on the right track.’

            Budley’s clearly an outrageous egomaniac, whose only concern is for his ratings. So I ignore the stuff about Kerner. I go instead for the main scapegoat issues, like how the socialists and liberals are blaming governments, free markets and their Nationalist opponents for what’s going wrong. While the Nationalists, I suggest, see immigration, crime, asylum seekers, guest workers, poor education and lax moral standards as the main problem areas.

            ‘On the moral standards issue, Rudi, I guess you mean that European Nationalists are not too keen on the idea of abortion?’

            ‘Right – ‘

            ‘And I assume they also have reservations about homosexuals and lesbians getting together for sexual relations …am I right on this?’

            ‘Absolutely – ‘

            ‘And why is that?’

            ‘Well – I suppose they feel that these are corrupting influences.’

            ‘Would you agree with this?’

            ‘No – not at all. I believe we should be tolerant and understanding on these matters … so long as they don’t involve youngsters or impinge unnecessarily on other people.’

            ‘But your buddy, Oscar Kerner, wants to imprison homosexuals and ban abortion … I’ve also heard he wants to deport coloured folk from Europe and the United Kingdom.’

            ‘Kerner’s not my buddy,’ I say firmly. ‘I think he’s seriously misguided on a whole range of issues. OK – we were due to share a platform in Athens last week at the International Policy Studies Forum. I feel, however, that my views are altogether more in tune with reasonable people than Herr Führer Doktor Oscar’s are …’

            ‘But …’

            ‘And the fact that we were acquaintances once, briefly at college, is simply a coincidence. Adolf Hitler went to school in Vienna with the Jewish philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein … I don’t think it was an association that was particularly relevant.’

            I’m on guard here. It’s like fencing with rapiers. My adversaries in London have blown me up. Budley’s waiting for me to take a fall. Up to now I’ve ignored the audience. They’re there in the background, but as clips from my session with Bill Hitchcock and the BBC’s wrecked analysis studio come up on the monitors, I’m sensing empathy. I have a feeling the people out there in the semi-darkness are with me.

            ‘Rudi – why did these guys try to kill you?’ Rad Budley wants to know. ‘Was it because of what you think …I mean, your political views and stuff?’

             This is the sort of opportunity I’m being paid to reach out for and embrace. Her Majesty has high expectations, although my Controller seems to be looking up at the ceiling.

            ‘I believe it’s pretty straightforward, Rad,’ I say while trying to embrace my audience with friendly eye contact and positive body language. ‘Many of us have allowed ourselves to drift away from fundamental values in recent years. In Britain … and I suspect in other places, we’ve come to rely far too much on the provision of welfare benefits by the state … and frequently, these benefits are for people who don’t really need them …

            ‘This causes problems when you get unemployment on the scale we have it today around the world. We have also allowed our educational standards to slip – quite seriously, I believe in numeracy and literacy …

            ‘But at the very heart of so many of our difficulties today, there’s a sort of moral bankruptcy. We seem to have lost our way. In many instances, we have quite simply forgotten what is right and what is wrong … this is where the changes have to start from, Rad … we need serious moral regeneration!’

            The audience is already on their feet. They’re led by a core group of Afro-American Christian fundamentalists, who are clapping, whooping and yelling with approval.

            ‘Thank you …thank you, Rudi Flynn!’ Rad Budley shouts with all of the sincerity and enthusiasm he can manage. He’s got a hit on his show today. He needs to stay with the vibe. His studio audience is all fired up. The guys leading the show from the floor frequently have network viewers across the United States and beyond. Right now, the cameras and Rad Budley’s producers are picking up on a storm of spontaneous applause.

            ‘Hey – shit! This Rudi Flynn’s hot … no one’s heard of him, but our lines are    all blocked. We’ve got thousands calling in. Who is this guy? We need to talk, man!’

Chapter 26

          There are photographers and TV people waiting outside. ‘Did you assault Fiona McCutcheon in a Greek lavatory?’ is the main question. Followed by: ‘Are you a fascist, Rudi?’ and ‘Is Europe now like Germany was in the thirties?’ I don’t think Levinia’s doing a brilliant job as my PR fixer/minder. I mean, I’m meant to be edging Oscar Kerner out of the frame as a silent majority hero. My message is clear: I’m heading up a crusade for decent people. I’m a standard bearer for those who want a return to good old fashioned moral values.

         ‘I’m sorry about all of this,’ she says when we get to a hotel overlooking Central Park. ‘I’ve got a few problems, Rudi. You were wonderful on the Rad Budley show. It’s all going the right way, but there’s stuff I have to sort out.’

         Fine. I’ll watch TV. I might go down to the Village. We could meet later. But please, could she get it together and tell me what else, if anything, I’m meant to be doing in here.

         ‘Of course – ‘

         She’s giving me some of the awesome Levinia now. Focused, in control and looking pretty incredible.

         ‘I’ll call you,’ she assures me.

         I hope so. There’s a promising smile in her eyes. We’ll maybe salsa a little later. I’m in love with Julia Stein, but there’s something about Levinia that intrigues me. I want to see the way her hips move with the music. Her Majesty is well served by such bright and dedicated people. They’re the back bone of England’s green and pleasant land.

        ‘Rudi – ‘ I’ve fallen asleep in my clothes. The TV’s still on and the sun’s coming in.

       ‘Yes –’

       ‘Are you all right?’ my controller asks when I open the hotel room door.

       We’re on the twenty second floor and it’s time for breakfast.

       ‘I called you several times last night,’ she tells me, ‘but your mobile was switched off.’

       I’m losing it. I can’t cope with urban living. Something rural is what I need: Milking cows, ploughing fields and drinking with locals at the harvest festival. I’m still in a daze. Is Levinia wearing a purple basque? Or is that a very together business suit, with maybe suspenders holding up her stockings underneath the skirt?

       A boy has arrived with coffee, doughnuts, cheese, bagels and salt beef. I feel ill in the bathroom. There are three miniature whisky bottles in a bin under the sink. Are they mine?

        ‘I’m sorry,’ I say when I come out. ‘It’s the jet lag.’ I’m totally confused. I’m not sure what I’m meant to be doing any more, and with all due deference to Her Majesty, I’d just as soon take my chances as an unemployed hack with no home and a drink problem.

        ‘Something’s happened,’ Levinia says when I’ve tried a doughnut dunked in coffee.

        ‘Right – ‘

        ‘We’ve got to go to Washington.’

        ‘What for?’

        She’s standing in front of a huge window looking out on Central Park.

        ‘Apparently, the President liked the way you came across on the Rad Budley show. He wants to meet you.’

        Fuck me! Stand tall; straight back and feet together. Salute the Stars and Stripes as the Commander-in-Chief approaches to shake my hand in the Oval Office. I need to talk with Ray McVeigh. Suddenly, I’ve got Neuro-Linguistic Programming anchors fighting for space in my head. Sailing boats in a storm, Princess Diana, Julia Stein and my transcendental meditation mantra are all competing and my hands are shaking.

        ‘What shall I say?’ I ask.

        ‘Just be yourself, Rudi. Tell him how you feel about what’s happening in the UK.’

        ‘We’re falling apart, sir. Our moral fibre’s collapsing. We need strong leadership. Only I don’t think Oscar’s the one. A local person would be better: a Churchill figure, perhaps. But political talent’s in short supply just now at Westminster.’

            ‘No time to dawdle,’ she says when I’ve showered and shaved. ‘We’ve got a helicopter to take us to Washington … and if you’re free later, there’s a do in Georgetown.’

            That would be great, provided I don’t fall asleep again. I’d like to take in the Ground Zero site here in New York, and maybe the Empire State building. If there’s a day free before I go back to London, maybe I could also make a short trip out to the Hamptons.

            ‘Come on,’ Levinia says, steering me towards the door. ‘Duty calls.’

            The cab driver shrugs and shakes his head when I ask if he can make a detour to take in the Ground Zero site. There’s a traffic jam, he says. He can’t be arsed, so it’s not possible. I’m looking forward to the helicopter ride, but I’m feeling ill. I think it’s the doughnut I dunked in the coffee at breakfast.

            ‘Are you up for this?’ Levinia asks when we stop at a Government building in Lower Manhattan.  Our Chinook’s on the roof, and when we’ve shaken hands with the Marine Corps pilot, he offers us each a can of coke.

            I daren’t touch the stuff. Levinia’s looking at me like I’m a wimp. ‘You can’t cut it,’ she’s thinking, but I’m busy fighting an urge to vomit. I miss out on what I’m sure are great views and I’m trying to meditate when we come in over Capitol Hill. Levinia’s on the phone as we land and she sounds agitated.

            ‘I can’t go with you,’ she says. ‘Someone in Whitehall’s trying to contact me. I’ll be waiting when you’re finished at the White House though … so call me – and good luck.’

           I’ve got a British Embassy driver for my short run to the White House. He’s a discreet but friendly Essex man, who tells me he’s hoping buy a house and settle in the States.

          ‘I just can’t see where we’re going in England no more, guv … It’s a foreign country.’

          It would be helpful if I could get him to expand on this. I need something solid to bat and ball with the President. We’re at the gates now though. I’ve got a Marine escort and my Essex driver’s giving me a subtle sort of ‘good luck, guv, and take care’ farewell wave.

          ‘It’s a pleasure to meet with you, sir,’ a guy with a buttoned down shirt collar and a thin veneer of charm says when I’ve been checked by security. ‘I’m Harvey Wallenstein … and this is Gloria Gilhooly.’

          She’s got big feet in flat shoes, and her eyes are wandering all over the place.

          ‘Miss Gilhooly is our President’s Special Advisor on Northern Ireland,’ Harvey says. ‘So I’ll leave you two together, Mr Flynn.’

          This is a mistake, surely. I’ve only ever done human interest in the Province: Sex, drugs and repressed perversions amongst the warring factions who are now in bed together.

          ‘It’s so difficult for the Brits at the moment,’ Miss Gilhooly says as we start walking. ‘I’m wondering though … do you have any Irish connections?’

         Boatloads, ma’am – although I’m presently working for Her Majesty.

         ‘Only – we’re concerned about the effects of nationalism at the moment in England,’ she confides. ‘We feel events in Northern Ireland may have impacted to some extent on what you guys are going through just now.’

         ‘Really?’

        ‘Well – I guess I’m thinking about linkages between Orange Order parades in Northern Ireland and National Socialist rallies in Nuremberg during the nineteen thirties. The connections may be tenuous historically … but I’m sure you know what I mean.’

        I don’t. But another aide has arrived and I’m being led towards the Oval Office. It’s smaller than I expected and I’m feeling nauseous again.

        ‘It’s good to meet you, Rudi,’ the President says. I immediately recognise his strong, media friendly face. There’s also a firm, welcoming handshake. ‘And you got my sympathy!’

        ‘I do appreciate that, sir.’ I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve it, but …

        ‘Oh yes … I’ve had my own run-ins with that McCutcheon woman … and boy, she sure as hell doesn’t take any prisoners!’

        There’s immediate bonding between the two of us. The President’s a great guy. We could easily spend time discussing the likes of Fiona McCutcheon and what we have to do just to avoid summary castration. There are other even more pressing issues, however, and what’s happening in Europe is top of the list.

       ‘I’m wondering, Rudi,’ the great man asks, ‘what it might take for one of the major players to go all the way and elect an unashamedly right-wing nationalist government?’

       ‘It’s difficult to say, sir,’ I answer respectfully. ‘The French are possibly closer to that outcome than the British, but that’s because of their electoral system.’

       ‘So we’re talkin’ proportional representation here, Rudi?’

       ‘Yes sir – it gives the smaller, more extreme parties, such as the National Front, a disproportionate influence in French politics. They’ve got a winner takes all situation in the UK. However, a lot of traditional Labour and Conservative voters are swinging decisively towards the Nationalists.

        ‘So these Kerner people could actually win in England?’

        ‘Yes, sir – it’s quite possible.’

        The President’s thinking about this. If America’s main ally in Europe suddenly swings over to the extreme right, it could have implications for the Special Relationship – especially amongst liberals in the US Congress. It’s taxing stuff, but the President’s keen to move on.

        ‘I watched you last night with that asshole, Budley,’ he says, and there’s a big, down home grin spreading across his rugged, sun-burned face. ‘I was impressed, Rudi. He didn’t phase you at all … not one bit, man! Only I guess I got to ask … what is it that drives this guy, Kerner? I mean, you do actually know him, right?

        ‘Yes, sir.’ I’ve got to put my hand up to that. We shared squalid student lodgings for a year in California. I wish now I’d never met the fucker, but in answer to your question, sir. ‘I think he’s quite idealistic. He sort of latched onto the whole Plato versus Aristotle thing a while back. He’s not into democracy. I don’t believe he ever has been.’

       ‘So he’s really into all of this philosophy stuff?’

       ‘Exactly – and he can be very persuasive, Mr President. He’s got a lot of crowd appeal. He’s got a way of tapping into the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people, especially indigenous white workers and middle class families.’

       ‘The guys a racist though,’ the US Commander-in-Chief says bluntly. ‘I mean, hell, Rudi … all that stuff about shippin’ back asylum seekers an’ immigrants – an’ people of colour … good lord God almighty, that could be Adolf Hitler, Bennet Mussolini or Spanish Franco!’

       I understand where the most powerful man in the world is coming from. Kerner is popular, however. His appeal is growing each day, especially in the UK. He may well secretly prefer boys to girls – in fact, I’m sure he does. At the moment though, he’s coming across as a celibate ascetic. Battersby’s attempt to smear him in Athens as a sexual deviant failed. So much so, that Oscar is now branding homosexual promiscuity as criminally offensive. A wayward proclivity that makes decent folk feel threatened and uneasy.

        ‘Mind – I’ll tell you, Rudi,’ the President says when an aide comes in to let him know that the Chinese Prime Minister has arrived. ‘Whatever about this guy Kerner, I like the way you’re addressing all the big issues we’re facing at the moment. You’re a credit to your country, man. I hope you’ll come back to us soon … if you ever decide you want to do some public speaking here I’d like you to know you’ll have my personal endorsement.’

        I’m flattered. It could well be an option if Her Majesty feels I’ve done my bit in England. The President’s got a busy schedule though, and when we’ve swopped a few thoughts on Stratford-upon-Avon and the Scottish Highlands, Harvey Wallenstein reappears. It’s time for us to shake hands and wish each other well. There’s a certain protocol for US Presidential visitors. It’s subtle but straightforward. I’ve had my fifteen or twenty minutes with the great man, and that’s it, buddy. I’m on my way out of the Oval Office through an anonymous side door. It’s a speedy exit, and it has to be, for as I leave, the Chinese President is being welcomed in with smiles, salutes and firm flesh-pressing at the main entrance.

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