Starting early Friday morning and continuing well after lunch, a certain Millicent Gesaesshower de Bouvier Jones called the office and bugged Gretchen for a telephone consultation about every fifteen minutes. Finally, Gretchen managed to fit her in between a Taiwanese economist and a Bulgarian cultural envoy.
Jones: Hello, hello? Is this Tom Collins?
Tom: Yes, ma’am, it is.
Jones: How y’all today?
Tom: We are fine, ma’am.
Jones: Good to hear it. God bless you.
Tom: Thank you, ma’am. How may I help you?
Jones: You know Mary Landrieu?
Tom: Why of course I do. Everybody in Washington knows her. She’s the senior senator from Louisiana. You aren’t, by any chance, also from Louisiana yourself, are you, Miss Jones?
Jones: That’s Mizz Jones, if you please, Mr. Collins. As in with a capital “M” and a lower-case “S.”
Tom: Oh, so you must be a Democrat.
Jones: And damn proud of it. My family has been Democrats down here in Louisiana since Andrew Jackson was president.
Tom: Well, that certainly must have put you on both sides of the same issues many times over, then.
Jones: Tell me about it. Look, I hear tell you rake in more money per hour than a French Quarter madame charges a Texas oil man, but just like the junk dealers down on Basin Street do, the first time’s free. Is that right?
Tom: I wouldn’t put it that way myself, Ms. Jones, but I would say your paraphrase of my professional practice, expressed as it is, in a remarkably colorful New Orleans vernacular, nevertheless conveys a substantially accurate description. How did you get my office telephone number?
Jones: Al Gore gave it to me.
Tom: I must remember to thank him. And what, may I ask, is your problem?
Jones: My problem is that I work for Mary Landrieu.
Tom: Oh, really? My sincere condolences.
Jones: Uh… thanks, I guess. Look, Mr. Collins, Mary’s been real good to me and all, and I don’t hold nothing against her. But the handwriting’s on the wall, as they say, and it ain’t good. Tomorrow’s Saturday and there’s gonna be a run-off election between Mary and this Bill Cassidy feller, and I’m afraid to say, it looks like Cassidy’s gonna whip Mary’s pretty little butt right across the Texas border, up the Mississippi, straight down the Florida panhandle or out into the Gulf of Mexico, depending on which way he swings the stick.
Tom: Yes, it certainly looks like that.
Jones: Can you imagine – the great state of Louisiana being represented in the United States Senate by that whoremonger David Vitter and that… well, I guess “lunatic” is the most charitable description I can manage – Bill Cassidy?
Tom: Unfortunately, Ms. Jones, given my extensive experience here in Washington DC, I can.
Jones: All I can say is, that ain’t gonna be good for Louisiana Democrats, especially folks like me who spent years and years working for Mary Landrieu.
Tom: I suppose not. It probably won’t be all that good for Louisiana in general. But the people have spoken, haven’t they? Or at least it very much appears that’s how they will speak tomorrow.
Jones: It’s the end of an era, that’s what it is.
Tom: Pretty close, no doubt about that. Mary Landrieu is the last Democratic US senator from what used to be called “The Solid South.” When she’s defeated – um, I mean, if she’s defeated tomorrow – all your Democratic ancestors will be turning over in their graves, I should think.
Jones: It’s Obama’s fault, you know. Even when Mary ran against his policies, it didn’t do us a damn bit of good.
Tom: The Democratic Party cutting off Mary’s campaign funds didn’t help much either, I suspect.
Jones: As soon as those skunks at the DCCC realized the Democrats had lost their Senate majority, they stopped sending her money, like it don’t matter if the Republicans have fifty-three seats or fifty-four! You know damn well, if it had been a question of whether the Democrats would have fifty or fifty-one, those same rats would have been sending Mary’s campaign enough money to buy Mardi Gras ten times over!
Tom: I’m sure they would.
Jones: So look, Mr. Collins, what I want to know is, what can I do now? I mean, I’m real experienced in Louisiana politics and political campaigns and all. That ought to be good for something, don’t you think?
Tom: Generally, yes… what are you good at?
Jones: Well, I’m real good at re-writing speeches so that they sound like they’re saying something but don’t say anything the opposition can use against the speaker in campaign ads.
Tom: That’s definitely a valuable skill. How do you do it?
Jones: I get the speechwriter to send me a copy and I go over it in itty-bitty pieces, like they’re sound bites somebody in the other campaign or party or whatever wants to take out and use to make Mary – or whoever I would be working for, you know – look like a liar, a crook, a bigot, or a hypocrite. Then I re-arrange the words, or take some out and find some others that can’t be used like that and substitute them instead.
Tom: Quite impressive methodology.
