Monday, November 23, 2054

Chapter Thirty-Four

As the remainder of the week spun out, they soon discovered that Paul's instincts had struck a nerve again and Addie's dire predictions were proved baseless. The mainstream media refused to be distracted. They hadn't finished debating Paul's past indiscretions and continued harping on that one subject whether anyone was paying attention or not. The far right screamed that Paul was too tarnished to be taken seriously. The far left claimed his past was nothing, but have you looked at some of the crap in his platform? Since nobody was ready to talk substance yet, his platform was brushed off as soon as it was mentioned.

What the media soon discovered was that they were the only ones discussing it. The public, at large, was mostly just ignoring the subject; not condemning or excusing, just mostly ignoring.

The campaign's website had posted the complete party platform, and while they had no way of knowing how many people were reading the complete document, they had registered a little over 60,000 hits on the page in the first week.

Another development was that people were making donations to the campaign through the website; not large donations, but an awful lot of small ones. At the rate things were going, the campaign would qualify for federal matching funds within 6 weeks. Not that money was a problem at the moment. Paul's silent backers had reaffirmed their support following his announcement and release of the party platform. They were limited by campaign finance laws to donating $20,000 to the campaign directly and another $50,000 each to the newly established party. Since Paul was the only candidate, this amounted to a distinction without a difference. His backers were out of the closet now, since donations this size were a matter of public record. Now, they openly solicited donations from other people in their social spheres. No, the campaign was not hurting for money.

By the end of the week, Paul discovered that if he wasn't a rock star himself, the music world had noticed him. The Dixie Chicks had appeared before a sold-out crowd at the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. wearing T-shirts emblazoned "Vote or Shut the Fuck Up". His original wording would be completely forgotten and this would be the quote attributed to him. He wasn't unhappy with the prospect.

The T-shirt quickly became 2004's pet rock. Schools all over the country tried, unsuccessfully to ban them, but soon bowed to the underlying sentiment and contented themselves with making kids put two-inch masking tape over the offensive part. And then variations on the theme appeared. The League of Women Voters made a fortune selling a shirt reading, "If you haven't voted, kindly hold your peace". Baby Gap had a tiny little shirt that said, "Vote or my mommy will say a bad word".

And people weren't just talking about it. They were acting on it. In at least five documented cases, bar fights had broken out when one yahoo yelled at the TV and then was shouted down by his bar mates who knew he hadn't voted since 1988.

Even though Paul wasn't watching the polls, other people were, and Paul was showing a respectable 6% support only a week after announcing. Considering Ross Perot had one of the most successful third party runs in history and hadn't cracked 20% of the popular vote, Paul's campaign felt they were off to a good start. The trick would be to build on it.

The campaign reached another milestone in its first week. On Friday, a columnist for the Washington Post forwarded a death threat for Paul he'd received that morning. It read, in part, "YOU WILL NOT ROOIN (sic) THIS COUNTRIE (sic) BY INFECTING (sic?) YOUR FOWL (sic) LIFESTILE (sic) ON THE BLEEDING MASSES!!! YOU WILL DIE IN A BLAZE OF GORY (sic) THAT WILL WARN OFF OTHERS OF YOUR ICK (sic?)" Nobody got overly worked up over the threat since, a.) the guy apparently couldn't find either Paul's or the campaign's address to mail the letter to and b.) he'd signed his name and address in Duluth, GA. They forwarded the letter to the FBI and asked Senator Bolling to look into Secret Service protection. In the meantime, they'd hire a private security firm and Darrell was put in charge of finding a firm.

On the Monday following Paul's announcement, they held their first press conference. Addie purposely set it up to be highly informal. Instead of standing at a podium, Paul was seated at a table with a microphone, much like an NFL coach might field questions from the press. She also, purposely rented a banquet room that was too small to accommodate all of the reporters who said they'd be coming. Better to feel too crowded than sparsely attended. The press was told that no subject would be off limits as long as every question related only to the policy statements they had released. They were not required to submit questions in advance.

Addie gleefully told twelve latecomers that they should have come earlier, there was no more room for them. When they threatened to retaliate by not covering Paul's campaign, she just smiled and said that would be a neat trick. When Paul entered the room at Ten a.m., the room was filled to bursting. He took his seat and said, "Good morning. Thank you all for coming. I'm sorry, except for the TV types, I don't know any of your names yet. We'll rectify that in the weeks to come. Please forgive me for just pointing today. Just so you know, we've scheduled this thing for an hour, but I'm prepared to stay and answer your questions as long as it takes. In the interest of full disclosure, I just want to let you know that this camera behind me is recording the questions and that one at the back of the room is on me and my answers. If I say anything stupid, it'll be fair game, but if I'm misquoted or quoted out of context, I intend to be able to shoot back. So, who wants to be first?"

Every hand in the room went up.

Paul pointed to a woman in the front row. She stood and said, "I'm Roxie Schaeffer, Associated Press. I'd like to hear more about your plan for Universal Military Service. Do you really think people are going to stand for that?"

Paul said, "Actually, you can't take that issue by itself. Its related to and intertwined with some other parts of my policy. Lets start with the 2nd Amendment. It says, and I quote, 'A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.' So, what I'd like to see is every U.S. Citizen to serve a period of time in uniform, say three years, and then periodically return for a couple of weeks of training, say until they're 35. They'd be available for recall until then in the event of National Emergency. So, I want everybody in the country in the militia and I want to regulate the hell out of it."

Another reporter raised his hand. After being recognized, he stood and said, "Malcom Risso, Telemundo. Surely you meant to say, 'able-bodied".

Paul, replied, "No, I mean every U.S. Citizen. Certainly there will be deferments, but they're going to be the exception. First of all, understand that the core of the military will be the voluntary forces we have now. But the militias will have the same table of organization, meaning that in addition to combat arms, there are a whole lot of jobs that need to be filled in a functioning military. If there is a job that a person is capable of performing, that's where they'll be slotted. So, yes, a paraplegic who can type with voice commands will get a clerical job. A nineteen year old with Downs Syndrome will work in supply helping load trucks. And before anyone asks, 'Yes, that means gays, too'. I don't care who asks and I don't care who tells, military service in the U.S. will be as universal as humanly possible."

Roxie Schaeffer was signaling for attention, crying, "Follow up, follow up". When recognized, she said, "This goes back to my original question. Do you really think people are going to stand for that?"

Paul said, "Ultimately, yes, I think they will when taken together with the other related policies. First of all, you may not have connected these things, but if you read all of my policy statements, you'd know that I want to completely eliminate Federal Income Tax. In its place we'd have a consumer tax, based strictly on purchases with a sliding scale for luxury goods. Any active duty military would be exempt from paying Federal sales tax, just by showing current I.D. I think that's going to make sense to a lot of people and appeal to just as many."

Another reporter vied for attention. "Pete Ainsley, ABC News. You prefaced this by connecting it to the 2nd Amendment. Is there some gun connection I missed?"

Paul said, "Its right there in the handouts. As members of the military, active or reservists, there will also be universal mandatory gun ownership."

The room erupted into a chaos of shouted questions.


chris said...

i just can't get enough of this story! keep 'em comin!

Nathan said...

I'm slaving away at chapter 35

kimberly-ann said...

We are still waiting...patiently of course :)

Nathan said...

I'm stuck on one thing in the next chapter, but I feel a breakthrough coming on.