I can’t discuss what Vernum and I worked on during his consultation Friday at 3:30, since he’s with the CIA and the subject matter was classified. On the other hand, after I completed my final appointment that evening, I headed down to the Willard Hotel, and there, in Round Robin Bar, I saw Vernum slouched, alone at a table, over what was apparently not his first cocktail of the afternoon. I sidled up and sat down next to him. Obviously, what we spoke about then could be publicly disclosed, whereas we said it all in public over drinks in a public house in a very public manner, and here am I therefore, posting it publicly on the Internet.
“That’s a mighty long face,” I commented as I took the seat across the table from him, “for a guy who’s up for promotion next week.”
“Right now, a promotion at the CIA isn’t worth a rat’s patoot,” he grumbled.
“What makes you say that?” I inquired.
“Just look at the situation!” he exclaimed in despair. “A week from now, the same day I’m moving into my new office at Langley, Donald Trump will be inaugurated President of the United States! And what am I and my brother CIA officers going to be up against the day after?” he asked as he took out his smart phone and began to read, “This is what: ‘Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory!’ ‘Unless you catch “hackers” in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn’t this brought up before election?’ ‘If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?’ ‘Are we talking about the same cyberattack where it was revealed that head of the DNC illegally gave Hillary the questions to the debate?’ ‘Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!’ ‘The “Intelligence” briefing on so-called “Russian hacking” was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!’ ‘Julian Assange said “a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta” – why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!’ ‘Julian Assange on U.S. media coverage: “It’s very dishonest.” More dishonest than anyone knows!’ ‘How did NBC get “an exclusive look into the top secret report he (Obama) was presented?” Who gave them this report and why? Politics!’ ‘The Democratic National Committee would not allow the FBI to study or see its computer info after it was supposedly hacked by Russia. So how and why are they so sure about hacking if they never even requested an examination of the computer servers?’ ‘I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it.’ ‘Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only “stupid” people, or fools, would think that it is bad!’ ‘We certainly don’t want intelligence interfering with politics.’ ‘Before I, or anyone, saw the classified and/or highly confidential hacking intelligence report, it was leaked out to NBC News.’ ‘Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is “A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.” Very unfair!’ ‘Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?’ ‘James Clapper called me yesterday to denounce the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated. Made up, phony facts.Too bad!’ ‘It now turns out that the phony allegations against me were put together by my political opponents and a failed spy afraid of being sued. Totally made up facts by sleazebag political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans – FAKE NEWS! Russia says nothing exists. Probably released by “Intelligence” even knowing there is no proof, and never will be!’ ‘INTELLIGENCE INSIDERS NOW CLAIM THE TRUMP DOSSIER IS “A COMPLETE FRAUD!”‘
“You’ve… collected his tweets about the intelligence community?” I asked, aghast. “Is it possible you have become somewhat… obsessed by Trump’s drivel and natterings?”
“They’re not drivel and natterings if millions of Americans believe them!”
“What are they then?” I pursued.
“If millions of Americans believe them, then these tweets are successful propaganda directed against the CIA, NSA, DIA, FBI and thirteen other federal intelligence agencies! Propaganda promulgated by a man elected to be President! Propaganda that says we’re a bunch of incompetent fools, imbecilic dupes and malicious liars!”
“But that’s all just rhetoric,” I consoled. “Red meat flung to the rabid followers in his political base.”
“No it’s not!” Vernum insisted, “If it were just rhetoric, there would be some sign or another Trump realizes he’s just spouting bull-[expletive] to curry favor with the sweaty, ignorant, unwashed idiots who elected him. But according to our own in-house analysts, that fat orange blowhard actually believes it himself!”
“In-house analysts?” I gasped. “You’ve prepared a… psychological profile of the President-elect?”
“Yeah,” he shrugged. “Of course. I mean, really, get a load of the guy; what do you think we would do? On the face of it, we were concerned from the very beginning. He started his campaign with a ride down that golden escalator from on high, he continued it with bullying and insults, he blew up and started ranting at the slightest provocation, his ideas are the product of a deranged fantasy life; hell, you have to wonder, what are we dealing with here, anyway?”
“And what have your analysts concluded?” I inquired. “What do they think we’re dealing with?”
At that, Vernum took a deep swig of his drink and scowled. “That’s the problem. They can’t agree. Some think he’s another Mussolini, others say he’s another Kim Jong-il, others say he’s another Gamal Abdel Nasser, another Juan Domingo Perón, another Fulgencio Batista, another Ferdinand Marcos, another Robert Mugabe, another Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, another Chiang Kai-shek, another Pik Botha, another Francisco Franco, another Ngô Đình Diệm, another…
“Could it be,” I interjected, “that instead, he’s just another shallow, vapid, superficial, ignorant, garden-variety [expletive]-hole?”
Vernum pondered my suggestion for a long moment. “Just a garden-variety [expletive]-hole? You mean, there’s nothing for the analysts to figure out? That there’s no ‘there’ there? That Donald J. Trump is just a big, noisy cardboard cut-out of such monumental insignificance there’s no point in comparing his psychology to any problematic historical figure whatsoever?”
