"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Biden’s Border Adventure–Rice And Beans, Mariachi, And Fond Memories Of Jose, The Gardener

Vice President Harris never got to the border, side-stepping it by about two hundred miles to El Paso; so President Biden knew he had to go.  Illegal immigrants were coming across the Rio Grande in record numbers, and although he was on record as welcoming all comers, the political cost of such an open sluice gate was beginning to tell.  The Governors of border states were hard pressed to house the thousands of Hondurans and Salvadorans let in without penalty, and national opinion polls were showing an increasingly restive American population.

Image result for images Mariachi band sombreros

“I’m going”, said the President despite the reluctance of his counselors who after six months knew that even before a friendly audience, he loses his way.  Just yesterday at a press conference, agreed to with some concern by his handlers, the President not only went off message, he went off script.  Not only that, he answered the CNN anchor’s question about inflation with a non sequitur about the Delaware Bay, the great ships that docked there, the white sandy beaches of Rehoboth, and his grandmother’s corned beef and cabbage.

Finally catching himself, he ended with a patch-up coda.  “Inflation”, he replied. “An airy topic”, and smiling his toothy, winning smile, squinting in the television lights, he pointed to the back of the briefing room, remembering that his handlers had stocked the bleachers with friends.

So, no, a solo trip to the border would be a very bad idea.

“I’m ready”, said the President, “and I’ve brushed up on my Spanish”.  

He was proud of his gardener Spanish, loved the camaraderie with the Latino mowers who did his lawn every few weeks in the summer, and thought they were fine fellows and good Americans.  Of course he hedged this last thought.  There was something funny about Jose’s papers, he remembered; but that was long before the flap about legality.  He cared first and foremost about Jose and his family than he did about any political rectitude, but his staff had buried any trace of that possible impropriety years ago, leaving him with his fond and fuzzy memories.

Image result for images latino gardeners

“That’s excellent, Mr. President”, said Ramon Alfaro, his White House butler, “Que le vaya bien”.  Biden smiled and nodded, but with no clue about what the servant had said; but given his long years of service with him in Delaware and in the Obama White House, it must have been good.  “It’s time for Ramon to be let out to pasture”, thought Biden; but if he did indeed open the barn door, his critics would be sure to look inside for him.

The President decided on a short introductory presentation in Spanish on the steps of Air Force One once he arrived in Texas, and then he would disappear into the crowd of well-wishers and be absorbed by their welcome.  Only the next morning, refreshed, showered, and ready to go would he have to make sense. 

His handlers had been sure to limit his engagements to ribbon cutting at the new immigrant tent city in Nuevo Laredo, its refectory, bunk beds, sanitary facilities, and one-room schoolhouse; review of the Border Patrol color guard; and a chorus of a San Miguel boys choir.

See related image detail

His staff deliberated about the one serious speech he would have to give, and whether or not the President would be more comfortable with a teleprompter or typewritten pages.  The one or two times they had opted for paper, the President in his confusion shuffled them and began his speech with his valedictory remarks not the lighthearted joke he was to start with.

The President, they noticed, was squinting more and more and at times he looked like the retarded boy banjo-picker in Deliverance so the teleprompter was little improvement.  They decided on a micro-earphone into which the Chief of Staff would read the lines of the President’s speech.  They would have to work on timing, for if the two were not well-coordinated, the President’s pauses would look like uncertainty or worse, intellectual groping.

Of course a Presidential visit to a refugee camp is no celebratory event; and even though the Administration had billed the temporary shelters as ‘First American Homes’ and his visit was to welcome the newcomers, the conditions there were unseemly, untidy, and very much like the ragged homeless shelters in San Francisco.  There was good reason why the press had not been allowed inside.  

As much as Biden might overlook the unsightly and questionable conditions of the camps, preferring to see the larger picture of citizenship, honor, and the right thing; reporters would be sure to criticize.

So the advance team had to do some fancy footwork.  They needed the tents and encampment in the picture, but only as background; and wanted to focus only on the President’s podium, the immigrant children bringing him flowers, and the Mariachi band.  Many of the production team were, unbeknownst to the President but selected especially by his handler team, former Trump PR operatives.  They knew how to draw crowds, keep them, and keep the press at bay.  They were masters at imagery, iconography, and musical score.

Image result for images mexican children with garlands

What this crack team of Oval Office advisors and savvy producers could not control was Biden himself; and after the parade, the garlands, the music and toothy smiles, and the first words spoken in the President’s ear, they could only hope to God that he would repeat them. 

Of course he did not.  As much as he had practiced his delivery, and should have known the script by heart, his mind wandered back to Delaware as it often did. He told of his happy days with Jose, the gardener, and his wife Rosa who prepared rice and beans for him on Sunday nights, cook’s night off.  “I can taste them now”, said the President, smiling, and looking up into the few clouds moving in from the west.  “What was that spice?”, he said.  “Ah, yes, cilantro, marvelous taste, very Mexican, very special”.

Image result for images guatemalan rice and beans

The voice in his ear became more insistent, calling him back from his reverie, repeating the words that had been practiced over and over – ‘hard work, diligence, family, responsibility, love, compassion’ – but without the glue of prepositions, word order, declension, and conjugation, they meant nothing, random bits and pieces and nothing more.

His handlers gently but quickly led the crowd in generous applause just as the President was moving on to Dewey Beach and surfing the Atlantic.  He was led off the stage and into the wings, and only tomorrow would the fiasco become public.

But his staff sorely underestimated CNN, MSNBC, and the New York Times which turned his ramblings into ‘a speech which moved both American and Latino hearts….an important, heartfelt, emotional plea for understanding, and welcome…a major pronouncement of the Biden Administration’s policy of compassion’.

“How’d I do?”, the President asked his staff once aboard Air Force One.  “Just great, Mr. President, just great”, they replied but gave unspoken thanks to the press which the President’s hardened, cynical political operatives knew had been coopted by progressive demagoguery and whose critical faculties were nil. 

“On to Nebraska”, said the President over a Manhattan.  “We’ll show ‘em we mean business”.  At first quizzical, his staff quickly caught on. It was the XL Pipeline which he had cancelled – a victory for environmental sanity, clean air, and the nation’s well-being – that he was referring to and his dream of stepping on to hallowed Indian lands which would be re-consecrated once the pipes had been removed.

It mattered little that the Indian lands were in South Dakota not Nebraska and that the pipeline ran through the most blighted and benighted Native American slum on the planet; it was all a matter of image.  So, the President being who he was, and the press falling in line behind his every step, they decided to let it be.  Let Joe be Joe.

Image result for images poverty indian reservations south dakota

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.