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In due course, the Marshal of the Court hand-delivered Justice Brinnin’s letter of resignation to the White House. Nothing raises the national temperature more than a VACANCY sign hanging from the colonnaded front of the Supreme Court. ”“He’s a fan, turns out.”“The President of the United States watches the show? She walked to the Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Center and bought two shopping bags of books about the Supreme Court, including numerous autobiographies of justices. I’m beginning to see why you went into TV, darling. For the last four years, he had been Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, generally referred to as “the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee.” And true enough: if you wanted to wield a federal gavel, you first had to get past his. and see a star of light reflect off the incisor, just like in the commercials. He was absorbed in the TV, which was playing that morning’s Oval Office announcement. I think they’re all a bit embarrassed over Cooney and Burrows.”“Darn well should be. You’ll be the first president since Johnson not to seek reelection. ”“I doubt I’m qualified to be a clerk at the Supreme Court.”The reporters laughed.“Then what are you doing here? Tables had been arranged to approximate the Senate Judiciary Committee dais. Hardwether’s chauffeur, an ex-Secret Service agent adept at aggressive driving, suddenly drove up onto the median strip and got the CJ to Dulles in time for his flight. Airport security whisked him through a separate entrance where he was not required to remove his shoes and surrender his gels or his bottle of Listerine-there were at least some advantages to being “the most powerful man in the country,” even if you couldn’t seize your wife’s assets and have her submitted to peine forte et dure. PRESIDENT VANDERDAMP was not at the time riding a tidal wave of popularity. (There were a surprising number of them by sitting justices. You have a genuine talent for the old reductio ad absurdum.”“Don’t knock TV,” Buddy grunted. By the way, I was thinking, what would you say to raising the show’s metabolism a little? He cheerfully admitted to having Botox injections, and even had a nice line about it: “I need all the help I can get. “Gosh, she’s attractive.”“Yes,” Graydon said like an old water buffalo commenting on a butterfly that had just alit on its horn. You know what they’ll say.”“I don’t care what they say.”“I know. This midwestern imperturbability can be overdone.”On the TV screen, the President and Pepper were sitting side by side on the fauteuils in front of the fireplace, cameras snapping away, a boom mike hovering like a bat above them.“Mr. ”“What I’m told.”“Judge Cartwright, is it true you’re planning to continue with your show while the nomination process goes forward? A name card in front of Hayden Cork’s place indicated he had the role of Senator Mitchell. He’s got another one in development,” Pepper said, “called Assholes.  But Declan noticed that the airport staff avoided eye contact.
Thank God, his fellow justices agreed-unanimously, for once-cameras weren’t allowed in the Court. I drew a different inference.”Hayden said, “The inference being… My reading of her is that she wants to disqualify herself. Belong in cages…”“Maybe it won’t come up,” said the President.“I wouldn’t count on that. “Quite the trailer park we seem to have wandered into.”“I never realized you were such a snob, Graydon,” the President said. He was entitled to it, according to his reading of the law. The Court had split 5-4 on affirmative action, right-to-life, right-to-death, gun control, capital punishment, school prayer, partial birth abortion, stem cell research, torture, free speech, border security, interstate commerce, copyright, immigration, pharmaceutical patents, even on a case involving graffiti. This was the moment she had been dreading above all. “Yep.”There was a long silence, not even a pwwttt.“Did you call just to not say anything? “Why don’t you just cuss me out and get it over with? “That coulda been me that son of a bitch was aiming at.”“I know. Mixmaster where…” Her heart wasn’t quite in it.“Is that why you sent us those tickets? Hayden said to the President, “We’re going to kill him if we keep putting him through this kind of jet lag.” But Clenndennynn showed up in the Oval Office looking crisp and ready to lend wisdom and eminence to yet another presidential emergency.“I’m not sure I see what the crisis is,” Graydon said, setting down his china coffee cup. Then in that case, run.”“Graydon,” the President said, “stop pretending to be obtuse. Everything I’ve tried to do has been predicated on being in office for only one term. Look,” Graydon said, “if it’s the prospect of serving another term that’s got you tied up in knots, I wouldn’t worry too much on that score. But I didn’t pass huge crowds here on my way in from Andrews chanting, ‘Four more years.’ Where are we in the polls, Hayden? “We had some bounce from Cartwright, but Swayle eliminated that.”“How could the Court have ruled for that… ‘Yes, and they’re both sitting on the Supreme Court.’ Well. Point is, sir, I think you can safely run for reelection and expect to be back on your front porch in Wapa-however it’s pronounced-by the following January 21.” “It’s too cold in Wapakoneta in January to sit on the porch,” the President said, “but I appreciate the sentiment. After lunch, they would shoot the scene where the Chief of Naval Operations informs him that cruise missiles launched from the Nimitz carrier group were on their way to destroy the presidential palace of Mumduk bin Shamirz-“Mad Ali” as he was known-the America- despising ruler of Badganistan. The muzzein falling to the ground, a human torch, screaming. (Excellent with peanut butter and jelly but not much else.) But as Don Veto he had evolved into the sworn enemy of the majority of the United States Congress, whose members understand that their main job, their highest calling, their truest democratic function, is to take money from other states and funnel it to their own. “You might want to leave that out at the hearings.”The army deposited Pepper back at the Thirtieth Street heliport by five that afternoon. Contemplating his thwarted presidential ambition, Dexter decided that a more sensible-and permanent-avenue to greatness would be to become a justice of the U. He gave an equivocal reason, saying only that it was “important and confidential.” The President groaned at the prospect, but agreed. What greater homage to the Founding Fathers and the men who froze at Valley Forge could there be than a civic center in Tulsa paid for by the taxpayers of Massachusetts? After the silence of the Camp David bowling alley, the bustle and roar of crepuscular Manhattan felt vibrantly reassuring. On arriving, Dexter plunked himself down and said to the President (we know all this from a tape recording in the archives at the Vanderdamp Library): “My information is that Brinnin’s gone nuttier than a granola bar. The current occupant of that powerful chair was a man named Dexter Mitchell, senator from the great state of Connecticut. Vanderdamp, though he was always careful, in his public statements, to say that he had “the greatest respect” for him. “I suppose not.”“They hate me up there on Capitol Hill. Well, don’t get me started on the subject of the United States Congress. The first time the public hears of this, you need to be sitting next to me in the Oval Office.”Pepper thought about discussing it with Buddy, but his record on discretion was anything but reassuring. I’d like you to consider putting my name forward as a successor to Brinnin.”There is a brief, perhaps eloquent, silence on the tape. Don-if I may-when I first started practicing law over three decades ago…”The tape continues on for twenty-six minutes. You turned it into a reprise of the Salem witch trials.”In moments of stress, Dexter Mitchell had a tendency to laugh unpleasantly. He despised him for a variety- or as they say in Washington, “multiplicity”-of reasons. 322, a bill Mitchell had sponsored that would have required every helicopter rotor blade in the U. military to be made in his home state of Connecticut. Vanderdamp for ignoring his suggestion that he appoint him to fill the Brinnin vacancy on the high court. But,” he patted Pepper’s knee and grinned, “they won’t find it so easy to string you up. And she had a hunch that he was not going to take this news well.“Where the hell were you? I was going to start calling emergency rooms.”“I know, I know, sorry, baby.” She gave him a kiss, which he did not return. Then Dexter continues: “Now, why do I propose myself? In the background, you can hear the President reaching for an imaginary-and much craved-EJECT button. It came out as a high-pitched staccato burst, a sort of cackle. Nominating someone to the Supreme Court can be hard enough for a popular president. Someone called you the ‘Oprah of our judicial system.’ People love you.” He chuckled. “Such language, in front of the President.”Pepper said, “You’re the politician, not me. I said-going in, and you can look it up on Google-that a president who doesn’t spend four years fretting about reelection can accomplish far more than one who does, who spends every second of the day worrying about his approval ratings. It’s like passing Prohibition to keep one person from drinking. She decided to walk the couple of miles back to the apartment, wanting to think things over and postpone the inevitable moment of evasion with Buddy. You and I haven’t always seen eye to eye, but I’ve always respected you.” (Three weeks before, Dexter had called President Vanderdamp “the worst president since Warren G.
For one at the opposite end of the likability spectrum, it presents a daunting challenge, as well as a delicious opportunity for the chief bouncer at the rope line in front of the Supreme Court entryway: the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “And I for one can’t wait to see the look on Dexter Mitchell’s face. But it seems to me this thing could backfire on you, and you’ve got a reelection coming up.”The President said, “I’ll let you in on a little secret, but it has to remain a secret. ”“Yes, sir, I can handle that.”“I’m not going to run again.”Pepper stared. As you can see,” he smiled, “I have not spent the last two and a half years trying to win popularity contests.”“No,” Pepper said. Why, they’re so mad at me they’re even rounding up votes for a constitutional amendment to limit presidents to a single term. And meanwhile, of course, stringing up my Supreme Court nominees from lampposts. The President had asked her not to discuss it with anyone.“Even my husband? ” the President asked.“He’s a former TV newsman.”“Oh, dear. If this thing leaks, it’s over before it’s even begun. Harding.”) “But I say let’s put aside whatever philosophical disagreements we have.
