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License to Smear

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Armed with a venti soy latte with eight shots of espresso and a bullwhip, The New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet was busy stalking around the newsroom.

"Dig, dig, dig!" he chanted to his beleaguered staff, "I don't see enough digging going on. What?" For a timid hand had risen into the air.

"Sir, I believe there's some developments with ISIS that..."

"No!" the editor roared, "We need more dirt on Donald Trump. Forget ISIS for now. What?" For another hand had crept up.

"Sir, I just saw online that there was this horrific plane crash leaving multiple people dead and injured and.."

"Who cares? Now what?" A third traitorous hand.

"Sir, a very reliable source has hinted that there might be a nuclear war coming, and..."

"Listen," Dean interrupted, "this is not just a presidential election, but a battle. A war. And if Hillary doesn't win, the casualties could be your hearts and souls. So keep going." Oh jeez. Now he was quoting from Dead Poets Society to motivate his crew. Was there no limit to his degradation?

"Yes, sir," the Times staff chorused obediently and bent their heads to their work again.

Suddenly, his cell rang, and a number flashed on the screen that made him turn pale and have heart palpitations. Although it could have been the espresso shots.

It was not the Clinton Foundation or any of Hillary's people that the Times typically dealt with.

It was Hillary Clinton herself.

"What the hell is going on?" she snapped, not bothering with a greeting. "I give you guys a simple job, and you keep messing it up. Why is Donald Trump still in the race?"

Shit. Double shit.

"How is it," Hillary continued, "that this...this buffoon is still out there campaigning? How is it that with this much dirty laundry, he's even upright and not crouched sobbing in the corner. Or in jail? Hmm?"

Dean flinched. This was going to be ugly.

"He's delusional?" he offered meekly.

"We already know that. The point is that Donald Trump should have been long gone by now. Why is this not happening?"

"We...we did publish the tax returns..." Dean stammered, though he knew it wouldn't placate her in the least.

"That's not good enough. Besides rumor is that Donald's campaign leaked those on purpose just to get you all excited. Can't you find some more women he kissed without permission? There's got to be some more."

"We're doing our best, honest. Believe me, we're working around the clock to dig up dirt on Donald Trump, and we won't rest until we've taken him down."

"You know," Hillary needled, "The Washington Post is doing a much better job."

Ouch. Double ouch.

"After all, they leaked the tape. And just the other day, they had this awesome editorial about how not only must Trump be defeated, he must be humiliated. That's the kind of thing we need more of."

"We'll...we'll try," Dean stammered, though he was having a heretical thought. Hillary, how is it that you have years of political experience under your belt, while Donald Trump has none, and you still need us to defeat him?

"I know," Hillary continued in a slightly calmer tone, "that the Trumpeteers are all illiterate, and even if they weren't, the Times has too many big words for them. But it's of the utmost importance that you keep pouring gasoline on the fire. Keep stoking the flames of this hysteria, so liberals will drag themselves to the polls to vote even if they're on death's door."

"Got it." Knowing the worst was over, the editor let out a deep breath and prayed that the call would end soon anyway.

But she kept right on talking. "Can you believe the other day, I saw yet another poll saying that most Americans don't consider me likeable? Can you imagine? After all, I've done for them, they have the temerity not to like me."

Dean took a deep breath and counted to ten before he spoke.

"Hillary, it doesn't matter if people like you. They're still going to vote for you."

There was an angry hrumphing sound at the other end of the line. It probably wasn't static.

"Besides," Dean continued. "We like you just fine. Also look at Nixon. No one liked him, and he was re-elected."

"Yes, but Nixon was a scumbag," Hillary said. "A crook. Are you implying that I..."

'No, of course not," Dean said hastily. "I was just making a point that likeability isn't necessarily a requirement for being elected President."

There was a sigh on the other end of the line. She was winding down.

"Very true. But what is important is that I have nothing standing in my way come Election Day. Which means you have to keep going with the Trump dirt digging and not rest. Look, I know it's frustrating. Just remember, that we're all in this together. You and the Washington Post and the TV stations, and the other mainstream media, so just remember even if you feel discouraged, in the end it will all be worth it."

"Of course. By the way, we did a mockup of the post-election day page with the headline "Clinton Trumps Trump." Catchy, huh?"

"Excellent. Oh, there's another call I have to take. We'll talk again soon."

Dean agreed and released a shaky sigh. As he took a slurp of his by-now lukewarm coffee, he felt a stabbing pain in his forehead. As he reached for the Advil, he had yet another heretical thought.

Donald Trump had a point.

Hillary Clinton really wasn't a very nice person.

No. No, what was he doing thinking that? Gulping down two tablets, Dean gave himself a mental shake and headed back out to the newsroom to offer up another pep talk. He tried not to let it bother him that everyone flinched when they saw him coming.

"Listen up, everyone. I just got off the phone with Hillary, and she is not happy at all. So we need to step up the digging. Find as much dirt as you can, and we'll deal with any legal consequences later. Okay?"

The Times staff nodded, and bent their heads to their work again. For what choice did they have?

Dean felt a wave of exhaustion sweep over him, and hoped he'd have the energy to make it to Starbucks.

Boy, would he be glad when this election was over.