Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Campaign Pause: Part 2

I actually have a serious post all scribbled out and ready to post, but I've decided to give it a rest for the holiday...Well, maybe not completely. I may post tomorrow, anyway. Still, I wanted to entertain a bit, rather than focus strictly on making a point. Thus, I have decided to share a bit of Anyone Can. Please keep in mind that the rights to this material are protected, so behave yourselves out there.

Now, in this story, Gary Leiberman has decided to run for President. He hasn't spent so much as a dime on advertising, and instead has let the press make his name known. President Xander McNeal decides the best way to silence this upstart is by way of a debate; kill the annoying fly before taking on the real beasts, as it were. Xander makes the challenge publicly, and Gary accepts. (The other characters that speak are, John, is a member of Gary's campaign, and Mr. Nolan, Xander's Chief of Staff. You might also want to note that the formatting here is all wrong for a screenplay, and appears longer than it really is due to my efforts of some kind of format. (The word count is 1642, not including what's before and after this portion of the script.)

INT. A HIGH SCHOOL, GYMNASIUM - DAY

The bleachers are crowded with people of all ages. There are no podiums. There is only a sound system set up. Several news crews line one wall.

Secret Service Agents guard the doors.

Gary and his party stand off in one corner, taking in their surroundings, occasionally waving to people in the crowd. Gary doesn’t seem to be prepared for this at all, specifically his attire; he wears jeans and a tee shirt.

McNeal and Nolan, in suits, stand at the opposite corner.

MCNEAL: This is ridiculous. No podiums. No makeup. No moderator. Whose idiot idea was this.

NOLAN: Yours, Mr. President. As the challenger, you were forced to accept his terms.

MCNEAL: And a high school gym, of all places. If this man has a professional bone in him, it’s small, well-hidden, and probably broken.

John approaches.

JOHN: Mr. President, if you’re ready, Mr. Leiberman would like to get things underway.

McNeal is instantly all smiles.

MCNEAL: Of course.

John turns and gives the thumbs up.

Gary walks to the middle of the gym, a wireless microphone in hand. He waves his hands downward, trying to calm the cheering crowd.

GARY: Hello, folks. Welcome to my first Presidential debate. While I am accustomed to such chaos, my guest is not. I ask that you give the man his due respect, and welcome the President of the United States, Xander McNeal.

McNeal, a mic of his own in one hand, comes forward and shakes Gary’s hand. His political smile plastered solidly in place.

MCNEAL(softly): I’m here to crush you, you little peon.

It takes a moment to realize that the microphones have picked up what was said, and the crowd is stunned into silence.

GARY: Hmmm. On behalf of the President, I’d like to say, “Oops.”

McNeal is now off to a terrible start and looks extremely uncomfortable.

GARY: But let’s face the facts, people. One doesn’t enter the political ring to become drinking buddies with his opponent. And if I win, I think Mr. McNeal will call me much worse, just as I will if he wins.

Nods and smiles greet this response.

MCNEAL:I...uhhh...must confess I’m a little stunned at my own gaff. Please forgive me.

GARY: Not at all, Mr. President. Happens all the time when a politician hears honesty from his own mouth.

Gary gives one side of the gymnasium a gaudy wink.

GARY: Now, before we go on with mud-slinging, name calling, and other expected fun of that sort, I would ask that we be on a first name basis. I think you calling me Gary and me calling you Xander will speed things along. Agreed?

MCNEAL: Sure thing, Gary.

GARY: Thank you, Xander. Now, as you issued the invitation, and I established the forum, why don’t you ask the first question.

MCNEAL: Danny Stormfeather, dishonorably discharged Captain of the Marine Corps. Can you explain why you think he would make a good Defense Secretary?

GARY: Are you aware of the circumstances of Dan’s dishonorable discharge?

MCNEAL: I am.

Gary starts addressing the crowd, more than McNeal.

GARY: Well, I’m sure most here don’t, so let me give a brief history. He’s a Native American that was dealt racial slurs by a superior officer. Being oddly human, Dan, as he’s called, lashed out, broke the officer’s nose, and was kicked from the military. The offending major was wrong, and Dan even more wrong for striking the man. But that’s what I like about him. He’s fallible, acknowledges it, and doesn’t let such a thing stand in his way. I want real people on my staff, not creatures of the political machine.

MCNEAL: Interesting. I suppose it’s your turn to ask a question, then.

GARY: Yes. And I have a good one. You see, my friends and I have been looking over the tapes of your campaign before you earned the office. You said something about raising the minimum wage. In fact, I believe you promised that it would happen. Yet as we come to the close of your four years, the minimum wage hasn’t budged. Why did you break that promise?

