I hate stakeouts, and yet there I was, sitting in a car, keeping an eye on the building across the street and waiting for something new and interesting to happen.
Of course, it was Democratic Party headquarters, and they haven’t had a new idea since the 1930s, but for once the money was good, so I hung around.
Taking this job was a challenge, since I don’t even own a car. But my buddy who runs Joe’s Towing Service and Package Store was willing to haul a junker out of the lot and leave it on the street for me.
Yeah, I did have to put something down on what Joe calls his “Dick Richards, P.I., Is Funding My Retirement” account, but the advance for the job covered it.
It’s true that, even for a licensed Political Instigator, being a camera-pointer is pretty low, but it’s not like I invented it. If the Democrats can pay somebody to follow Gov. LePage around, I can turn the tables.
If, as I said, anything interesting ever happens. And then it did, but not the way I expected.
It was getting dark, and I was wondering if I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else, and suddenly he was there.
He sort of popped into view in the passenger seat, scaring the daylights out of me — until I recognized him. The grin, the wavy hair, the voice when he said “Hi, Dick, good to meet you,” were all more than familiar.
“Mr. President,” I said. “This is a surprise.” I don’t think of him that way — since he passed on, I know it’s not official with a church or anything, but I call him “St. Ronnie” in my mind. However, that somehow seemed presumptuous, so I went with the safe choice.
“Oh, I know,” he said, straightening his halo a bit. “People I drop in on take it in different ways. You should have seen the expression on Barack’s face when I stopped in at his beach house on Oahu a while ago.”
“Talk about anything important?” I asked, but when he replied, “That’s need-to-know at the presidential level,” I knew I wasn’t getting any launch codes or Presidential Book of Secrets revelations.
Still, I was impressed. And a bit worried. What if he was sidelining for the “This is Your Really Final Notice” department or something?
“No, not that,” he said, reading my mind and uttering one of his famous chuckles. “I’m here for something similar, though. Things are getting tough for the old U.S. of A., and I figure a few timely words of caution are due. And who better to pass them on than somebody already licensed to spill — the beans, that is?”
OK, my Social Security number does start with 007, but I don’t brag about it. “What’s on your mind?” I asked.
“Pretty much everything,” he said. “You know I was an active Democrat, and a union leader, back in my Hollywood days and I still think that government does good things for people. But no nation can afford $16 trillion in debt, heading for $25 trillion in a few more years, and all the programs I supported when they got started, Medicare and Social Security mainly, are going to bankrupt the nation if something isn’t done.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I had hoped that most Americans wouldn’t vote to impoverish their grandchildren just so this generation wouldn’t have to fix those programs for a few more years, but I was wrong.”
He sighed a bit, then went on: “And there’s all the foreign policy problems — the Middle East is going nuclear, both metaphorically and literally, and most of Europe is even further down the road to fiscal disaster than we are. I tried to talk to Hillary about that, but her staff said she had some serious athlete’s foot issues that prevented any comment.”
“So, what do we need to do?” I asked, and he responded, “A lot of things, but none of them will work without leadership. America remains the ‘indispensable nation,’ as I reminded Barack he had already said, and just reacting to events isn’t going to cut it. People aren’t likely to follow someone whose current policies and programs are wrongheaded to begin with.”
“Sounds like you’re still a believer in freedom,” I said.
“More than ever,” he responded. “It was a gift, remember, and if you don’t remember where you got it, you aren’t going to be able to keep it.”
Then he slowly faded out, saying, “I have someone else to see now. Don’t forget what I said.”
I promised I wouldn’t, but I got to thinking about his message, and so I almost missed it when people started jumping out of the windows across the street.
But that’s another story.
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: