Trump and the Power of Pardons

Trump is in the Oval Office at the White House. He’s sitting alone behind his desk… feeling sad and lonely.

He clasps his hands and pushes back in his chair. This is not a good spot he is in. Joe Biden is ahead in the polls. The number of Coronavirus infections has kept going up. The death toll is mounting.

True, the economy’s charge back is a bright spot… but will people forget the death count? Will they forget the pain?

China had not been fully transparent at the outset of the epidemic but still there had been time to take better precautions, and if he had acted promptly the numbers would not be so horrible.

He rubbed his face, looked down at the ground.

He had made a note to himself to call up Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, to thank him for the extraordinary foresight and energy he and his team had shown injecting massive funds into the economy to ensure liquidity, but he hadn’t got around to it. Would he?

It was hard for Trump to acknowledge Powell’s grand moment.

Hard for him to acknowledge that it had not been his press conferences or his refusal to wear a mask that had boosted the spirits of the nation. No. It had been the feisty governors, mostly democratic, and yes, through it all, Jerome Powel and the Federal Reserve. The bankers, with their commitment to their work, had seized the spotlight and taken it from him.  

Congress had acted, too, and passed very important relief bills – but the spotlight was Powell’s.

Trump crossed his legs, brought his palms together beneath his chin and looked up at the ceiling. He felt his eyes grow misty… he felt so alone.

A lump of emotion formed in his throat and he took a deep breath.

If he had been a songwriter… he would have started to write the words for a song… ‘Don’t cry for me, USA, don’t cry for me…’

He shook his head disconsolately.

There were still three and a half months to election day but he already felt defeated.

Beaten down.

Then, abruptly, he clenched his fists. ‘What am I doing?’

He sat up and sprang to his feet, crossing to the window where he threw open the curtains.

Ah, yes… there was the city in its full splendor. Yes. And he felt a rush of relief. All was not lost. Not at all.

It wasn’t Biden that was defeating him, it was the Corona virus. All the mistakes he’d made, the talk of Russian interference, the bruising of long held alliances, the Ukrainian imbroglio, nothing of that had stopped the economy from rising steadily… until the virus hit.

Yes, Biden and the democrats had the virus to thank. If it weren’t for it, Biden and his lot of socialists would be well behind in the polls.

But the virus had happened.

Maybe it was divine intervention. No. Not that. God was on his side. It was more like a test.

Trump looked out and smiled. He loved the sight of the city from his window. And he loathed the idea that he might have to surrender it to a democrat.

He would’ve been glad to surrender it to Pence, instead, after serving a second term.

But no, he would not go down easily. If he had to sign bill after bill of relief funds, he would. And he would because his supporters were counting on him and he would not disappoint them.

He was an embattled president, wasn’t he? Yes, he was. He loved a good fight. And yes, he was going to do everything he could to beat back the socialists and fascists who wanted to tear up the very heart of America.

He would not let down the great nation, like he would not let down his friends.

Just the day before he had signed a pardon for his old time ally, Roger Stone, as he was about to start serving a three year sentence. No, he would not allow Roger to suffer that indignity.  

Trump kept looking out the window and crossed his arms. He was feeling better now. A little better. He had friends, yes, people who counted on him. But he knew, too, that he was running out of time. So he needed to face the facts. He had dealt with many painful situations in his life, having had to declare bankruptcy many times, and if he hadn’t acted decisively then the Trump brand would not have existed and he would not be standing in the Oval office.

He smiled to himself.

So, no, he was not going down without a fight… and even if he went down, bloodied and bruised, there would still be life after the White House. ‘Let’s face it,’ he said aloud, ‘I’m a historical figure, a turning point in the history of America. From here on out there will be two eras, the B.T., Before Trump, and the A.T., After Trump. Now, that was power. Great power.’

And yes, he would have to live with the regret that there would be no Nobel Prize for him, like there had been for his predecessor, the African born president passing himself as Hawaiian.

He chuckled. It was not deserved anyway, he consoled himself. The Swedes and Norwegians gave the prize to Obama at the start of his presidency before he had done anything, which was just as well because he didn’t do anything. In effect, Obama had got a Nobel Prize for being Black.

