Who needs a consultant? I know there are at least two ways to interpret that question, and I am going to assume that readers of this Web Log might be wondering about the answer that would consist of a list of the types of individuals who prevail upon the likes of Yours Truly for analyses, specialized knowledge, or most often, insightful advice and solutions to knotty problems. My practice consists primarily of government bureaucrats, politicians and diplomats. I would say that, together, they constitute approximately eighty percent of my business. But there are others – investors, bankers, lawyers, international business entrepreneurs, deal makers and middle men of various kinds, and even the occasional celebrity. My oddest clients, however, are, without exception, other consultants. In a way, I find it rather flattering, the idea that I am sometimes the consultant’s consultant. It certainly sounds grandiose, anyway, and I think the phrase has a nice ring to it. And that was my function yesterday, when I welcomed Hubert Dewey, of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe, a very exclusive K Street consulting firm here in Washington DC, to my office during one of my occasional working Saturdays necessitated by my extremely full appointment schedule. He had called, frantic, as Gretchen reported, begging for an appointment as soon as possible – so she tacked him on at the end of a string of consultations that began at nine in the morning.
“Spare me the gloating,” Dewey sighed as he resignedly plunked his ample frame down on the couch in front of the picture window overlooking the White House. “You know damn well we wouldn’t be asking the competition for help if this wasn’t a desperate situation.”
“What situation,” I opened, doing my best to suppress a triumphant, supercilious smile, “and desperate in which ways?”
“Well,” he began in a rueful tone, “Trump and his cronies created a significant amount of business for our security consulting practice, what with them stirring up hordes of ignorant half-wits with absurd stories about stolen elections, conspiracies and Devil worship and so forth, which caused them to harass Democrats with death threats and the like. And we were doing quite well on our contract with the Capitol Police.”
“The usual dog-and-pony shows featuring some cute-looking recent Ivy League graduates in expensive business attire presenting fancy PowerPoint slides full of SWOT charts and heat maps, backed up with the typical stakeholder focus group studies, white papers and research reports?” I inquired.
“Well,” he huffed, “that’s not exactly how I would put it.”
“So you were fleecing them pretty good there, were you?” I needled.
“I know, I know…” Dewey scoffed. “That’s not your style – you just charge the highest hourly rate in town to come up with a solution in ninety minutes. We’re more… traditional.”
“You can say that again,” I concurred. “Bilking huge sums out of clients with routines like that, using squads of well-groomed preppies at eight hundred dollars an hour each for months, even years, finally leaving clients with a vague feeling that something meaningful was accomplished, is standard practice for consultants like McKinsey, Bain and Company, Roland Berger, Boston Consulting Group, A. T. Kearney, Deloitte, Booz-Allen… and you.”
“As I said,” Dewey griped, “don’t waste my time and money gloating, okay?”
“Oh, just a little bit,” I chided, “you think I don’t know how much you guys bad-mouth me behind my back for my ‘unorthodox and insupportable methods?’ That was you, actually, wasn’t it, about six months ago during intermission at the Kennedy Center?”
Dewey stared at me in shock. “Everybody knew you were out of town that weekend. Who told you I said that?”
“My private secretary, the same woman you spoke to when you made your appointment, was standing right behind you,” I said. “She also told me you were pretty drunk, and talking much too loudly – probably to impress that twenty-something lady you had on your arm. Your date wouldn’t have been one of your cute little Ivy League show ponies, would she?”
Dewey blushed a beautiful crimson and stared down at the hand-woven silk oriental rug. “Let’s get on with it, Collins.”
“Sure,” I continued. “Let me guess – all that fluffing and ego stroking was going down just fine with the Capitol Police executives until Friday, October 28, when some MAGA goon broke into Nancy Pelosi’s house and hit her husband in the head with a hammer. And around about six o’clock that evening, you were summoned to an emergency meeting where it was announced that DC&H had better come up with a concrete solution for protecting members of Congress and their families from thugs and crazies like that guy, or else your precious cash-cow contract is going to be terminated in the interest of the government.”
Dewey’s blush went from crimson to bright purple. “Who told you that?” he muttered.
“Nobody,” I confessed. “As I told you, I was just guessing. It seemed to me that it was the best explanation for why you would be here in my office on very short notice, on a Saturday afternoon, no less, eating crow.”
“Your legendary intuition,” he grumbled, lifting his eyes to meet mine, “is correct again.”
“And the major problem,” I concluded, “is money. Right?”
“Right,” Dewey confirmed. “Providing a home security detail for every member of Congress and their families would require approximately one hundred and twenty million dollars a year.”
“And the United States of American,” I observed, “which has an annual budget of five trillion, eight hundred billion dollars for fiscal year 2023, won’t devote two one-thousandths of one percent of that to protect members of Congress and their families from being assaulted by hammer-wielding MAGA Republican thugs. But the strange thing is, if you think about it, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it?”
“You know as well as I do,” Dewey barked, “the reason isn’t the [expletive] piddling one hundred and twenty million bucks a year! The Republicans want members of Congress and their families to be vulnerable to attacks from radicalized MAGA goons because they figure that radicalized MAGA goons are only going to go after the Democrats and their spouses and children, not them. Consequently, the Republicans are preparing to do everything they can to block an emergency appropriation, and there is absolutely no way that one hundred and twenty million dollars is going to get to the Capitol Police!”
“Exactly,” I agreed. “Just as the National Socialist German Workers’ Party was unconcerned about the government providing security for members of the Reichstag. They knew the Brownshirts would only assault, torture and murder members of their political opposition parties. So, as the saying goes, history may not repeat itself, but it certainly does rhyme.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Dewey grumbled, “it’s the Weimar Republic all over again. I’m getting ready to move to New Zealand, myself. Meanwhile, the problem is, how do I keep this Capitol Police contract?”
