Helsinki. Chapter 1

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Trump and Melania are sitting in their White House suite. At the table.

Melania – What happened?

Trump – Nothing. The press, as usual, is making much too much of it.

Melania – I was watching. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.

Trump – Why?

Melania – Because in front of Putin, of all people, you devalue our intelligence services.

Trump – Didn’t I come right back and correct myself?

Melania – ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia. Sort of a double negative,’ you add casually. Sorry, that won’t do. And then you go right back into your old rant that there was no collusion.

Trump – Rant?

Melania – What else am I supposed to call it?

He gets up and walks over to the window.

Trump – It was a bad moment, I’ll agree.

Melania – it is the beginning of the end.

He crosses his arms as he looks out into the evening light.

Melania – That video clip will haunt you for the rest of your life.

Trump – Right. And you see me shaking in my boots, don’t you?

Melania – All the worse.

She rises and steps over to join him.

Trump – I thought you believed me when I said there was no collusion.

Melania – Still do, but your contempt for the Mueller investigation undermines your case. And you’ve been stuck in that position.

Trump – It’s all politics. They’re after my head and I won’t hand it over.

Melania – If you’re innocent, what is there to fear?

Trump – You’re being naïve. They have a way of setting up traps.

They look at each other.

Melania – Putin, who annexed the Crimea and invaded the Ukraine, Putin, whose people shot down the Malaysian airliner…

Trump – It didn’t happen on my watch.

Melania – You think he’s holding back because of you?

Trump – He hasn’t annexed more territory.

Melania – Not yet.

She shakes her head disapprovingly.

Melania – As president, you stand for something far larger than yourself…

Trump – It’ll blow over, like everything else.

Melania – Not this. In Helsinki, you failed.

He crosses his arms.

Trump – You really think this is all that damaging?

Melania – It is the beginning of the end.

Trump – Well, then, my lady, it will bring me great pleasure to prove you wrong.

Melania – Do you really not believe that Russian hackers interfered with the election?

Trump – They set up some fake accounts but their impact didn’t affect the outcome.

Melania – The electoral votes of three states where you won by less than 80 thousand votes made the difference.

Trump – You cannot prove that those fake accounts changed their minds.

Melania – You cannot disprove it, either.

Trump – The point is then moot.

Melania – How could that large scale operation go on in Russia without Putin’s consent?

Trump – There’s always rogue operators.

Melania – Rogue operators?

Trump – Yes, of course. Look, I don’t know everything that goes on in this country.

She looks at him, incredulous.

Melania – You don’t think Putin is a dictator, with complete control of his country?

Trump – There are different kinds of dictators, some likeable and some not. Russians like Putin. For the most part.

Melania – And you do, too.

Trump – Do I like Putin? Personally? Yes. I do. What’s wrong with that?

Melania – What’s wrong with that is that when you were elected president you became the moral beacon of the nation, and when you like Putin you’re letting him off the hook.

Trump – I said I like him personally, that does not mean I approve of his actions.

Melania – But you believe his denials. That’s where the liking comes in.

Trump – It’s tactical. My greater aim is to negotiate with him, to keep world peace. And to do that I need to have a common bond.

Melania – You’re giving him a free pass.

Trump (angrily) – I’m not giving him a free pass!

Melania – That’s not what the clip showed. It showed you fooling yourself, and because you’re our president, you’re fooling us too.

He turns and takes a few steps into the room.

Trump – Where does it say that when I became president, I became the moral beacon of the nation?

Melania – It’s implicit.

Trump – I’m a deal maker. I was elected to solve problems and that’s what I’m doing. I was elected to put more money in people’s pockets, to cut back on regulations, to cut back taxes. I was elected to raise tariffs so I can protect the wellbeing of my fellow Americans. I was elected to stanch the flow of immigrants into this country because we have enough already and they’re taking advantage of us. I was elected to make America great again. To do that, I have to deal with a lot of folks. And it helps if you like them. It’s easier to do business and you get more done. Anyway, the voters must’ve been fed up with moral beacons that they chose me.

Melania – They are already regretting it.

Trump – Really? Well, here’s my answer to you. I’m going to get reelected in 2020. I know that. I already have a lot of money coming in in political contributions and there’s no one – no one – who will come even close to matching my campaign treasure. Money talks.

Melania – Put another way, Money Trumps Morality.

Trump (chuckling) – I live in the real world, Melania, not in a purity bubble. I may not have been moral, according to you, but I have been successful.

Melania – Will Vladimir be in the stands cheering you on when you get reelected?

Trump – I hadn’t thought of that but now that you mention it, I just might invite him.

He returns to the window and stands next to her.

Melania – Does viewing the video clip of Helsinki not make you sick?

Trump – It does not. I’m not squeamish.

Melania – Then there’s something wrong with you. Deeply wrong.

Trump – Have you not known that for a while?

She looks at him.

Melania – I have.

Trump – And still you stayed.

Melania – Yes.

Trump – You’ve enjoyed the accommodations?

Melania – I suppose.

Trump – Having my child?

Melania (testily) – Our child.

Trump – Enjoyed being in the limelight?

Melania – Nothing of what you’re saying discredits me.

Trump – If you think I’m morally corrupt, then you are too.

Melania – You’re in such a rush to put me down, aren’t you? But you overlook that I’ve been willing to work with you. You, who unlike me does not view marriage as a commitment to improve each other, no matter what the circumstances, known and unknown.

She walks off a few paces then turns to face him again.

Melania – Have I enjoyed the trappings of power? I have. But I am not cheering you on, am I? No, I am taking you to task as I should. As usual, though, you have trouble sorting out your personal discomfort.

He lowers his head as he joins his hands in front of him.

Trump – We’re cut from the same cloth, dear, and we might as well have fun with it.

She smiles wryly at him.

Melania – There’s a difference.

Trump – What would that be?

Melania – I’m going to do something about it.

He looks at her distrustfully.

Melania – That video clip that did not make you sick but did me and millions of Americans, showed you desperately wanting to be liked by Putin, and that goes well beyond allowing oneself to like someone because it might help transact business. What the clip showed was that, for some reason, you need to be liked by Putin.

Trump (irritated) – I don’t need to be liked by Putin!

Melania – Go back and watch the clip.

He closes his eyes and quiet follows.

Trump – You are wrong. Very wrong.

He goes back into the room at sits at the table. He leans forward, rubbing his face, then sits back.

Trump – I would never betray my country.

Melania – I know you wouldn’t. But Neville Chamberlain, in 1938, didn’t set out to betray England when he let Hitler talk him into trading part of Czechoslovakia for a promise of peace.

She returns to the table to join him. She takes a seat.

Trump – Why has there not been more of an uproar about what the clip showed?

Melania – There has been an uproar, you’re just growing deaf to public outcries. You prefer to listen to Fox News and talk to their commentators who tell you what you want to hear. And so, slowly, you’ve been slipping into a cocoon that others are too eager to provide.

You want a glass of cider?

He nods.

She goes into the closet and gets a bottle of cider and some low calorie crackers. She opens the bottle and serves the crackers. He pours the cider.

Trump – You want to have sex?

Melania – No.

Trump – Why not?

Melania – It would be a distraction. 

He sips from his glass.

Trump – Did you want to talk about Stormy Daniels?

Melania – We’ll get to that. We need to talk about your legitimacy as president.

Trump – My legitimacy?

Melania – Yes. We have reason to question it.

Trump – There’s no way of proving that the interference made a difference. It’s a witch hunt.

She picks up her glass and holds it up high.

Melania – ‘Please, carry on folks, as fast as you can, let’s clear the air. Do make haste, for the sake of the country, for there are many other things that need our attention and are being neglected.’

(then turning to Trump)

Will you ever be able to say that about the Mueller probe?

He shrugs dismissively.

Trump – We should talk about Stormy.

Melania – Stormy can wait. And Karen and whoever else.

Trump – Melania… I’m a flawed man and you’ve known it all along. And dammit, I’m innocent! I did not collude with Putin!

Melania – Then start acting like it!

They say nothing for a moment.

Melania – Openly criticizing staunch allies like Theresa May and Angela Merkel is harmful… and so is starting a needless trade war.

Trump – I need my war.

Melania -Sure you do. And you do to distract us from addressing your legitimacy. Bluster and blarney.

He rises and walk off a few paces.

Trump – Mueller will try and set me up.

Melania – You just don’t trust our institutions, do you?

Trump – Maybe I don’t.

Melania – And you do not trust yourself with Putin.

He turns around.

Melania – If you had trusted yourself, when the reporter asked the pointed question about Russian interference, you would’ve calmly turned to Putin, looked him in the eye, and said, ‘my intelligence services have established that there was interference from your nation in our elections, and it is them whom I believe.’

He shakes his head in disagreement.

Melania – And when the reporter pressed you for an answer to his second question, demanding you publicly warn Putin never to do it again, you could simply have replied, ‘the time and place for that is my prerogative. I make my choices. Thank you. Next question?’ And you could’ve done so with dignity because with your first answer you had taken the reins.

He turns and heads back to stand by the window, looking out.

Melania – But who knows what you said to him when you met in private, with only the translators.

They say nothing for a moment.

Melania – It’s a problem Dee… a big problem. If you don’t trust yourself, they why should we trust you?

He crosses to the foot of the bed where his jacket lies, picks it up and walks toward the door.

Trump – I’m going for a walk. Need to clear my head.

He exits.

Oscar Valdes.     Oscarvaldes.net.   Available in anchor.fm – apple podcasts and buzzsprout

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