McNeal grins.

MCNEAL: You see, this is where you don’t understand politics. That bill was all set to pass, when suddenly many opponents started attaching riders to it. Suddenly millions of dollars were tacked on to a bill that would have brought the minimum wage up by a dollar and ten cents over a three-year period. All of that government spending could not be justified, and so I was forced to veto the bill.

GARY: I see. What kind of riders were they?

MCNEAL: Excuse me?

GARY: The riders attached to the bill. What were they asking to do with the money?

MCNEAL: Well, road repair. A major upgrade in a mass transit system. Money to increase FAA staffing.

GARY: So fixing roads, improving buses or trains, and more people to watch the skies...These were bad things?

MCNEAL: Well, when you put it like that -

Gary hustles to one of the bleachers and holds the mic to a MOTHER holding a toddler in her lap.

GARY: Would road repair, better buses, and safer airways bother you? Would you be willing to take a small tax increase to see these things, as well as the minimum wage increased?

MOTHER: They wouldn’t bother me at all.

GARY: Forgive me, Xander, but I want to ask this woman one more question. (to Mother) Does it bother you that those living on minimum wage live at or near poverty level, and can barely feed themselves, or that it’s even worse if they have a family?

MOTHER: Well, yes. That does bother me.

GARY: Well, Xander vetoed the bill. Try not to let that bother you too.

MCNEAL: Now hang on a minute. It’s not that simple.

GARY: And that’s the problem, Xander. It’s not simple. The man on the street doesn’t understand the complexities of the political machine, nor does he care. The man on the street only wonders one thing: where’s his money? And as you sat in the Oval Office and eliminated the bill that would’ve put more cash in American pockets, you did nothing to explain why.

MCNEAL: Do you have any idea how many bills I have to discuss, pass, or veto in a week? Or in a day?

GARY: Nope. No idea. And I don’t care.

Gary motions for the Mother to scoot over a bit, and he sits next to her.

GARY: Look at me, Xander. Look carefully. I’m one of them. I dress like them. I worry like them. I want my nation to care about me the way I care about it, just like them. And if the President can’t get Washington to clean up its act, or at least try pushing the great machine in the right direction, why take the job?

MCNEAL: I took it because I thought I could serve my country.

GARY: You could’ve done the same thing, one person at a time, by becoming a waiter.

MCNEAL: You really have no idea how this game is played, do you? No idea how laws are enacted, or what makes this country tick.

GARY: People make this country tick. But beyond that, you’re right. I have no clue what I’m going to do if I actually make it to the White House. But I do have an idea of how to approach the job.

MCNEAL: This should be entertaining. Please, by all means, share your grand idea.

GARY: Thanks, Xander. I will. I’m going to approach it the same way I would when fixing a car. I’ll take it for a test drive, if I can get the engine started. I’m going to listen for strange noises, and wait to feel something like a shimmy in the wheel. Then, to the best of my ability, I’m going to fix what’s broken. Maybe it’ll be completely beyond my skill, like an auto mechanic trying to repair the space shuttle. Then again, maybe I’ll be able to get it running as smooth as a mint condition government should. It’s why I have yet to make any promise, other than, “I will do my best.” But you made promises, Xander. And you broke them.

He stands and approaches McNeal.

GARY: That minimum wage thing was just the start. If you want, we can keep going, and we will examine all of those specific promises you made. Along the way, I’m sure we’ll get into why, over almost four years, you broke most, if not all, of those promises to these people.

He gestures around the room.

GARY: Or you can return to the White House and think a little harder on whether or not you want to call me out again.

McNeal gives him an ironic smile.

MCNEAL: You do realize you basically told the world you aren’t qualified for the job, and that you plainly stated you have no idea what you’re doing.

GARY: Refreshing, isn’t it? That kind of honesty from a would-be politician?

MCNEAL: No. It just shows a lack of knowledge and skill.

GARY: If you’re an example of what the required knowledge and skill can do in the White House, then perhaps we need a ten-year-old in the executive office.

That’s it. McNeal’s had it. He drops the microphone and storms off in Nolan’s direction.

Meanwhile, the crowd is on its feet and cheering wildly.

Gary moves to stand with the members of his camp.

GARY: Think I was a little harsh?

JOHN: I think you just thoroughly embarrassed the most powerful man in the world.

He points. The cheers cover whatever McNeal is saying, but he’s red with rage and handing out a verbal beating Nolan will probably never forget.

The crowd goes on, cheering Gary’s brazen speech against the President.

I seem a great deal like my Gary character, don't I? Maybe that's where my "campaigning" is coming from.

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