The Lizard King: The Assignment
Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of excerpts from the new e-book “The Lizard King: The Shocking Inside Account of Obama’s True Intergalactic Ambitions By An Anonymous White House Staffer,” edited and introduced by Daily Caller writers Jamie Weinstein and Will Rahn. You can buy the full book here. Also, read the first excerpt and second excerpt, and come back to TheDC the rest of the week for more.
Chapter 4: The Assignment
I was out of my house on Capitol Hill by six thirty the next morning. I got by on little sleep those days—the White House is an exciting place to work, after all — and sleeping in really meant leaving any time after six. I had been trying to get in the habit of riding my bike to work. That morning I didn’t even try.
My Metro stop was just a couple of blocks away, right near the Cannon Building on the House side. It was a good place to live for a young up-and-comer, and surprisingly cheap too, a little brownstone apartment that cost me just over a grand a month with utilities. I didn’t have many visitors and the place was always a mess of books and files I should never have left out in the open. The apartment felt safe, near the seat of power of the Capitol, surrounded by lights and the cameras I never saw but knew were there.
Axelrod’s old Chevy Malibu, the one we all made fun of him for never selling, waited just outside my house. I knew it was him before I even recognized the car. He cranked down the window and called for me.
“Small world,” I said, getting in.
“There are a million tribesmen out there who will never meet each other,” he said, giving me a once-over. “But outside the Cannon Building at seven a.m., yeah, it’s a small world. It’s a small world above the squalor.”
“It’s six thirty,” I said. Axelrod had things to tell me. He had that look. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear them.
“I know guys like you,” he said. “I mean, I know you, obviously, but I also know guys like you. New York. Good family, rich family. Uptown private school. You wore ties and blazers to class.”
Axelrod often looked like a guy who hadn’t bought new clothes since Reagan’s first term. He wore a tweed jacket with a couple of small holes. I wondered if moths ate tweed.
“I went to Stuyvesant,” he said. “I wore camo fatigues to class all junior year. My friends and I would call you guys the Hitler Youth.”
In the nearly seven years I had known Axelrod we had never really had a personal conversation. I’d always found him rather tight-lipped about his own past—his childhood, his parents, his time working at the Tribune in Chicago—even though it was all a matter of public record at this point.
“Stuyvesant’s a good school,” I said. “I had friends who went there.”
“You finally got around to reading my bio,” I said. “Not that impressive.”
“Me reading it, or your bio? Your bio is perfect. You have all the tools and ingredients and connections, the genetic gifts and the things you picked up easily.”
He turned on the radio, some right-wing talk. I recognized the voice but couldn’t instantly put it together with a name.
“Ever listen to Garrett Mueller?” he said. “Excuse me, Doctor Garrett Mueller. God knows what he’s a doctor in, mind you, but that’s what they call him. They replay his show every morning at six a.m. It’s on live at four p.m. And the six a.m. replay is still one of the ten most popular shows in the country. His day-old thoughts, if you can call them that, get more listeners than four of the top five progressive radio shows in the country combined.”
“Can you even name a progressive radio host?” he asked. “I only know that fat piece of shit, what’s his name … Schultz. Ed Schultz. Guy’s a piece of work, I’ll fucking tell ya. I once saw him kick a dog.”
He pulled an unwrapped breath mint out of his jacket pocket and popped it in his mouth. Then he took another out and offered it to me. Something about it disgusted me, the thought of this unwrapped mint rolling around in his moth-ridden jacket, there for years maybe, but still I took it and ate it and chewed it up.
“The really scary part,” he said as he turned up the radio, “is that this replay is popular not because people missed it the first time. It’s that people, the majority of his audience at this hour, are listening to it again.”
Doctor Mueller raised his voice: “The thing is, about this guy, is that we still don’t know who he is. The media never checked him for ticks. Barack Hussein Obama. Who is this guy? Where does he come from, and what does he want?”
Axelrod turned the radio back down to a low hum, background noise.
“Rahm Emanuel is my soul brother,” he said. “I love that cat. Mean bastard, but damaged. He’s doing his best. He could never, you know, offend me in any real sort of way. He doesn’t mean it. And I love him. But this shit he’s in, the shit he’s got you doing with Jarrett — he doesn’t stand a chance. The president is always going to stick with Jarrett. Michelle loves Jarrett like I love Rahm, and the president, God bless him, is a little freaked out by his wife. And that’s okay. You’re not married, but you’ll get there. And even without Michelle, he loves Jarrett, too. Rahm’s a Clinton guy. They’ll never trust a Clinton guy, especially one that goes around shoving his dick in people’s faces.”
“Want to know one weird thing?” he said, looking over at me. “I’ve know them all for like twenty years, and don’t think I’ve ever seen Michelle and Valerie in the same room together.”
I thought I was getting the message, but just to clarify, out of an abundance of caution, I decided to push it a little.