‘But don’t cry for me, USA!’ Trump exclaimed defiantly, surprised that he had shouted the words.

He nodded thoughtfully, closed his eyes and rubbed his chin.

Yes, he was a businessman at the core… and he had to protect the downside. He must, because there was the possibility that this time the polls were right, and Biden would beat him.

Never mind the debates, where he was sure to trounce Biden (surely Biden had something to say about that). He would have no mercy for Joe, Trump continued, because he didn’t deserve any.

Trump checked his watch. It was 4:58 pm. He had asked Pence to meet him at the office at 5.

He stayed looking out the window and two minutes later, exactly on time, there was a knock at the door.

‘Come on in!’ he cried.

And Pence stepped in. He went over to where Trump stood and they shook hands. Trump signaled for Pence to take a seat opposite him at his desk.

Quiet followed.

Then Trump began. ‘Mike… there is the possibility that, this time, the polls are right.’

‘What?’ Pence shook his head vigorously. ‘I don’t believe them. Not one of them. It’s all fake news.’

‘Thank you, Mike, you have been so loyal. To the point that you chose not to wear a mask when you visited Mayo Clinic. You went into the hospital wards where all the doctors were wearing them and you, alone, stood out for not having one on. That took guts.’

‘Thank you,’ said Pence, though it occurred to him that he had acted like an idiot, ‘I’d do it again, too,’ he added.

‘That’s precisely the kind of spirit we need when the chips are down. Now Mike… the reason I’ve asked you in… is that I need your help.’

‘Anything… you know that,’ said Pence.

They paused for an instant.

‘I had a dream last night,’ resumed Trump, ‘where I was standing on top of the staircase to Air Force One, ready to board, and I waved back. I had lost the election.’

‘No way,’ said Pence emphatically. ‘It won’t happen, the economy is bouncing back, before long it will be reaching record highs, and there will be major breakthroughs in getting the vaccine. People will be back to work and the unemployment rate will be close to where it was before Corona.’

Trump smiled wistfully. And he wanted to believe his loyal friend but he needed to cover his downside. He was, after all, a practical man.

‘Mike… if I lose…’

‘Don’t think that way,’ interrupted Pence, leaning forward, ‘You’re a winner, you’re what America needs.’

Trump nodded slowly, then, ‘Mike… if I lose… I need you to pardon me.’

Pence stared back at Trump, startled, then sat back in his chair and looked down at the desk in front of him.

‘Pardon you for what? You haven’t done anything wrong.’

‘I know, but you don’t know what these democrats will come up with, anything to drive me down into the muck… when all my work has been to elevate America.’

Pence nodded thoughtfully.

‘But how could I do that, I’d have to be president to pardon you?’

‘True… so I would make you president.’

‘What?’

‘If I lose… which I don’t think I will, but if I lose… I’d resign before the end of my term so you would become president… and then, after a week or so in office, you would turn around and pardon me.’

Pence raised his eyebrows. ‘You would be willing to do that?’

‘Yes.’

‘When would you resign?’

‘Right after New Year’s Day… which would leave you about 3 weeks in office. Enough time to handle one crisis or another, and then you would become former president Pence, and that would make you the leading candidate against Biden in 2024.’

Pence nodded approvingly, the possibilities dawning on him. ‘I would be the leader of the Republican party, with plenty of time to raise money to beat Biden or whoever became the democratic candidate.’

‘That’s the idea. Of course, if you want, I’d be glad to campaign for you,’ said Trump, ‘if you want.’

There was quiet again.

Then Pence smiled a big smile, his eyes sparkling, and extended his hand to Trump.

‘Deal,’ Pence said, gushing. And Trump’s sagging spirits were suddenly lifted.

‘You made my day, Mike,’ said Trump.

‘Now let’s get on with it and win this next election,’ said Pence, effusively.

And the two men rose, walked toward each other and embraced.

Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for A Nation. Available on Amazon.

Oscarvaldes.net