This week, Washington dodged what might have been about two and one half feet of snow, getting about two and three quarter inches of rain instead. The last time DC got the amount of precipitation which, if frozen, the last few of days worth of rain would comprise, was ten years ago, and the storm is still remembered here as “Snowmageddon.” So it was quite fortunate that all we got was rain, because all it takes to paralyze the entire DC metropolitan area is about two inches of snow, which, if it fell as rain, would work out to be about eighteen one hundredths of an inch, or for those of you who do metric, about half a centimeter of rainfall.
Those readers who live in places like New England, Canada, Norway or Russia are no doubt laughing at that, but what I would point out to them is that where they live, everybody there knows how to handle a nice, robust snowstorm, including, of course, how to drive in the stuff. Not so here in the Nation’s Capital, as we Americans call it. The fact is, the city is chock full people who know absolutely nothing about snow. This includes not only legions of foreigners attached to the panoply of tropical nations’ embassies here, but legions of other foreigners from places like India, Nigeria, El Salvador and Taiwan who, whether here legally or not, are all allowed to drive the regions highways, regardless of whether they have ever even seen snow before, much less know how to successfully steer into a skid. To this, it must be mentioned, are added legions of others from the American South. Those folks are even more problematic, since they have actually experienced snow before and are convinced that all they need to deal with a blizzard is a four wheel drive vehicle of sufficient horsepower with a high enough wheelbase to operate off road. So while winter in Boston, Montreal, Bergen or Novgorod is certainly no picnic, the residents of those fine cities don’t have to cope with an army of winter clowns like that. And five centimeters of snow around the Beltway is all it takes to start the show, as the quaint network of two-lane roads that spread around Washington and the surrounding suburbs of Virginia and Maryland begin to accumulate a toll of bewildered Desis, chattering Mestizos, indignant African diplomats and cursing rednecks in their minivans, hoopties, S-Class Mercedes and monstrous SUVs, all mashed together in multiple vehicle pile-ups, displaying a truly novel example of the diversity that makes Washington so… special. For the rest of us, knowing how to handle a vehicle in a such a winter wonderland makes no difference, because about four hours after a snowstorm starts here, the roads are rendered ridiculously clogged, if not totally impassable, due to the resulting blockages caused by the hordes of clueless bozos who don’t.
So it was with a feeling of lucky gratitude to the weather gods that I enjoyed a bright, sunny, cold and breezy Sunday at my home in Great Falls, Virginia this weekend, untroubled by the prospect of commuting to my office downtown Monday morning. Cerise being off to a cultural shindig in St. Croix until Valentine’s Day, it was just me and my cat Twinkle lounging on the teak Adirondack chairs behind the sliding glass doors leading to my backyard deck, watching the cardinals, rose breasted woodpeckers, ravens, nuthatches, jays, finches and tufted titmice flocking around the bird feeder as I browsed through Harpers, the Economist and Scientific American with a nice cup of mocha cappuccino and Grand Marnier. Then, as regular readers of this Web log might readily guess, as, it seems, nearly always happens when I am in my most comfortable and relaxed condition at home, my landline rang. Caller ID immediately identified the person who interrupted my idyllic repose: Joe Biden. Not the sort of person you ignore and expect to leave a mellow, sanguine message – Joe doesn’t like what he still calls “answering machines” (instead of “voice mail,” like nearly everyone else in the twenty-first century) and, of course, he knew I was at home or he wouldn’t have called me there. So what could I do? I picked up.
Tom: Hello, Vice President Biden?
Biden: Come on, Tom. Just call me Joe, like I always say when you do that.
Tom: Sure, Joe. To what do I owe the honor of this telephone call?
Biden: Well, before we get into that stuff, first of all, I’m not Vice President any more, except for the honorary title, and as you may know, my presidential campaign has been somewhat… strapped for cash lately, and I…
Tom: No problem. Understood. This consultation’s on the house. The Executive Office was a very good client during the Obama administration and I sincerely appreciate your continued interest in my services.
Biden: That’s great, Tom. You know, it’s a little bit embarrassing to have to ask for a free consultation, so please accept my apologies.
Tom: Seriously, no problem.
Biden: And this is all on the Q-T, right?
Tom: Let me assure you of the same level of privacy I guarantee all recipients of my free consultation advice. Now, what can I do to help the Biden 2020 presidential campaign this morning?
Biden: Okay, for starters, there’s that huge screw-up in the Iowa caucuses.
Tom: You were expecting to win in Iowa, weren’t you?
Biden: Well, I sure as spit wasn’t expecting to come in third, or fourth, or whatever it’s going to turn out to be two weeks from now. We really took a body blow there in Iowa, Tom.
Tom: Yeah, that app the Iowa state Democrats selected for caucus reporting support was, apparently, not only amateurishly designed, but also inadequately tested.
Biden: Um… what’s an “app?”
Tom: That’s short for “application;” I meant, the mobile platform software deployed to Iowa Democratic Party officials to tally and report caucus results.
