Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I Had a Dream

A man walks into an office. He approaches the reception desk. The receptionist looks up.

Receptionist: Good morning. Can I help you?

Ben Nelson: Morning. I'm here to see Mr. Kisser. I have an appointment.

Receptionist: Okay. Have a seat and I’ll let him know you’re here.

Nelson: Thank you.

A few minutes pass. Kisser walks into the reception area.

John Kisser: Good morning. You must be Ben Nelson.

Nelson: Yes.

Kisser: John Kisser. Nice to meet you. Follow me.

The two men go to Kisser's office. Kisser closes the door.

Kisser: Okay. So. You’re here to interview for the position of department head with BeigeCare. Is that correct?

Nelson: Yes.

Kisser: Why don’t you tell me about yourself?

Nelson: Well, I’ve spent most of my career in public service. After graduating from law school, I got into the insurance biz. Made a ton of money, but it didn’t satisfy me. I just didn’t feel in control. I was too short to be a cop, so I ran for office. (Laughs) Started out as Governor in ’90. Gotta start somewhere y’know. Pay your dues. (Chuckles) I just kept moving up the chain. My most-recent position was as U.S. Senator from the great state of Nebraska.

Kisser: Really. That must have been fascinating.

Nelson: Yes.

Kisser: Why did you leave?

Nelson coughs and shifts in his chair.

Nelson: Well, um, it was a bad fit. The opportunities for advancement were very limited. It was time to move on.

Kisser: I see. So now you’re interested in family planning and reproductive rights?

Nelson: Yes.

Kisser: Why BeigeCare? I mean, after being a senator, I would think this would seem awfully…boring.

Nelson: You pay, right? (Nervous laughter)

Kisser: Of course. What are your qualifications?

Nelson: Well, I headed a staff of fourteen as a senator, and coordinated numerous state-wide campaigns. I spearheaded the effort to water-down and derail health care. I’m a consensus-builder. I get things done.

Kisser: Tell me what kind of consensuses you built.

Nelson: Um, the conserva-Dem effort to stop the government take-over of our health care system.

Kisser: And what about your experience as a campaign coordinator?

Nelson: I ran for office four times. Twice for governor. Twice for the senate. Never lost.

Kisser: I want to find out what your role as a coordinator was. How you pulled things together and got them off the ground.

Nelson: I was the candidate!

Kisser: Yes, but tell me what you did.

Nelson: I gave the speeches. Made the public appearances. Kissed the babies. You ever shake two-thousand hands in a day?

Kisser: Can't say that I have. Why don't you tell me about your staff.

Nelson: Well, my campaign manager hired them. But I made the actual policy decisions. I was the one who actually voted in the senate.

Kisser: On the advice of your staff?

Nelson: Well, yeah. That’s how it works. We all have advisors. Consultants. But I delegated. I took care of the big picture, and had my staff deal with the little stuff. The details.

Kisser: Like policy?

Nelson: Yeah. No! No one tells me what to do!

Kisser looks down at his desk.

Kisser: To be frank, Mr. Nelson, I have some concerns.

Nelson: About what?

Kisser: Your ability to function as a department head within the larger scope of an organization.

Nelson: But I’m a consensus-builder! It says so on my web site!

Kisser: Yes but…

Nelson: Look. Say the U.S. is a company. And every state is a department. Being a U.S. senator is just like being a department head! I was the department head of…Nebraska. Dammit! I built consensuses! I took care of my department! I provided for my constituents!

Kisser: Yes. At the expense of the rest of the country.

Nelson: They could afford it! I needed to take care of the people who got me elected!

Kisser: You mean the people who financed your campaign?

Nelson: Same difference!

Kisser: But Mr. Nelson, this is business—not politics. You can’t just screw the rest of the company so your department benefits. We operate on a finite budget. Money is limited. You could jeopardize the entire company. BeigeCare places a premium on its employees being team players. And I just don’t see that in you. I’m sorry.

Nelson: What do you mean? I was a great team player—for the team of Nebraska! You’re just looking at it wrong!

Kisser: Mr. Nelson, let’s be honest with each other. You didn’t leave the senate because of a lack of “advancement opportunities”. You were censured. You were stripped of your committee chairs and kept out of the loop until the voters of Nebraska demanded you be recalled. You were powerless. (Kisser stands up—agitated.) You couldn’t pass gas, much less legislation. You were a lame duck, or better yet—a limp dick—of a senator who didn’t have a prayer of being re-elected. You’re the Democrats’ answer to Jim DeMint, only they never asked the fucking question! Team player? Don't make me laugh! Only on team Ben! You don’t know fuck about being a team player!

Kisser leans over and gets very near Nelson's face.

Kisser: Mr. Nelson, you disgust me. If anyone ever looks up to you again, I hope it's because you're hanging from a tree.

Nelson slumps in his seat.

Nelson: What am I supposed to do?

Kisser: You have a great talent for extortion, Mr. Nelson. Here’s my advice: why don’t you hit the streets and tell people you’ll stand near them unless they give you money. As I see it, the stench of your company is about the only leverage you have left.

An alarm clock rings. A groggy man reaches for the off button and wipes his eyes. He is no longer sleeping.

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