- Author: Randall Garrett
Read book online «Hail to the Chief by Randall Garrett (recommended reading TXT) 📕». Author - Randall Garrett
BY SAM AND
A great politician need not be a statesman ... but it is inherently futile to be a great statesman, and no politician. Except, of course, for a miracle ...
■ The tumult in Convention Hall was a hurricane of sound that lashed at a sea of human beings that surged and eddied around the broad floor. Men and women, delegates and spectators, aged party wheelhorses and youngsters who would vote for the first time that November, all lost their identities to merge with that swirling tide. Over their heads, like agitated bits of flotsam, pennants fluttered and placards rose and dipped. Beneath their feet, discarded metal buttons that bore the names of two or three "favorite sons" and those that had touted the only serious contender against the party's new candidate were trodden flat. None of them had ever really had a chance.
The buttons that were now pinned on every lapel said: "Blast 'em With Cannon!" or "Cannon Can Do!" The placards and the box-shaped signs, with a trifle more dignity, said: WIN WITH CANNON and CANNON FOR PRESIDENT and simply JAMES H. CANNON.
Occasionally, in the roar of noise, there were shouts of "Cannon! Cannon! Rah! Rah! Rah! Cannon! Cannon! Sis-boom-bah!" and snatches of old popular tunes hurriedly set with new words:
White House, here we come!
He's a winner, no beginner;
He can get things done!
(Rah! Rah! Rah!)
And, over in one corner, a group of college girls were enthusiastically chanting:
We want J. H. C. for Prexy!
It was a demonstration that lasted nearly three times as long as the eighty-five-minute demonstration that had occurred when Representative Matson had first proposed his name for the party's nomination.
Spatially, Senator James Harrington Cannon was four blocks away from Convention Hall, in a suite at the Statler-Hilton, but electronically, he was no farther away than the television camera that watched the cheering multitude from above the floor of the hall.
The hotel room was tastefully and expensively decorated, but neither the senator nor any of the other men in the room were looking at anything else except the big thirty-six-inch screen that glowed and danced with color. The network announcer's words were almost inaudible, since the volume had been turned way down, but his voice sounded almost as excited as those from the convention floor.
Senator Cannon's broad, handsome face showed a smile that indicated pleasure, happiness, and a touch of triumph. His dark, slightly wavy hair, with the broad swathes of silver at the temples, was a little disarrayed, and there was a splash of cigarette ash on one trouser leg, but otherwise, even sitting there in his shirt sleeves, he looked well-dressed. His wide shoulders tapered down to a narrow waist and lean hips, and he looked a good ten years younger than his actual fifty-two.
He lit another cigarette, but a careful scrutiny of his face would have revealed that, though his eyes were on the screen, his thoughts were not in Convention Hall.
Representative Matson, looking like an amazed bulldog, managed to chew and puff on his cigar simultaneously and still speak understandable English. "Never saw anything like it. Never. First ballot and you had it, Jim. I know Texas was going to put up Perez as a favorite son on the first ballot, but they couldn't do anything except jump on the bandwagon by the time the vote reached them. Unanimous on the first ballot."
Governor Spanding, a lantern-jawed, lean man sitting on the other side of Senator Cannon, gave a short chuckle and said, "Came close not t' being unanimous. The delegate from Alabama looked as though he was going to stick to his 'One vote for Byron Beauregarde Cadwallader' until Cadwallader himself went over to make him change his vote before the first ballot was complete."
The door opened, and a man came in from the other room. He bounced in on the balls of his feet, clapped his hands together, and dry-washed them briskly. "We're in!" he said, with businesslike glee. "Image, gentlemen! That's what does it: Image!" He was a tall, rather bony-faced man in his early forties, and his manner was that of the self-satisfied businessman who is quite certain that he knows all of the answers and all of the questions. "Create an image that the public goes for, and you're in!"
Senator Cannon turned his head around and grinned. "Thanks, Horvin, but let's remember that we still have an election to win."