Biden: Ah… yeah… what’s a “mobile platform?”
Tom: I meant, “cell phone.”
Biden: Like mine?
Tom: No, Joe, your cell phone is a flip phone, not a smart phone. That’s why I initially said “mobile platform” to indicate that a CPU, RAM and touchscreen GUI are necessary. Actually, the app could have been deployed on tablets, phablets or pads as well as smart phones.
Biden: There’s a gooey screen?
Tom: “GUI” is an acronym for Graphical User Interface. And a touchscreen is a flat surface sensitive to human touch that allows users to operate software like that caucus reporting support app. Maybe you’ve seen a touchscreen at a bank ATM?
Tom: Those machines that dispense money.
Biden: Machines give away money? Why doesn’t somebody tell me about this stuff?
Tom: Joe, I suggest that the next time one of your staff goes to fetch you some cash from the bank, you go with them and ask them to show you an ATM.
Biden: Okay, let me write this down… just a sec, got to get a pen and paper… right, okay, so how do you spell that?
Tom: A… T… M… It’s another acronym, like GUI. It stands for Automated Teller Machine. Make sure you also remember to specify that you’d like to see an ATM with a touchscreen, because not all of them have those. The ATM’s at banks usually do these days, but if you see one in a supermarket or gas station, they often just have pushbuttons.
Biden: And how do you spell “touchscreen?”
Tom: Just like it sounds: the word “touch” and the word “screen” written as a single word or sometimes as a two-word phrase.
Biden: Okay… got it. And they have these machines in supermarkets?
Tom: Yeah, sure. They’re all over, actually.
Biden: Because I don’t think I noticed anything like that when I was visiting that supermarket in Rehoboth Beach last month.
Tom: I think your staff had you so busy shaking hands, stacking groceries and posing for photos that they probably just forgot to show you the ATM. But… you know selfies, right?
Biden: Yeah, yeah, sure, people are always taking selfies with me. They took some at the that supermarket as a matter of fact.
Tom: Okay, well, those things that the people are taking the selfies with…
Biden: Those little cameras?
Tom: They’re smart phones, Joe, like I was telling you about just now. In addition to running apps controlled by user GUIs, they have camera lenses in them, and there’s software running on them that takes digital pictures.
Biden: Digital? Pictures?
Tom: Ah, yeah… that would take more time than you probably have for me to explain, but the bottom line is, their cell phones take pictures without film.
Biden: Without… film?
Tom: Correct. No film necessary. By the way, President Trump uses a smartphone, you know.
Biden: To take pictures?
Tom: No so much – he uses it to post on Twitter.
Biden: Twitter… oh, yeah, my staff do Twitter stuff for me. Do you think I should get a smart phone and start, uh… posting… on Twitter?
Tom: Ah… let’s take it one step at a time, Joe. First have your staff show you an ATM. Then maybe they should assign someone to… um… advise you on the capabilities of a smart cell phone. Before you start using it, that is. We don’t want any, ah… gaffes, or anything like that.
Biden: Okay… let me get all this down… number one, ATM… number two, assign staff to advise on smart cell phone… number three, avoid gaffes on Twitter.
Tom: Sounds good, Joe. Now, I checked it out, and that app the Democrats used in Iowa was provided by former Hillary Clinton campaign staffers, so my first recommendation would be, if your campaign is going to use any software, make sure nobody involved in developing it ever worked for Hillary Clinton.
Biden: Check… let me write down, too… okay… got it. Now, what should I do about Pete Buttigieg?
Tom: Well, first of all, I would advise that if you are ever working out with him at a gym, and you drop the soap in the shower, be sure to bend your knees to pick it up.
Biden: Gym… shower… bend… knees. Got it. Why?
Tom: Let’s just say what a guy with “peter” and “butt” in his name is perfectly suited to be America’s first gay President.
Biden: I’m not sure what you’re getting at there, Tom, but I’m definitely going to watch out for that soap thing like you said. What’s my strategy to beat him?
Tom: You don’t need one.
Biden: I don’t?
Tom: Nah, you just got to roll with the punches in Iowa and New Hampshire, that’s all. Once those are over with, you’ll start beating him.
Biden: How do you figure that?
Tom: Because Iowa and New Hampshire are both lily-white states, that’s why. And white Democrats have had so many of their own relatives come out as gay and lesbian in the last ten or fifteen years, being homosexual seems almost normal to most of them now. Therefore, it doesn’t distract them from Buttigieg’s moderate message, which appeals to them, just like your moderate message does, but delivered by a candidate who is younger, wittier, more suave, charismatic and articulate than you.
Biden: Gee whiz, Tom. Tell me how you really feel. You sure know how to hurt a guy, you know that?
Tom: Got to be honest with you Joe – if Buttigieg was straight and married to a reasonably good looking woman, you’d have a real problem, no doubt about it – he’d be a Millennial middle class icon; a latter-day low-rent Jack Kennedy. Fortunately for you, he’s not, and once the black and latino Democrats start voting, you’re going to wax him like ten beach boys Simonizing a vintage deuce coup.
