Chapter One - High Drama
It was six weeks until the general election for the President of the United States and the stakes could not be higher. The state of the world was tense with a fair certainty that nuclear weapons had been introduced into Syria by Russia, the newly emerged and reinvigorated American adversary. Israel was reacting as one might expect: with the panic of a state facing the threat of extinction. All over Tel Aviv little cars with military escorts darted like bees between flowers as they shuttled the General Flag officers from meeting to meeting. Iran and its close ally Iraq were rattling their sabers so loudly that no one in Washington was getting any sleep at night. Pizza delivery vehicles were seen making regular visits to the Pentagon, a sure sign that the midnight oil of the Military Industrial Complex was burning brightly. The entire Middle East was once again the tinderbox that threatened to ignite the whole world. In the United States, another kind of war was raging: the presidential election campaign of 2012. Democrat David J. Windsor, a multi-millionaire corporate executive, was running against Speaker of the House Daniel Gorski, the Republican nominee. Both candidates followed the norms of their parties, firing millions of dollars of attack ads at each other and dividing the nation in the process. Everyone was worried about who would answer that White House phone at three A.M.
Windsor came from a liberal background and was related to the royal family of England, where King William had just ascended to the throne after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Prince Charles had declined the crown, clearing the way for William V to become King of England. Gorski was ever the conservative hawk who – while mouthing the rhetoric of smaller government, tighter budgets, and isolationism – practiced the exact opposites in a continued attempt to make America ruler of the world … all at the expense of social programs and a decaying infrastructure that was well beyond becoming a potential danger to the American public. His social outlook was typical Republican fare: anti-gay, anti-women, and anti-minority, with a very strong dash of evangelicalism.
The Vice-Presidential candidates were wedded to the politics, philosophies, and priorities of their running-mates – or at least they professed to be. Windsor had chosen an older governor from the Deep South to help him carry that part of the country. Governor Barry Miller of Florida was thirty-five years Windsor’s senior, but he wanted the job and had good skills. He added weight to the ticket in both age and experience.
The differences between the two candidates at the top of the tickets could not have been sharper, and this made most pundits agree that the nation’s choice was clear. One was charting a course forward for the country; the other was promising the status quo legacy of the outgoing President, whose family had controlled the White House for twelve long, troubled years. The final debate of the campaign was due to begin shortly and had the full attention of the American public. The setting was the University of Central Florida, near Orlando, Florida. Once again, it all came down to Florida.
“David, we need to get going to the debate if we are going to be on time; it’s about a fourteen-minute ride out to the University,” advised sixty-four year old Mary, my longtime Secretary.
“Yeah, okay. Let’s get going. Two minutes.”
As the motorcade whisked along from downtown Orlando to the debate site, my mind wandered over the last six months of what was more than a slightly caustic campaign. The far right was determined to keep the White House in their column and the Democratic Party was determined to recapture the people’s house after a very long twelve years of near dictatorial rule. If I were to become President, I would reverse many of the policies that had strangled the American people over the last decade – no more conservative buffoons on the Supreme Court while I was President.
“David, here are your note cards with every position that the campaign has taken since it began. We don’t know what Gorski is going to throw at you tonight, but they feel their edge on you slipping away, so they may be desperate enough to try and create a controversy that they can ride until Election Day,” Mary said.
“Thanks, Mary. I’m going to try and just be me – give the people one last chance to see me for who I really am. I’m asking for their trust, as well as their vote. I want to be as forthright as I can be – contrast that with Gorski’s obvious spin. People are tired of that kind of ‘politics-as-usual.’ This is it: the final debate, and the final chance for America to see both of us together. I really hope that the people will get a good look at the polar opposites that are vying for the White House.”
As the motorcade came to a halt outside the side entrance to the University auditorium, car doors flung open and Secret Service agents emerged from the various SUV’s that were a part of modern day security, taking up their ‘ground’ positions ready for the candidate to exit the limousine. I sat in the back waiting for the signal from the agent at the door, Shane Thompson, that it was okay to exit the vehicle. I watched the final radio check, the agent finally opening my door so I could get out. A large crowd had gathered outside the auditorium, unable to get into the event since all available seats were already taken. I waved to the crowd as the security agents whisked me into the side entrance and escorted to me to a holding room where we would wait until the time drew near for the debate to begin. This way, my exposure to unforeseen circumstances was kept to a minimum. I had been advised that the crowd was not only large, but also friendly and about evenly divided between Gorski and me. I took the last few moments to go over my note cards for the final time as makeup people worked on my face and hair.
