Monday, December 28, 2009

Short Story: Bill 342 (aka Vice President Temp Job)

A brief return to an old blog for the purposes of publishing a short story. Please enjoy!

Bill 342

How Thomas Jacobs became the youngest President in American history, one approaching 30, was not by hook or crook, or the destruction of the U.S. Constitution (though Thomas’s father certainly thought the Constitution was ruled invalid with Thomas’s ascension into the Presidency, well, he would have thought that had he been alive to see that day. Besides he would have no one to blame but himself anyways). No, young Thomas Jacobs became the 52nd President of the United States (in a nice twist of fate, as 52 is an inversion of his age) by the way of a heart attack. You see, Thomas Jacobs’ father was David Jacobs, the 51st president (51 was not an inversion of his age) and Bill 342, a law Congress passed, the elder Jacobs vetoed, and Congress pushed through anyways.

Bill 342, or as it was colloquially known “The Vice Presidential Temp Bill,” was basically what its nickname described it as. In the case where the Vice President spot in the one-two punch at the top of government is empty, the President can appoint anyone who fulfills the Constitutional guidelines to be Vice President. Of course, this appointment needs to be approved by Congress. Checks and balances and all of that. It is all in the 25th Amendment. Congress, in their infinite wisdom, decided that due to partisan bickering, the appointment of a Vice President might take more than an hour and decided to fix that. Not by solving their party differences and agreeing that in the chance a Veep needed to be confirmed to do it quickly, no, they decided to draft and put to vote Bill 342.

Bill 342, at its core, said that a President can name a temporary Vice President once during his term. The temp would only last 90 days, surely more than enough time for pork barrel politics to be fried on the pan of democracy. In order to further highlight how unique this proposal was and how it was meant only to be a stopgate, the bill included the provision saying that the temp VP did not even have to meet any of the requirements a “real” Vice President would have to. In the time of emergency, when a VP needed to be named immediately (as was Congress’s motivation for coming up with the bill), the man in charge of the tie-breaking vote in the Senate need not be American, could have flown in on the latest flight from Amsterdam where they have lived for the past 14 years, or barely have started puberty. On that last point, Thomas found himself in the crosshairs (though rest assured, puberty was long behind the young Jacobs).

The 51st President, David Jacobs, was furious at the Legislative for passing such a bill. A staunch Constitutionalist, 51st President Jacobs stared in horror at the bill when it was placed on his desk. As the big black X beckoned his signature, Jacobs thought of all the nasty things he could sign instead of his name. But that would not be presidential, not at all. And if there was something he liked more than being a staunch Constitutionalist, it was being presidential. So instead of signing the bill with regards to a few Congressmen’s mothers, 51st President Jacobs instead vetoed. He set his presidential office, his Chief of Staff, his deputy, his Communication Director, her deputy, his wolfpack, as he thought of them, upon the House and the Senate to make sure they would not overturn his veto. They overturned his veto. In fact, the bill gained more supporters the second go round, mainly because it was an election year, and the bill was framed as a safety measure. Why would anyone oppose a safety measure? That is, unless they read the fine print.

To say that 51st President Jacobs was boiling with Constitutional rage after that development would be an understatement. To say he was fuming would also be an understatement. He had reached the triple point of rage, where it could exist as a gas, solid, and liquid with the slightest poke. He begged the Supreme Court to rule the new guideline unconstitutional, but they refused. For while they agreed it was a pretty cut and dry case they could not do anything until it was brought up in the court of law as being illegal. That could only happen if the President actually appointed a Vice President by the use of Bill 342.

At this point in the story, it would be appropriate to bring up the fact that 51st President Jacobs did not have a Vice President to call his own when the bill was passed. The departure of his previous VP via the slip and fall down some icy steps left a piece of the ticket empty. Maybe Congress panicked and thought the ice was put there by an enemy of the state and that spurred the massive support of Bill 342 or they just didn’t like who 51st President Jacobs picked as his next Veep, but whatever the reason, the perfect situation that Bill 342 envisioned was present on the day of its birth.

So President David Jacobs, feeling like the only sane man in the Federal Triangle, decided to appoint his own son, Thomas, as the Vice President. Why not? It perfectly followed Bill 342, would get the ball rolling at the Department of Justice, and his son, while not interested in politics was a smart kid. The elder Jacobs knew Thomas had been by his side as David Jacobs went about being a lifelong politician, from governor of Florida, to Senator, to even a brief stint as mayor of a one road town in Southern Florida. Thomas had a good political head on his shoulder, through the very act of osmosis. Not that 51st President Jacobs was worried about Thomas having to do any politicking. He was sure that once Congress wiped the collective egg off their face for allowing such an eye-rolling appointment to be made without their approval, they would either hurry to pass another bill outlawing 342 or quite dragging their feet on Jacobs’ real pick for Vice President.

Surely, this would have happened had the stress of handling Bill 342 had not finally caught up to 51st President Jacobs the night he made his announcement of his son’s new role in the government to his inner circle. He wanted to hold off on a formal press conference till morning, imagining the Representatives and Senators waking up and eating their toast and nearly choking on their OJ as the President’s press secretary stood behind the podium, reading a prepared statement. Thomas Jacobs, visiting from graduate school in the Midwest, hesitantly said he would be at that press conference to smile at the cameras. While he stood behind his father’s decision, understanding fully both his dad’s reasoning and the impact of Bill 342, he was a scientist, not a politician. The last hand he had shook was encased in a plastic glove and the hand shaking only followed a transfer of chemicals. The little voice in Thomas’s head said that this situation could wildly fly out of control, but the scientist/politician-by-osmosis voice said this was a control test, in both the scientific and politician senses.

If the story ended there, well, it wouldn’t be much of a story now would it? Pretty boring. No, the story really begins when Thomas Jacobs was awoken at exactly 2:12 AM in the guest bedroom of the President Residence.


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