Hillary paced back and forth in front of the speechwriter; her hands entangled and writhing behind her back, grasping for the right words to firmly express her frustration. They’d been locked in this office for the past two hours struggling to put the finishing touches on what would be the biggest speech of her life. The Democratic National Convention was just an hour away, 60 minutes before she would make U.S. political history, and she was going to be damned if her speech wasn’t impeccable.
The speechwriter, a forty-something white guy who also wrote for her husband during his Presidential tenure as well as other, lesser political constituents, knew what she was asking for, but not why, or how it would work in the context of the speech or the occasion. He shuffled his feet, showing his hesitance before ever speaking it, and began to respond but was immediately interrupted as Clinton’s frustrations boiled over.
Have you ever given a speech in front of thirty million people, Joel? Can you even begin to imagine the amount of pressure I am under right now? Do you know what people are going to say about me, what the media will say about me if I go out there and give a dry mouthed speech? Did you even watch Tim’s speech? Did you see his Trump impression?
Joel kept his eyes down, skimming paragraphs for opportunities while waiting for the rant to end. Outbursts like these were something he had grown accustomed to working with Hillary throughout the years. He knew it came from a good place though, a drive for perfection, and once she was able to vent her frustrations they would continue to move forward again. Ma’am, with all due respect…
Oh, shove your respect up your god damn ass, Joel. This is my moment. My convention. My stage. I want jokes, I want goofs, I want gaffs, I want memes, references, impressions, and I want MORE of them, Joel. Save your bland message speeches for that low life from Illinois. Give me the zingers.
Mrs. Clinton, with all due respect, I think we’ve got a pretty good ratio as it is. I mean, we’ve got the “odd” jab at Trump. I think that could be a good one if you downplay the first “odd,” but really emphasize the second. The crowd will go crazy. Here, you reference Hamilton, that will be great for your upper-class African American demo, and the middle-aged white women who want to show solidarity with the upper-class African American demo demo.
What about the science line? We kept that in, right? Can’t we work some kind of Breaking Bad reference in with that? “I believe in science, bitch,” something like that? Or, maybe just like, I pause and cock my head at the camera, “Science, bitch!?” Hillary followed the exclamation with a throaty imitation of cheering.
I don’t think that’s really appropriate for…
No, you’re right. What about Bernie? We’ve got to work in some kind of low key goof on that guy, he was such a pain in the ass the past six months. And even now, he can’t just get up there and say, “hey, Hillary’s great, vote for her, blah, blah, blah?” He’s got to ramble on for thirty minutes about godknowswhat? And of course he brings up that damn TPP deal, despite…he just talks too much. And what’s up with his mouth? He’s always stopping to lick his lips, like he should be wearing a Camelbak when he gives a speech. Not to mention he let those twerps in the audience cheer for what seemed like an hour. Can’t get the guy to shut his mouth in any other circumstance, but put him in front of a few cheering knuckleheads and all of a sudden he doesn’t know how to speak. And God help me if I see those motherfuckers in the Wikileaks shirts during this speech, I’m going to go fucking nuclear. Do they not understand where they are?
I think we’re getting a little off track, ma’am. Let’s just focus on refining what we’ve got, I think it’s a great speech. We have to walk the line between substance and fluff. The truth of the matter is you’re going to be the first female presidential nominee in U.S. political history, and you’re running against a guy who is by all accounts a narcissistic lunatic. You don’t have to do much here except stay the course.
The speechwriter knew this persuasion wouldn’t sit well with Hillary, but this long of a tangent was unprecedented in their collaborations and only seemed to be getting longer; he was grasping at straws.
Joel, I didn’t get here by “staying the course.” I’m making history tonight, the DNC is making history tonight; I want my speech to reflect that.
Of course, Mrs. Clinton, I didn’t mean to insinuate anything. Maybe we could bring Bill in, get a fresh pair of eyes on the speech?