“That’s simple,” I opined. “Just come up with a way that doesn’t rely on the US Treasury to raise one hundred and twenty million dollars for funding of the additional required Capitol Police law enforcement resources.”
“Oh?” Dewey’s eyebrows shot up like twin tripped mouse traps. “And you, of course, know exactly how to do that, I suppose?”
“And you don’t,” I pointed out, “which is why you are here.”
“All right!” Dewey demanded with a frustrated air, “out with it, then! Earn your ridiculous, astronomical fee!”
“Which in the end,” I observed, “costs my clients a mere fraction of what you charge them for months or even years of PowerPoint presentations, white papers and research studies that ultimately prove useless.”
“Whatever!” Dewey fumed. “It’s their money, they can spend it any way they want!”
“Actually, in this town,” I noted, “it’s usually the American taxpayers’ money, but, as you say – whatever. The solution, sir, is to hold a bake sale.”
Dewey froze. He stared at me, dumbfounded, obviously not sure he could believe his ears. “What did you say?”
“Hold… a… bake… sale,” I slowly intoned.
“So that is, in fact, what you said,” Dewey declared.
“Yep,” I replied.
Dewey slowly shook his head in disbelief, then settled back into the couch, crossing his arms and raising his chin in skeptical defiance. “Okay, Collins, explain.”
“The Democrats – not Congress, mind you – the Democratic Party should contact all the famous pastry chefs in all the upscale restaurants in all the big, blue Democratic cities, and ask that each of them create the most magnificent pastry they can imagine and donate it to a bake sale to provide funding for Congressional home security.”
“And why should they do that?” Dewey objected.
“Because ninety-nine point nine percent of the famous pastry chefs in the upscale restaurants in all the big, blue Democratic cities are gay. And they all know that one of the first things the MAGA Republicans are going to do when they take over is round up all the gays. Given that, which of them wouldn’t bake their sweet little hearts out to avoid ending up in a Heterosexual Reeducation Camp in Idaho? Or… even a gas chamber, perhaps? Get it?”
“Yeah,” Dewey grudgingly admitted, “I can’t argue with that. So what makes you think all those gay pastry chefs can cook up one hundred and twenty million dollars worth of seven-layer kiwi and starfruit Grand Marnier-frosted champagne cheesecakes and such for the Democrats?”
“Oh, no problem there,” I assured him. “The Democrats would just hold televised Internet auctions for the pastries.”
“And who the hell,” Dewey snorted, “is going to start a bidding war on Peruvian chocolate raspberry napoleons or whatever?”
“All the rich Democrats, progressives and leftists like Carole King, Martin Sheen, Jane Fonda, Bill Maher, James Taylor, Ted Danson, Mandy Patinkin, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, George Clooney, Mariska Hargitay, Robert Redford, Susan Sarandon, and Ben Affleck,” I explained. “They shell out two hundred grand for a plate of French crème filled passion fruit sfogliatelle, donate it to a homeless shelter and get a huge charitable tax deduction.”
“And you think that’s going to add up to a hundred and twenty million?” Dewey sneered. “And then what? Are the Democrats going to hold a chichi upscale bake sale for rich liberal Hollywood movie stars every year?”
“The bake sale,” I modestly speculated, “will probably bring in more than one hundred and twenty million. But the Democrats won’t use that to fund Congressional home security. Instead, they’ll use it to set up a lottery.”
“A lottery?” Dewey sat bolt upright as his arms fell to his side and his hands slapped the soft, buttery leather of the couch. “Like PowerBall? Like Mega Millions?”
“Exactly,” I confirmed. “With the same one-in-two-hundred-ninety-two-million grand prize odds, and jackpots that roll over and get bigger and bigger and bigger when there’s no grand prize winner for weeks and months at a time. And since all the lottery will need to keep for itself will be what it takes to provide security for members of Congress and their families, the lottery will be able return more than the customary half of the money to prize winners, mostly in the form of smaller prizes, which will be a huge draw with habitual lottery players. And the Democrats will demonstrate their moral superiority by providing funding for the Capitol Police to protect all members of Congress and their families, which will, naturally, mean that members like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ted Cruz will be forced to make total fools of themselves by refusing to accept it.”
Dewey pondered the proposition for a long moment. “But then,” he argued, “won’t the Republicans just go to court, trying to stop the Democrats from doing all this?”
“Of course they would,” I concurred. “If it got that far. And it would certainly make for some very interesting – and highly public – demonstrations of irrational MAGA Republican behavior that the Democrats could use to make a considerable amount of political hay. Why, the Democrats would ask the public, are they trying to deprive representatives, senators and their families of vitally needed security that will be provided privately by the Democratic Party at no cost to the taxpayers? But it will never come to that, because all the Democrats have to do is suggest that they have a plausible way to fund the Capitol Police congressional home security program outside of the federal budget. Once that’s established, the Republicans will cave in and give up trying to block appropriation of that minuscule one hundred and twenty million dollars it will take to keep homicidal MAGA lunatics away from Democratic members of Congress and the innocent members of their families.”
Dewey leaned forward on the couch, placing his hands on his knees and once again stared intently at me. “So you’re saying, float this idea behind closed doors, let the Republicans get wind of it, and then coordinate with the Democratic caucus to get an appropriation to Biden’s desk ASAP.”
“Precisely,” I told him. “No point in making the public have to watch the sausage being made, you know. They’re disgusted enough by Washington already.”
“All right, Collins,” he murmured, “I gotta hand it to you. I never would have thought of that, not in a million years. I’ll give it try tomorrow.”
“And for you,” I japed, “if it doesn’t work, I’ll refund today’s consultation fee.”