(More about that in due course.)President Vanderdamp’s first nominee to succeed Brinnin was a distinguished appellate judge named Cooney. ” Buddy said crossly when the click of her heels on marble announced her return. “I needed to spend a little quality time with myself. Woke up feeling kind of cobwebby up here.” She tapped the side of her head, which at the moment felt anything but clear. Frankly, because I think I’m the right person for the job. At several points he tries to arrest the wall of sound with comments like, “I promise to give it the consideration it deserves.” But Mitchell, having only gotten as far as reason number three (paragraph four), soldiers on. It’s not my fault if-”“Let’s dispense with the folderol, shall we? One observer likened it to the sound geese make when being force-fed. It was unseemly.” Unseemliness was the worst sort of crime to Graydon Clenndennynn, worthy of the death penalty.“I’m sorry you and the President feel that way. Let me point out that-”Clenndennynn was not about submit to a marathon Dexter Mitchell harangue.
Enormous care had gone into his selection, knowing that Senator Mitchell’s Judiciary Committee was preparing an auto-da-fé that would have made the Spanish Inquisition blush. Indeed, he seemed to have been put on earth precisely for the purpose of one day becoming a justice of the United States Supreme Court. But I think you’re just what it calls for.”Pepper said, “I have the feeling this is a joke and I’m the only one who isn’t in on it.”“I offered the Senate two of the most distinguished jurists in the country and they blew their noses on them.”“And I’m the next hanky? Buddy was looking at her either incredulously or suspiciously. Eventually, a door opens and an aide advises the President that his next meeting is now imminent (an almost certain lie). He had done it once or twice during the presidential debates, causing some in the audience to wonder if they really wanted to hear four years of it in the White House.“That’s just-aack!
He was determined to bring order to the nation’s books. It’s just, I have this hard time deciding things.”“You’re a judge. I was fucking frantic, for God’s sake.”“Baby, I told you. When he declared his intention to run a fourth time, his wife, now working as a K Street lobbyist representing-as it happened-the U. rail industry, replied in no uncertain terms that she would not spend one more weekend, one more day, one more hour, one more minute at some coffee shop in Iowa, pretending to care about ethanol, or indeed any biofuel; or for that matter about the price of wheat, corn, soy, or anything that emerged from the loamy topsoil of the Hawkeye State. He berated his friends for not having thought of it first.
So far, he had vetoed 185 spending bills, acquiring the nickname “Don Veto.” It was an incongruent term, given his total lack of Italianate qualities. Vanderdamp was paradigmatically nonethnic, as middle American as sliced white bread. But I’d appreciate an answer by Monday.”“You couldn’t make it Friday, could you? We’re going into Sweeps Week and…” The President was staring at her.“Young lady,” he said, “I come bearing a very considerable gift, not an offer of a lunch date.”“Yes, sir. Your job is to decide things.”“See, I’m a Libra.”The President stared. Dexter sulked off to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to drown his sorrow in feverish multilateral panel discussions on climate change and globalization. It was this conviction, along with a refreshing absence of modesty, that had prompted him to call Hayden Cork some months before and request an Oval Office meeting with the President. Her grandfather was a sheriff.”“I don’t care if she’s descended from Sam Houston.
He was sixty-four years old and, as one waspish pundit put it, “fast approaching retirement age, and not a minute too soon.” He was physically unremarkable in an Eisenhowerish sort of way: balding, trim, pleasant-looking but with the quietly commanding look of, say, an airline pilot or high school principal. Vanderdamp had rolled up his shirtsleeves on his first day in office, unscrewed the cap of the presidential veto pen, and gone to work. Chopping scallions, Pepper said, “What’d you make of all that Supreme Court hullabaloo?  The second time, he raised $20 million and came in fourth. You got five thousand FBI agents out there going through my garbage and waterboarding everyone I ever talked to, starting with the ob-gyn who slapped my butt on my way out of the womb. ”Pepper said, in a different tone of voice, “Why don’t you just call him Buddy.