“Yeah,” I nodded. “Exactly. What if he’s just a loud, boorish wind-bag [expletive]-hole with an aggressive, immature behavior pattern that appealed to a certain segment of cretins in the voting populations of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania more than a loud, condescending crypto-lesbian feminazi wind-bag [expletive]-hole did? The Electoral College totals were decided by a margin of less than two-hundred thousand popular votes, you know.”
“Okay,” Vernum sighed, “let’s say you’re right about that, and there’s nothing to know about what’s going on in Trump’s mind because there isn’t much of anything going on in it to begin with. Where does that leave the intelligence community? How can we get him to pay attention to us? How can we obtain his respect? Most of all, how can we make him stop tweeting nasty [expletive] about us? Because that’s getting embarrassing, Tom – we’ve got MI-5, MI-6, the DGSE, the DGSI, the BND, the Mossad… you name it, they’re all laughing at us behind our backs!”
“First of all,” I recommended, “if you want to get Trump to pay attention at intelligence briefings, you should recruit some hot babes to deliver them.”
Vernum’s face fell in an avalanche of incomprehension. “Hot babes?”
“Yeah,” I affirmed, “you know – Tens. No Eights, no Nines – Trump can tell the difference, he’s hosted beauty pageants, after all. Tens only. And young. He likes them young.”
“How young?” Vernum implored with a shudder.
“Nothing over thirty, that’s for sure,” I replied. “And make sure they’re not wearing anything too… modest, okay? Definitely no pant-suits – I’d say make sure they’re wearing tight skirts that go at least halfway up the thigh.”
“Tens?” Vernum fretted. “Tight skirts halfway up the thigh? I don’t know if the intelligence community actually has any Tens who would look hot in a tight skirt halfway up their thigh!”
“Then get some,” I advised. “Because unless you do, President Trump is going to fall asleep five minutes into your briefings – if he bothers to show up at all.”
“Oh my God,” Vernum shuddered. “I have this creepy feeling that you’re probably right. What else do you think we should do?”
“Make sure every briefing contains some secret information that the Trump organization can use to make a huge pile of money with,” I said.
“But.. but… wait a second,” he stammered. “Why should we do that? Hasn’t Trump pledged that he will hand off operations of his business empire to his children and that he won’t speak to them about anything concerning it?”
“Trump never said he wouldn’t talk to his wife,” I pointed out. “And that’s why you can get Trump to do a complete about-face and start loving the intelligence community. You’ll tip Trump off about secret information that his businesses can use, and afterward, he’ll go home to the White House tell Melania about it over dinner.”
“And then?” Vernum wondered.
“And then,” I explained, “Melania will get on the phone, as mothers always do, to chat with her little loving family, and during those loving little chats she will pass the secret information on to her children, and the Trump organization will make billions of excess profits. And after that money starts hitting the Trump bank accounts, Trump will be tweeting out to the whole world how great you are.”
“Damn,” Vernum grumbled, “that’s going to be really degrading, but I don’t guess we have much choice. Is there anything else?”
“Flattery,” I told him. “Make sure Trump knows you all think he’s a handsome, erudite, urbane sophisticated genius.”
“Oh, well,” Vernum muttered into his drink, “I guess we can do that pretty well. After all, we had loads of practice with George W. Bush. Anything else?”
“You might want to consider getting Trump involved in some… activities,” I suggested.
“Activities?” Vernum replied. “What kind of… activities?”
“Well,” I surmised, “you’re definitely going to have him sit in on live videos of any interesting actions that involve blowing things up or killing lots people. He’s bound to enjoy watching those. But you should also consider concocting some simulated spy missions, ersatz black-ops, and staged cloak-and-dagger incidents to keep things exciting for him.”
“Huh,” Vernum scoffed. “Call it Code Name ‘Disneyland,’ eh?”
“I believe Code Name ‘Double Zero Seven’ might be better,” I responded. “Get Trump dressed up in tuxedos, drinking vodka martinis that are shaken, not stirred, playing high-stakes baccarat incognito at a world-class European casinos on the Riviera. Stage little adventures around it for his amusement. Work lots clever spy gadgets and cool vehicles into the plots. I guarantee, you spooks will be Trump’s best buddies in no time.”
“Cool vehicles?” Vernum pressed. “Like what?”
“Definitely a flying car,” I recommended. “Make it one that can break the sound barrier and go underwater, and President Trump will be putty in your hands.”
“Are you suggesting we should turn Donald Trump loose in something like that?” Vernum yelped.
“Oh no,” I elaborated, “it will need to be a four passenger model.”
“Four?” Vernum squinted at me in disbelief.
“Oh yeah,” I confirmed, “it will need seats for a pilot, President Trump, a Secret Service agent and a Ten wearing a tight skirt that goes at least halfway up her thigh.”