In Chapter 29 of The New Founders, Frank Walters (George Washington) addresses the Republican establishment; he reminds us that because we have accepted such mediocre leadership in America, we don’t even recognize greatness when we see it.
The morning came quickly. Rader devised a plan to exit Walters from the mansion through the woods, thus avoiding the media camped at the entrance to the estate. The plan worked perfectly and the new founders boarded Pepper’s private jet. They left the non-descript airport in Manassas, Virginia at fifteen minutes to five without fanfare.
Wheels touched down in Pittsburgh within an hour and the team left in the waiting cars, heading to the town of McKees Rocks. As they entered the large dwelling, they were met at the door by the head of the RNC. He escorted the gentlemen into a spacious conference room where four sets of bloodshot eyes sat motionless around an oak conference table. The men stood as the new founders approached.
All exchanged handshakes and pleasantries. But the four men around the table looked as if they did not want to be there, as if they were little children in timeout.
Anders scanned the room and was delighted. He believed from the beginning of the candidacy that Walters should have insinuated himself into the wide open Republican field. Anders subscribed to Reagan’s mantra that third party candidates would only split the conservative vote and guarantee the Democrat nominee’s election.
RNC chairman Dudek introduced the campaign managers for the four Republican candidates. Rader knew each man intimately and took the responsibility of introducing the new founders, concluding with Tea Party candidate for president, Frank Walters. Dudek commented that it was a sincere pleasure to meet him. Walters thanked him.
“The pleasure is all mine. Please take a seat, gentlemen. You have asked us here at this early hour under the cover of secrecy so as not to alert the media sorts. So my friends, what can we do for you?”
Walters knew exactly why they were called to the meeting but he ceded the floor to the chairman.
“Mr. Walters, we’ve asked you, Mr. Rader and the rest of your team to Pittsburgh because we have a proposition for you. The Republican National Committee would like to ask you if you are interested in becoming the Republican candidate for the president of the United States.”
Frank Walters sat at the head of the table in silence. He studied the RNC chairman and the four campaign managers among them. He felt their mistrust and quiet hostility directed toward him. But it was neither the time nor the place for petty jealousies. The time had come to rise above the fray. Chairman Dudek felt uncomfortable in silence and continued his thought. “We all believe that with you as the nominee, we can unite the conservative movement, Republicans and Tea Partiers alike, and defeat this president and take back our country.”
The General now felt it was time to speak. He rose to his feet.
“Mr. Dudek, I am flattered at your offer. But the men who accompany you do not share the same sentiments as you and the Republican National Committee. Am I correct in making this observation?”
The chairman told the group that Walters’ assumption was correct. The advisors for the party’s four candidates were not happy and did not take kindly to being shoved aside. But the party’s financial backers and boosters instructed Dudek to make the offer. The only thing that mattered now was for Walters to take the helm and steer the ship to victory.
Walters listened and walked to the other side of the table. Standing behind the disgruntled managers, he began. “Everyone on the team, including myself, Mr. Rader and the rest of the team, agree that if the current president was reelected, it would mean the end of the constitutional republic the forebearers worked so hard to create. We discussed various ways to unite the Tea Party and Republican Party in order to win the conservative vote. Our pollsters and supporters informed the team that the Tea Party was fragmented and mistrustful of mainstream Republicans. They also believe the GOP establishment had become too arrogant and proud to even acknowledge the Tea Party. We had to unite forces.”
Candidate Walters went on to explain that he appreciated the deep pitfalls of party politics saying that that these political parties needed to come together or face disastrous defeat. Walters reminded everybody of the 1992 election in which third party candidate Ross Perot took enough conservative votes to hand Bill Clinton the presidency. Murray and Jenson smiled knowing that the history lessons with their boss had paid off.
“My team believes, as do your bosses with the deep pockets and heavy wallets, that I am the candidate to bring all factions of the conservative movement together. In light of this, I accept your proposal and will humbly accept the Republican Party nominee for the office of President of the United States.”
Chairman Dudek offered immediate thanks and breathed a sigh of relief. Frank Walters led all current polls and seemed to be just getting started. Dudek pulled a folder of papers from his briefcase and passed them to the men at the table. He announced that the document in each man’s hands was a multiple point strategy of how to win the election. He was about to begin when Anders interrupted the presentation.
“Bullet point number three states that Walters will choose a running mate from the four candidates currently in the race.”
The chairman told him he was getting ahead of the plan but yes, he was correct. Mr. Walters immediately placed the paper on the table.
“That is not negotiable. I will choose the vice-presidential candidate of my liking.”
This stopped the chairman in his tracks. Instead of confronting the issue head on, he asked the teams to start with the first topic on the agenda, which was the transfer of delegates to Walters and then they would get back to Anders’ point.
“This would take place on the third day of the convention. The candidates will instruct their constituents, prior to the convention, to announce all of their delegate votes to you during the roll call. Election rules allow us to do this. But we want to do this quietly. We do not want word getting out to the media so everything to be done under the cloud of the convention has to be done in stealth secrecy. We think that keeping everybody guessing until Alabama announces their delegates to Walters will maximize the drama. It’s easily worth five to ten points in the polls.”
Walters nodded in agreement. He liked the idea of secrecy and was confident that his team was up for the challenge. But upon further inspection, he noticed that point two in the strategy agenda did not meet his expectations, either.
“Your second point states that the RNC will choose the keynote speaker to open the convention. Is that correct?”
Dudek explained that having the party choose the speaking lineups was always convention protocol. He asked how that could offend the new candidate.
“I trust you men know what you’re doing when it comes to setting up a gala such as this. But I ask that you allow me the honor of choosing the keynote speaker. Anything else you do within those four days is perfectly acceptable to me.”