Hillary returned to the tufted leather executive chair, and picked up the phone without responding to the speechwriter. While they waited for Bill arrive the speechwriter continued to comb through the monologue. By his measure it was all there. The speech may have lacked the poetic breeze of Barack’s, or the emotional authority of Michelle’s, but it was dogged, and policy-oriented; not spectacular by any means, but representative of Hillary’s practicality. He knew the jokes were a reach for her, and they needed to keep it light, but too much would spell disaster, despite how adamant she was about putting in more. She wanted this moment to feel like a celebration, like thirty million people were all somehow in the same room reveling in a momentous occasion with their best friend.
Bill entered the room teeth first with the air of a sixteen year old who just got stoned for the first time. He stood between Hillary’s desk and the speechwriter’s sofa and shared grinny glances with both before casually placing his hands behind his back and halfheartedly stifling his smile.
Bill, thanks for coming in, we’re at a little bit of an impasse on the speech and wanted to get some fresh ears on it.
Sure thing, Joel.
OK, well, we’re trying to strike a balance between message and levity. I really feel like we’re there, or close at least. I’m afraid of going too far…
That sounds wonderful, Joel, just lovely.
Alright, well, we’ve got the “odd” jab that I know you liked.
Hilarious, really, truly funny.
We’ve got this extended sequence where Hillary points out all the different countries that make Trump’s products.
Just wonderful, love it.
OK, we’re making it a point to thank Bernie for his support and for pushing the party forward.
Absolutely, Bernie’s magnificent.
Hillary swiveled her chair around at this remark, knotted her fingers, and rested her hands on the desk.
I really think we should try and work in some kind of low-key jab at Sanders. A “Bern” if you will, Hillary smirked, leering for approval. I mean the guy was really a pain in the ass during the primaries.
Without question, Hill, really stick it to his pompous ass.
And I would like to do some kind of impression too. You saw Tim’s, right? Why can’t I do something like that?
Oh boy, that was great. Did you see that, Joel? Who knew Timmy was keeping that in his back pocket?
I do a pretty good Melania. What if I got up there and just started repeating Michelle’s speech from Monday, but in a Melania voice.
That’d be a real hoot, babe. Bill, genuinely chuckling at this point, kept his hands carelessly rested in the small of his back.
Hillary sat stock straight in her executive chair, pursed her lips, narrowed her eyes, and spoke in a gravely and accented, robotic voice: “Kids like the black boy who looked up at my Donald, his eyes wide with full hope, and wondered, ‘Is my hair like yours?’”
Too good, Hill, too good. Say, you’ve got something in there about Donald’s hair, right, you’ve got to, that'll kill, 'buh-leeve me'.
I think we’ve lost the thread here a bit. If we could get back to the speech real quick, I think here, where you’re talking about being poised, and having the right temperament we could probably fit something in about his Twitter account. Something about not trusting the man who uses Twitter like a 12 year old gamer gate sympathizer with the nuclear codes?
Maybe I could tag it with, “hashtag delete yourself.”
No, you've already kind of done that, and I really don’t think you want to say “hashtag 'anything,'” in any speech, let alone the speech accepting the Democratic presidential nominee.
Hillary took a few moments to gather her thoughts, staring reflectively at the ceiling, before adding: What about my hot sauce?
Should I bring up how much I like hot sauce again? I’ve got some right here in my purse. "My plans for middle America are hotter than Mad Dog 357!"
No, I think we’re alright on the hot sauce mentions.
We could workshop it a little bit. That was just off the top of my head.
She really does love hot sauce, Joel, 'buh-leeve me.'
No, no, I think we’re good on that front. Overall I think it’s a really solid speech, and I’m really happy with it. I think once you get out there, and get going, you’ll turn into something special. Right now we’re just overthinking it.
After settling into a friendly silence following the deliberation the moment had come. Hillary stood up and took Bill’s extended hand effortlessly. As the two walked out of the office Hillary turned and asked the speechwriter one final question.
Joel, what if as I approach the podium I did the Hulk Hogan ear cup?