“Mr. Windsor, it’s 7:55, we should move to the launch position for the stage, sir,” advised Agent Alvarez, the agent in charge of my security detail.
“Okay, let’s get the show going.”
We quickly moved from the holding room to the left side of the stage and waited the final moments behind the curtains. The Secret Service for both candidates scanned the crowd one final time before both of us were exposed on stage. At exactly 8:00 P.M., I heard Anderson Cooper from CNN begin the announcement to the television audience that the debate was about to begin. Speaker Gorski was introduced first, and he came out from the opposite side of the stage to applause and took his seat. Next, I heard my name, and I moved out on stage and took my seat, smiling and waving to the crowd as the applause this time was for me. The red lights of the television cameras told me that they were on and showing us to the world. The final debate was scheduled to last ninety minutes, using the standard format from all our previous debates.
Our biggest policy disagreement was on foreign relations and how to deal with the situation in Syria. Gorski wanted a relationship that was confrontational while I wanted to seek diplomatic solutions to our problems if at all possible. I was not afraid to use our military might, but it was going to be my last choice if necessary. There really were no surprises or sucker punches and I was feeling that the debate was not truly a win for either Gorski or me until the final fifteen minutes.
“Speaker Gorski, we are in our final quarter hour of the debate and you may address any issue that remains,” invited Cooper.
“Thank you, Anderson. There is one final issue that I think the American people need to be aware of as, it may affect their decision as to whom to vote for as their President. Certain information has come to light about the personal life of Mr. Windsor and I would like a response to this information from him. Mr. Windsor, are you or are you not a homosexual?”
The auditorium went deadly quiet as people tried to understand the question that was just asked of the Democratic candidate for President. Had they heard correctly? Had the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives just asked his opponent if he was gay? After a moment of total silence, multiple flashes occurred as the print media began to take photograph after photograph of the situation unfolding before the eyes of the world.
“Mr. Gorski, may I ask what relevance my sexuality has to do with the job of President of the United States? What is your purpose in asking such a question?”
“Mr. Windsor, the American people have the right to know if their President sleeps with men and if he violates the tenets of the Bible that we all hold so dear as we were founded as a Christian nation. As for my purpose in asking, it is to expose the truth about who you really are as a man.”
“Gentlemen, I don’t think that is a proper question to be asked during this debate and I would suggest to you, Mr. Windsor, that you not answer this question,” said Anderson.
Part of the audience began to clap in agreement, while others began to murmur.
“Thank you, Anderson, but I fully intend to answer the question. Let us be clear about the intent of the Speaker in asking this question. He hopes to make me run and hide, to be embarrassed, to cripple me in the closing days of the election since he cannot win on the issues facing this great nation. He expects me to lie, to try and evade the question and to attack him for asking it. He is wrong on all counts. Ladies and Gentlemen, in fact, I am a gay American. I have been gay all my life, and will always be gay. This fact has absolutely nothing to do with my abilities to be the best President you possibly could have, leading the American people out of the darkness that has been characterized by just such a question. It is the politics of fear, hatred and bigotry, and I soundly reject it. My being gay will have no effect whatsoever on how I conduct the affairs of state. I will represent the American people and their interests with pride, competence, and honesty, and I promise to never lie to the people of this great country. Finally, Mr. Gorski is also wrong as usual about this nation being founded as a Christian nation. It was not. The founding fathers were in fact Deists, and not Christians. In fact, if you read the words of Thomas Jefferson, you will find that he had a particular distaste for Christianity. As for the ministers and preachers that Mr. Gorski so favors, Jefferson had this to say: ‘In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.’ – Thomas Jefferson to Horatio G. Spafford, in 1814.”
The applause was deafening. People rose to their feet and continued to clap and began to chant my name over and over again. Gorski looked as though he had eaten a rotten egg and was in shock at the opposite response his question brought about rather than the one anticipated. Anderson tried to bring the crowd under control but it took him over two minutes to regain control of the auditorium.
“Mr. Windsor, how do you think the evangelical vote will view this stunning revelation?”