"We'll win it," Horvin said confidently. "A properly projected image attracts the public—"
"Oh, crud," said Representative Matson in a growly voice. "The opposition has just as good a staff of PR men as we do. If we beat 'em, it'll be because we've got a better man, not because we've got better public relations."
"Of course," said Horvin, unabashed. "We can project a better image because we've got better material to work with. We—"
"Jim managed to get elected to the Senate without any of your help, and he went in with an avalanche. If there's any 'image projecting' done around here, Jim is the one who does it."
Horvin nodded his head as though he were in complete agreement with Matson. "Exactly. His natural ability plus the scientific application of mass psychology make an unbeatable team."
Matson started to say something, but Senator Cannon cut in first. "He's right, Ed. We've got to use every weapon we have to win this election. Another four years of the present policies, and the Sino-Russian Bloc will be able to start unilateral disarmament. They won't have to start a war to bury us."
Horvin looked nervous. "Uh ... Senator—"
Cannon made a motion in the air. "I know, I know. Our policy during the campaign will be to run down the opposition, not the United States. We are still in a strong position, but if this goes on—Don't worry, Horvin; the whole thing will be handled properly."
Before any of them could say anything, Senator Cannon turned to Representative Matson and said: "Ed, will you get Matthew Fisher on the phone? And the Governor of Pennsylvania and ... let's see ... Senator Hidekai and Joe Vitelli."
"I didn't even know Fisher was here," Matson said. "What do you want him for?"
"I just want to talk to him, Ed. Get him up here, with the others, will you?"
"Sure, Jim; sure." He got up and walked over to the phone.
Horvin, the PR man, said: "Well, Senator, now that you're the party's candidate for the Presidency of the United States, who are you going to pick for your running mate? Vollinger was the only one who came even close to giving you a run for your money, and it would be good public relations if you chose him. He's got the kind of personality that would make a good image."
"Horvin," the senator said kindly, "I'll pick the men; you build the image from the raw material I give you. You're the only man I know who can convince the public that a sow's ear is really a silk purse, and you may have to do just that.
"You can start right now. Go down and get hold of the news boys and tell them that the announcement of my running mate will be made as soon as this demonstration is over.
"Tell them you can't give them any information other than that, but give them the impression that you already know. Since you don't know, don't try to guess; that way you won't let any cats out of the wrong bags. But you do know that he's a fine man, and you're pleased as all hell that I made such a good choice. Got that?"
Horvin grinned. "Got it. You pick the man; I'll build the image." He went out the door.
When the door had closed, Governor Spanding said: "So it's going to be Fisher, is it?"
"You know too much, Harry," said Senator Cannon, grinning. "Remind me to appoint you ambassador to Patagonia after Inauguration Day."
"If I lose the election at home, I may take you up on it. But why Matthew Fisher?"
"He's a good man, Harry."
"Hell yes, he is," the governor said. "Tops. I've seen his record as State Attorney General and as Lieutenant Governor. And when Governor Dinsmore died three years ago, Fisher did a fine job filling out his last year. But—"
"But he couldn't get re-elected two years ago," Senator Cannon said. "He couldn't keep the governor's office, in spite of the great job he'd done."
"That's right. He's just not a politician, Jim. He doesn't have the ... the personality, the flash, whatever it is that it takes to get a man elected by the people. I've got it; you sure as hell have it; Fisher doesn't."
"That's why I've got Horvin working for us," said Senator Cannon. "Whether I need him or not may be a point of argument. Whether Matthew Fisher needs him or not is a rhetorical question."
Governor Spanding lit a cigarette in silence while he stared at the quasi-riot that was still coming to the screen from Convention Hall. Then he said: "You've been thinking of Matt Fisher all along, then."
"Not Patagonia," said the senator. "Tibet."
"I'll shut up if you want me to, Jim."
"No. Go ahead."
"All right. Jim, I trust your judgment. I've got no designs on the Vice Presidency myself, and you know it. I like to feel that, if I had, you'd give me a crack at it. No, don't answer that, Jim; just let me talk.