Biden: All right, now you’re talkin’ my language, Tom! But how come?
Tom: Because black and latino voters, whether they’re Democrats or not, aren’t ready for a gay President, and what’s more, they aren’t going to be ready for a gay President anytime during the next three or four decades. Most of them are convinced that only white people turn queer, and they’re in complete denial about the existence of black or latino gays. Tyrone or Pablo might mince around like Richard Simmons on benzedrine, but their moms and abuelas just keep telling everyone they’re “sensitive” or “dulce” and just waiting for the right girl to come along, even if they’re pushing fifty. No way a Democratic candidate can get the nomination without the black and latino vote, and no way the blacks or latinos are voting for Pete Buttigieg. Believe me, Mayor Pete will be older than you before a gay man has a chance at the Democratic nomination.
Biden: Well, that’s a relief, at least. But what about Sanders and Warren?
Tom: Either you or Sanders could have beat Trump in 2016, but Sanders can’t top the ticket in 2020 without risking a loss due not only to what will be Trump’s constant harping on the “Socialist” label, which could probably be overcome, but also what will surely be vicious sniping from Hillary Clinton and another of Putin’s social media campaigns against the Democrats. Combined, they are likely to sink Sanders in the swing states. I suggest you put out some feelers to his camp about the VP slot. He’d be a very effective attack dog against Trump, and with you at the top of the ticket, the public could rest assured that nothing excessively left-wing nutty was going to happen after the 2021 inauguration. At your ages though, I think eight years in office will probably exhaust both of you, so start cultivating some nice, young, attractive moderate-to-left liberal Democrats who can replace one or both of you in 2024, just in case.
Biden: And Warren?
Tom: Appoint her Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services or something like that; Department of Education, maybe. But don’t, under any circumstances, put her on the ticket.
Biden: Why not? Wouldn’t Warren running for Vice President bring in the women’s vote?
Tom: Except, Joe, there’s no such thing as “the women’s vote.” There are women who vote, yes, but most of them are not self-righteous, hectoring, condescending, feminist harpies, okay? And most of them are not going to vote for a ticket with a self-righteous, hectoring, condescending, feminist harpy on it, either. Because these days, most women who vote also work, and they know what most men will never find out – that a woman boss with a personality like Elizabeth Warren’s makes life for her female subordinates a living hell. And that’s what would be going on in the back of their minds when they would have to choose between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren versus Donald Trump and Mike Pence.
Biden: Holy smokes, I never thought of that! Guess I better not let anybody talk me into putting Warren on the ticket, then.
Tom: I would advise you try your best not to let them, Joe, because another four years of Donald Trump in the White House is the last thing this country – or the world – needs.
Biden: Okay, then, what about this business with the Ukraine and all that?
Tom: Joe, I know it’s going to be tough, but if you want to win the 2020 election, you’re going to have to throw Hunter under the bus.
Biden: Throw… Hunter… under… the bus? My God, Tom, you don’t know what you’re saying!
Tom: Unfortunately, I’m afraid I do, Joe.
Biden: But won’t that look… you know, kind of… self-serving?
Tom: It will look like an act of self-preservation, that’s what it will look like. And very few people will hold it against you when they vote.
Biden: Throw Hunter under the bus… how?
Tom: Okay, well, you’ve said that you never discussed Hunter’s position on the Burisma board with him other than when he told you he had obtained the position and you told him “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
Biden: Yes, that’s true, all right.
Tom: Well, he didn’t know what he was doing.
Biden: Yeah, I guess not.
Tom: And I know he’s your son, but he’s also a grown man who should be capable of taking personal responsibility for his decisions and actions.
Biden: Yeah, well, sure, but he’s had a really rough time; some very bad breaks in life.
Tom: Who hasn’t? That doesn’t excuse showing complete disregard for the consequences our choices will have for others, particularly those we love and the members of our own family.
Biden: No, I guess it doesn’t.
Tom: So face it, Joe – if you want to be President, you’re going to have to throw Hunter under the bus.
Biden: Can I do it… gently?
Tom: As long as he lands under the bus, you can throw him any way you like.
Biden: Well, there’s that, anyway. But I’ll have to think about it.
Tom: Think about it hard, Joe.
Biden: I’ll… consider thinking about it, anyhow.
Tom: I’d highly recommend it. Anything else I can help you with today, Joe?
Biden: I guess maybe this has been enough for one consultation, Tom. Can I call you later?
Tom: Any time, Joe.
Biden: Thanks, then.
Tom: You’re welcome.
Did I mention I had the phone on speaker the whole time? Well, I did, and Twinkle sat in my lap while I pet her, listening intently through the entire exchange. After Biden hung up, she stared at me with those big green eyes for a long, penetrating moment.
“We’re doomed,” she declared, then jumped off my lap and headed for a sunny spot on the floor, where she promptly curled up and took a nap.