The head of the RNC scribbled notes on his legal pad. In all his years in politics and now, in his second term as chairman, he had never encountered a politician barking orders and making demands in the framework of the Republican Convention. He, however, muttered meekly that there should be no problem accommodating the candidate’s wishes.
They moved onto post-convention events and policies going forward. The chairman decided to skip the vice-president issue and circle back to it. He described how bringing two conservative teams and philosophies together would mean a little compromise from both sides. He stressed flexibility in dealing with the hot topics of the day. He listed two to start.
“Our polling has shown that illegal immigration and the economy are on every American’s mind right now. The Tea Party has pounded away on the illegals saying they should all be sent home. Many people consider the Tea Party’s economic approach to the spending issue ‘draconian.’ And taxes, well, they are a whole chapter by themselves.”
Walters now seemed concerned. He looked up at Dudek without moving his head and asked the party chairman to elaborate on his concerns.
“You need to lighten up on the illegal immigration hot button. It’s not going away any time soon. Think of it as the crazy aunt that you can’t get rid of so you just deal with it. And with the economy, we can’t cut spending all together nor can we eliminate tax increases entirely. But if we promise to manage each properly, we can secure the votes to win the election. What do you say?”
Walters placed the paper back on the table and answered with a resounding no that took the room by surprise. He sat expressionless, waiting for a response from anybody. Rader broke the uncomfortable aura by asking the candidate for a word in private. The two men excused themselves into an adjacent hallway.
Murray, who had been silently obsessing over his personal issues (while keeping an ear on the conversation), stared into Mr. Walters’ face. Murray couldn’t shake the questions that had surfaced back in Vegas when Walters convinced him to continue on to California despite his son being in a coma back in Virginia.
What was this guy? Was he from another time or from another planet? What did he really care about? Himself? His men? His country?
On the other hand, he had never met anyone as strong willed and sure of himself. There was no wishy-washy political correctness to the General. He was hard core, literally old school and willing to stand or fall on his principles.
“My God,” thought Murray. “We have gotten so soft as a people and have accepted such mediocre leadership in this country that we don’t even recognize greatness when we see it.”
Hahn leaned toward Murray and whispered that Rader’s idea was not a smart one.
“The General is going to take him out to the woodshed for an old-fashioned ass whuppin’ wouldn’t you say?”
The comment broke Murray’s seriousness and he let out a laugh that drew attention around the table. His fellow new founders seemed to read his mind as they too smiled while the strangers looked puzzled. Concurrent with Murray’s personal revelation, Rader led the candidate into the adjacent hallway. Once out of earshot of the conference room, the two men huddled.
“Mr. Walters, politics is tricky this way. I know you’re steadfast in your opinions and ideas, but we have to be flexible in matters of the American people. That is the only way we can win this thing. These guys want you to be their candidate. You have to give a little.”
Walters listened respectfully. Then as what had become a custom of his, Mr. Walters placed his hands on Rader’s shoulders and shook his head.
“Ken, please take off your figurative political hat for a second. This is our ship and we are steering the rudder, not them. They came to us. It was foretold and inevitable that they would eventually seek us out to join forces. What they have suggested will just make our ship weaker; make our wooden planks leak until our ship ends up sinking. I will not allow this to happen and we will not waiver. Do you understand?”
Rader hoped to influence his candidate but to no avail. He saw determination in Walters’ steely eyes, which told him Walters would not budge. He said okay as both men reentered the conference room.
The adviser’s head hung low as both men reappeared. Hahn slapped Murray across the shoulder and nodded a big grin as if to say I told you so. Murray responded with a thumb up below tabletop level so as to keep the gesture secret.
The chairman expected Rader to influence the candidate’s position and grew frustrated when he learned that Rader had not been successful. He implored Walters to reconsider his positions. This clearly agitated the candidate and he took a tone even the new founders had yet to see.
“Mr. Dudek, you asked us here this morning because you need us. We do not need you. The most recent polling of likely voters shows us holding a 56–39 point lead on the top GOP candidate and a 51-47 lead on the incumbent president. We will easily defeat any of your four candidates. And a Tea Party victory will be the beginning of the end for the Republican Party as you and I know. We did not come here to listen to demands. We came here to win this election. We will stop this nonsense of compromising our values or dictating our choice of vice-president.”
Chairman Dudek was not used to being dressed down in any setting and he asked that Walters look at the big picture and be reasonable. In Mr. Walters’ view, he could not have been more reasonable.
“You are losing this race. It is now time to attack. And attack we will. Get on board the SS Walters now before we leave you at the dock. Conservative America and its media counterparts are behind us one hundred percent. If the people had their way, guys like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and Dennis Miller would have us on twenty-four hours a day.”
Walters felt his blood at a boil and decided to take pause; if he had his sword he may have drawn it. He did not want to lose his temper in front of these new acquaintances. He stepped back and took a deep breath before continuing.
“We will look at the rest of your strategic endeavors and let you know what we think. Mr. Rader will be reaching out to you over the next day. And remember, in politics, the middle way is no way at all. Good day, Mr. Dudek.”
The new Republican nominee shook the hands of each man at the table. He informed his team that their business was done and they exited the room behind him. On the walk to the front door, Hahn could not contain himself.
“You really did a number on him in there.”
Mr. Walters, not breaking stride, reached for the front door.
“Pleasant man, but very naïve. He thinks sticking to a stale formula that does not work anymore is going to win an election. We will educate him.”
The Republican candidate for president and his campaign management drove toward the rising sun, eager to get on the plane back to Virginia and plan their campaign’s next adventure.