Jones: I got it to the point where Mary could give a speech for an hour and sound great. And after she was done, you’d hardly realize she hadn’t actually said anything.
Tom: I think maybe Joe Biden could use somebody like you.
Jones: So I should try to get an interview with him?
Tom: Definitely. What other strengths are in your resume?
Jones: Um, along those same lines, I can take a speech and come up with three or four different versions – you know, like there would be one for the blacks, one for the Hispanics, one for the poor white trash, and one for the rich folks who make big contributions. I put the right buzz words for each group in their special version, and whenever the speech gets too specific about something the targets have a bug up their behinds about, I substitute references to things that make them feel comfortable instead.
Tom: I’d say check with Hillary Clinton’s organization, too, then. When she finally deigns to announce her presidential ambitions, she’s going to need more capability like that.
Jones: Hillary Clinton? That would be… absolutely dreamy! You really think she could use me?
Tom: Sure – her writers already customize all her speeches for particular audiences, and when she starts running for president, she’s going to be giving a lot more of them. It’s dollars to donuts she’ll need to expand her speech writing staff. Please continue, if you would, with further relevant skills.
Jones: Well, I don’t know quite how to put this, but… okay, I guess I’ll just come right out and say it. I absolutely love to dig up dirt on the other guys – and gals, too, I’m not prejudiced. Like for instance, I’m the one who found out that Bill Cassidy was billing Louisiana State University for work he never did.
Tom: Always a very useful resource for the vast majority of politicians. Start with the New Jersey and California congressional delegations with that one. Anything more?
Jones: I’m also really good at what you might call ‘special operations’ for lack of a better word.
Tom: That’s two words, but I understand.
Jones: Right, well, okay, you know those flyers, the ones that were paid for by ‘a concerned citizen,’ the ones that told everybody that if Cassidy got elected, they would lose their Section 8 Housing assistance; Affordable Healthcare program enrollment medical cards; Medicaid coverage; SNAP food stamps; early childhood development programs; childcare assistance; childhood dental assistance; WIC enrollments; minimum wage protections; Social Security coverage; Head of Household tax exemptions; college tuition grants and welfare payments?
Tom: Yes, I heard about those.
Jones: Well, I did them. I wrote them in Microsoft Publisher on my own PC, I had them printed at the FedEx Kinkos, and I even went out with the street crews to make sure they got distributed.
Tom: Demonstrating remarkable resourcefulness and spunk, I’m sure anyone would agree. The New York or Chicago Democratic political machines should be a ready market for that kind of talent. And what else?
Jones: I can combine digging up the dirt with the special operations work, too. I’ve used that a couple of times so I could, you know, nudge wealthy contributors into chipping in their fair share for Mary’s campaigns and… um… other related expenses. I don’t want to go into too much detail there, because, you know, it’s kind of a delicate matter.
Tom: Given what I know about the DNC, I’d say that’s something Debbie Wasserman Shultz should be interested in. If you can bring yourself to forgive the Democratic Party for leaving Mary high and dry in the funding department at the very last minute, that is.
Jones: Well… that was then…
Tom: Or at least by Sunday morning it will have been.
Jones: Yeah, and this is now. Or at least by Sunday morning it will be; so no, I’m not going to hold any grudges, especially if it would cost me money. Gotta look out for Number One, as they say.
Tom: True. Does your CV have any more salient content?
Jones: Um, you know how business and government, ah… work together… down here in Louisiana?
Tom: Oh, yes, I do believe I am. Not through any… direct relationships, naturally, but…
Jones: You know what I’m talking about.
Tom: Of course.
Jones: Well, I’m really, really good at that – and I’m talking about the whole thing here, starting line to the checkered flag, both sides of the fence, up and down, left and right, AC/DC, GZPZ, LS/MFT… know what I mean?
Jones: Who would you suggest I talk to that about?
Tom: Nobody. Just drop a few hints in the right places and wait for them to come to you.
Jones: So I should play hard to get on that one, huh?
Tom: The harder, the better. But the fact is, most of them are completely ravenous to… acquire… that particular… skill set. They just don’t want anyone to know.
Jones: So I should just… drop some hints… when I interview with Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Debbie Wasserman Shultz and the rest?
Jones: And… just how do I get those interview appointments to begin with?
Tom: Simple – ask Al Gore to arrange them for you.
Jones: Hmmm… good point. Yeah, I guess I could get him to…
Tom: I’m sure you could. But excuse me, I have to go now, my next appointment just arrived.
Jones: Huh? Oh, all right, okay, thanks for everything then. If y’all ever need anything from me, just let me know.
Tom: That’s very gracious and I certainly will. Please make any future appointments at least twenty-four hours in advance.
Jones: Um, okay, yeah. Thanks again. ‘Bye.