"What I'm trying to say is that there are a lot of good men in the party who'd make fine VP's; men who've given their all to get you the nomination, and who'll work even harder to see that you're elected. Why pass them up in favor of a virtual unknown like Matt Fisher?"
Senator Cannon didn't say anything. He knew that Spanding didn't want an answer yet.
"The trouble with Fisher," Spanding went on, "is that he ... well, he's too autocratic. He pulls decisions out of midair. He—" Spanding paused, apparently searching for a way to express himself. Senator Cannon said nothing; he waited expectantly.
"Take a look at the Bossard Decision," Spanding said. "Fisher was Attorney General for his state at the time.
"Bossard was the Mayor of Waynesville—twelve thousand and something population, I forget now. Fisher didn't even know Bossard. But when the big graft scandal came up there in Waynesville, Fisher wouldn't prosecute. He didn't actually refuse, but he hemmed and hawed around for five months before he really started the State's machinery to moving. By that time, Bossard had managed to get enough influence behind him so that he could beat the rap.
"When the case came to trial in the State Supreme Court, Matt Fisher told the Court that it was apparent that Mayor Bossard was the victim of the local district attorney and the chief of police of Waynesville. In spite of the evidence against him, Bossard was acquitted." Spanding took a breath to say something more, but Senator James Cannon interrupted him.
"Not 'acquitted', Harry. 'Exonerated'. Bossard never even should have come to trial," the senator said. "He was a popular, buddy-buddy sort of guy who managed to get himself involved as an unwitting figurehead. Bossard simply wasn't—and isn't—very bright. But he was a friendly, outgoing, warm sort of man who was able to get elected through the auspices of the local city machine. Remember Jimmy Walker?"
Spanding nodded. "Yes, but—"
"Same thing," Cannon cut in. "Bossard was innocent, as far as any criminal intent was concerned, but he was too easy on his so-called friends. He—"
"Oh, crud, Jim!" the governor interrupted vehemently. "That's the same whitewash that Matthew Fisher gave him! The evidence would have convicted Bossard if Fisher hadn't given him time to cover up!"
Senator James Cannon suddenly became angry. He jammed his own cigarette butt into the ash tray, turned toward Spanding, and snapped: "Harry, just for the sake of argument, let's suppose that Bossard wasn't actually guilty. Let's suppose that the Constitution of the United States is really true—that a man isn't guilty until he's proven guilty.
"Just suppose"—his voice and expression became suddenly acid—"that Bossard was not guilty. Try that, huh? Pretend, somewhere in your own little mind, that a mere accusation—no matter what the evidence—doesn't prove anything! Let's just make a little game between the two of us that the ideal of Equality Under the Law means what it says. Want to play?"
"Well, yes, but—"
"O.K.," Cannon went on angrily. "O.K. Then let's suppose that Bossard really was stupid. He could have been framed easily, couldn't he? He could have been set up as a patsy, couldn't he? Couldn't he?"
"Well, sure, but—"
"Sure! Then go on and suppose that the prosecuting attorney had sense enough to see that Bossard had been framed. Suppose further that the prosecutor was enough of a human being to know that Bossard either had to be convicted or completely exonerated. What would he do?"
Governor Spanding carefully put his cigarette into the nearest ash tray. "If that were the case, I'd completely exonerate him. I wouldn't leave it hanging. Matt Fisher didn't do anything but make sure that Bossard couldn't be legally convicted; he didn't prove that Bossard was innocent."
"And what was the result, as far as Bossard was concerned?" the senator asked.
Spanding looked around at the senator, staring Cannon straight in the face. "The result was that Bossard was left hanging, Jim. If I go along with you and assume that Bossard was innocent, then Fisher fouled up just as badly as he would have if he'd fluffed the prosecution of a guilty man. Either a man is guilty, or he's innocent. If, according to your theory, the prosecutor knows he's innocent, then he should exonerate the