“First of all, Anderson, I never had the evangelical vote to begin with, so in fact I lose nothing by being honest with the people. Second, those who consider themselves Christians will remember that the greatest commandment given to us by Jesus was to love one another and to love God. In fact, Jesus never said anything about being gay. So, if my being honest on this topic gives them pause, then I suggest that they examine the true pillars of their faith and go from there. I will not pander to the religious right in order to get elected. I leave that in the capable hands of the Speaker of the House.”
“Now just a damn minute here….”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Speaker, but we are out of time, and I thank you for being here with us this evening on what has turned out to be an historic debate. Thank you and good night.”
Once again, the crowd broke out in applause and began to chant my name. This did not please Gorski, who turned red and instead of offering the traditional handshake at the end of the debate, he simply walked off the stage. I moved forward and shook Anderson’s hand and thanked him for moderating the debate.
“Mr. Windsor, it’s going to be an interesting few weeks until the election, and I wish you good luck, sir.”
“Thank you, Anderson, and I hope to see you again.”
Waving to the crowd, I walked off the stage towards my group of people. The Secret Service detail actually came out on stage to meet me part way and escorted me off stage. Before I could really discuss anything about what had just happened, the Secret Service moved me quickly out of the auditorium and into the motorcade, which had already started their engines and were prepared to quickly move out once we were aboard. The sirens wailed and we took off at a fairly fast pace, leaving the University of Central Florida faster than we had arrived. The Secret Service was anxious and it showed.
“Mr. Windsor, can we have a few moments to speak when we get to the hotel?” asked Alvarez.
“Of course we can, just give me a couple of minutes to get relaxed and grab a diet 7-up.”
Mary turned her head to me and said, “Well, that cat’s out of the bag now, isn’t it? I wonder how long it took them to come up with that information to ambush you with tonight.”
“Oh, I imagine they’ve had it all along and only used it tonight because they fear they’re losing this election. Gorski sure was pissed at the response from the audience, wasn’t he?” I asked with a laugh.
“We knew this night might come. Now we have to see how it affects your poll numbers in the morning. The talk shows will be screaming tonight over this, you wait and see.”
Arriving at the Hilton resort in Orlando, the security team did the usual things, and I got out of the limo and headed into the hotel. The press was everywhere shouting questions at me about the fact that I was gay, and wanting more information. I just ignored them and kept walking, having no intention of stoking the fires any more tonight. The Secret Service was able to keep the reporters far from me, and we glided into the elevator to ride to the top floor where we arrived at their version of the Presidential suite.
We entered the suite to the sound of ringing telephones and a stack of messages that had come in since the revelation on television. I waved them all off and headed into the main bedroom so that I could take off my jacket and tie. Wiping my face with a cold wet washcloth immediately brought back some needed energy.
When I came out of the bedroom, Mary handed me my soda and I took a seat in the living room area of the suite. I motioned to Agent Alvarez to come over, and told him to sit down. While the low-level hum of business carried on, I asked Alvarez what was on his mind.
“In light of the information that you confirmed this evening, our job of protecting you might have just gotten a little bit harder. There are more than a few nut jobs and groups in this country who are going to go ballistic because you’ve admitted that you’re gay.”
“I realize that, but what would you have me do? Take a pill and become straight? It doesn’t happen that way, Agent Alvarez, and if it did, I wouldn’t take the pill. I’m quite comfortable being who I am.”
“No, sir, I didn’t mean it that way. I just meant that we’re going to have to tighten your security even more when you are in public, especially the close-in security. Those agents will be at your side now all the time.”
“I understand and can accept that. I like Agent Thompson; he seems like a really nice guy. Is he good at his job?”
“Yes sir, all the agents are good at their job or they wouldn’t be on this detail.”
“Fine, then I’d like Thompson assigned as close-in security.”
“I see no problem with that sir, I’ll notify him, and his new duties will begin in the morning. He’ll have to keep the same schedule that you do, so if you could make sure that I always have an updated copy of your agenda, it will make it a lot easier.”
“Fine, just see Mary any time you need an update. Now, let me be frank with you, Agent Alvarez. Do you believe that any of the agents, including yourself, will want to be taken off this detail now that you all know that I am gay?”
“Mr. Windsor, the fact that you are gay does not change the fact that you are the nominee of one of the two political parties of the United States and may in fact become President. This changes nothing, sir.”
The meeting over, I turned my attention to the message stack that had now grown to one hundred and twenty four since my departure for the debate.