“I said I’d help him out. I don’t know Rahm like you, but I like him. We all like him, kind of, in the way that someone who doesn’t know him likes a man like that.”
“And you said you’d help out Valerie, too,” Axelrod said. “I know guys like you. You make deals between warring chiefs. You do your best work at night, which suits oppo guys. Intelligence and counterintelligence.”
“Mole men looking for moles,” he said, with a reassuring smile, like we were sharing a secret. I wasn’t sure I really got the joke, but did my best impression of a knowing smirk.
“You’re good at what you do,” he said. “You’re smart, able. Good family, wealthy family. I know guys like you. I like guys like you, some of you anyway. You’re finding things. I’m telling you now to bury them, forget them. That’s knowledge that will do you no favors, that stuff with the SDS and the changing names. Can you do that?”
I didn’t hesitate: “Yes.” The word came as a relief I didn’t know I wanted.
“Atta boy,” Axelrod said, smiling and pulling another mint from his breast pocket. “I knew you could.”
He turned up the radio again, and Doctor Mueller was shouting now: ” … or Waco, for example. That’s what they’re planning, folks, but on a much grander scale. Hitler and the Big Lie, remember that. Remember that the next time FEMA …”
He turned it back down.
“People used to believe in saints that smelled like roses months after they died, martyrs whose bodies never decomposed.”
Axelrod smiled a little. “Sure,” he said. “Like Lenin. But those were myths that reinforced authority. We used to have them, I guess, Manifest Destiny and shit like that. But now we have a peculiar sort of mythology in this country that grew out of hating our leaders, fearing them. Right? I mean, Waco, Roswell, whatever. JFK, MLK, AIDS. John Birch and fluoride in the drinking water. When he left office, you know at least ten percent of this country thought Eisenhower was a communist. Fifteen years ago, you had congressmen shooting pumpkins to prove that Clinton had knocked off his own lawyer. Now, tell me, what chance does Barack Hussein Obama, as Doctor Mueller would say, what chance does he really have in a country like that?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I guess Marx would say we need new myths. That’s Marx, right?”
“Oh, who the fuck knows,” Axelrod said. “Marx or Mayakovsky or whoever the fuck. Émile Durkheim. My parents knew all this shit. They would talk about it. Drove me nuts as a kid. My kids read this guy, you probably know him, Zizek or something or other, and now they drive me nuts. Same shit, whatever.”
“Small world,” I said.
“The point is,” Axelrod said, visibly straining to get back to whatever it was he was talking about, “the point is, there needs to be a counternarrative. There needs to be something we can point to, something someone can release, like a book, that knocks down all this shit about Barack. A catalog of rebuttals that doesn’t have our fingerprints on it, something that just floats around. Something that grows on its own. A countermyth. Do you get what I mean?”
I told him I wasn’t sure. I had never taken the paranoid stuff about the president seriously, of course. Conspiracy theories just weren’t for me. There was some stuff about John Kennedy’s assassination I found fascinating — the stuff about his affair with Ben Bradlee’s sister-in-law, and that woman’s murder, and how that woman’s diary made its way to the CIA before Bradlee could get to it — but beyond that it never really held my interest.
I thought about my junior-year roommate in college. He smoked too much pot and would talk about Tower 7 and the temperature at which steel melts. He would watch Internet videos all day on the subject instead of going to class. Eventually he dropped out, and we lost touch.
I wondered where he was right now, if he was smoking up in a car somewhere and listening to Doctor Garrett Mueller on the radio.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Axelrod said. “I know Barack wrote Dreams from My Father. That Bill Ayers shit … I watched Barack write that book. I took pictures. He showed me manuscripts. But he also … I know he took liberties. It’s a work of literature, in a way, I guess.”
“Bill Ayers?” I asked. That theory was a new one to me. I didn’t know anyone thought Obama hadn’t written his own book and had instead outsourced it to some radical.
“Oh yeah,” Axelrod said. “Big-time. I mean, for God’s sake kid, there are people out there who think he’s a flesh-eating, shape-shifting space lizard. That the world is run by flesh-eating, shape-shifting space lizards. And what are we supposed to do? Should Robert Gibbs put out a press release reassuring American voters that Barack Obama isn’t a lizard-man?”
It was only then that I noticed that we weren’t driving anywhere near the White House. We were in Virginia, in fact, and for a second I thought, between this unexpected conversation and his general appearance, that maybe Axelrod had snapped.
“Just put together everything you can,” he said. “A catalog of rebuttals. And only show it to me. Now, have you ever been to Arby’s? I know a great one near McLean.”
“Roast beef for breakfast,” he said. “What a concept. What a country.”
From THE LIZARD KING by Jamie Weinstein and Will Rahn Copyright © 2012 by Jamie Weinstein and Will Rahn. Reprinted courtesy of Broadside Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.