GENERAL KELLY has assigned JARED to interview Trump voters. Now that STEVE BANNON is gone, the GENERAL can run the White House the way he wants, which means instituting a permanent panel of Trump voters, who will be broadcast live to TRUMP whenever he is feeling sad and angry and racist. The PANELISTS will explain why they still support the President—it’s like jury duty, but they’re not voting to convict anyone of anything yet. They’ll be living out of conference room off of the bowling alley in the basement. JARED is nervous because he has to talk to strangers, and IVANKA is keeping a close eye on GENERAL KELLY, who she fears is diluting her father’s brand.
GENERAL KELLY [declaratively]: When he’s angry he goes off script.
IVANKA [one upping the chief of staff, whom she doesn’t view as her direct boss]: We can’t have him commenting on the script either. Interjecting what he really thinks between the lines we’ve prepared for him.
KUSHNER DAUGHTER [to the PANELISTS]: Meta-President. Our voters hate meta.
[The PANELISTS are idling in the hallway. One is loudly complaining that although he likes Trump, he is tired of all the tweeting and of that rich lady bragging about her designer clothes. Another is defending the rich lady, saying that it’s a free country and that means she can buy whatever she wants with her money. They’re all taking selfies with the office furniture and engaging in horseplay.]
GENERAL KELLY [getting pissed at the PANELISTS and at JARED because he is not corralling them as instructed]: Can we erase this Lord of the Flies diagram? [GENERAL KELLY points to a Freudian analysis of the novel’s characters on the white board.] I don’t think it matters who the Piggy is anymore.
[KUSHNER DAUGHTER mouths to the PANELISTS that she is the Piggy. GENERAL KELLY scrawls on the white board that Panel = Yes.]
JARED [to his DAUGHTER, and referring to STEVE BANNON]: He called us Javanka.
KUSHNER DAUGHTER [winking, to the PANELISTS]: Not Jarvanka?
JARED [angrily, for him]: Ja, no R.
KUSHNER DAUGHTER [to the PANELISTS, broadly]: So that means he called you Ja-red—[KUSHNER DAUGHTER pronounces her father’s name like she is Mrs. Howell from Gilligan’s Island.]
GENERAL KELLY [to no one]: We’re cauterizing the parts of the agenda that Steve Bannon touched or influenced.
JARED [triumphantly, for once]: So no more smelling our own underpants after a long sweaty day.
GENERAL KELLY [handing the PANELISTS provisions]: Jared, stop stalling.
[JARED stalls. He texts his brother a business idea, a person who can do for you the tasks you don’t want to do. JOSH KUSHNER’s assistant responds immediately that Josh is in a meeting but will respond soon. The PANELISTS approach JARED like he is an alien.]
PANELIST [confused]: I’m going on Semester at Sea in a few weeks. Is this panel thing going to impact that?
JARED [patronizingly]: Well, it’s a permanent panel. You live out of the conference room.
JARED [annoyed]: So, yes. If you’re on the panel you can’t do Semester at Sea.
ANOTHER PANELIST [middle-aged]: My son’s name is General Robert E. Lee. Am I going to have to change that? He’s twenty-eight.
GENERAL KELLY [using his dad voice]: Jared. The panel isn’t about changing minds. It’s about keeping the President from being an asshole. And that means keeping him happy. Feted and fatted. [GENERAL KELLY passes out note cards that read, feted + fatted = damage control, to his staff. The lettering is embossed.] No one is changing their names. Tell the camera why you like the President and why you will continue to like him, no matter what you learn, from mainstream media—
[Some of the PANELISTS boo. There’s crosstalk as one of the PANELISTS calls journalists sick people.]
GENERAL KELLY [dad voice]: Or wherever else you get your information. Understand? You’re serving the public by giving the President the praise he needs. Your hosannas are his air. [He flips over the note cards. Hosannas = air.] Jared, remind the panelists to clap. The President responds to multi-sensory validation. Hosanna, clap. Hosanna, clap. That’s the rhythm.
[KELLYANNE CONWAY, SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS and HOPE HICKS walk through the West Wing like a bunch of Manson girls who never speak to each other, even when deciding which heir or heiress to murder next. They surround JARED.]
KELLYANNE CONWAY [lying]: We were just talking about you.
JARED [truthfully]: You weren’t even talking to each other
KELLYANNE CONWAY, SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS and HOPE HICKS [gaslighting in unison]: We were thinking about you.
JARED [anxiously, again]: What were you thinking?
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Shut up, Jared. [KELLYANNE CONWAY inhales deeply, through her nose.] I can finally breathe through my nose again now that Steve is gone.
[KELLYANNE CONWAY answers her phone. It’s MAGGIE HABERMAN.]
KELLYANNE CONWAY [truthfully, for once]: Mags, this is on deep background. The pivot is not real. [KELLYANNE CONWAY inspects the PANELISTS like she’s checking for conjunctivitis on Ellis Island.] I’m a Gen Xer, Maggles. Like you. Alanis Morissette did not base “You Oughta Know” on Dave Coulier. It was Mister Trump. President Trump, yes. Did I say Mister? [KELLYANNE CONWAY makes jerk-off motion.] Steve Bannon isn’t on the outside of the tent pissing in. The only people on a camping trip are the Democrats and they’re glamping because they can’t go anywhere without their Siris and their Alexas, who by the way, Democrats want robots to attend college next.
[IVANKA is huddling with the PANELISTS and giving them instructions that conflict with GENERAL KELLY’s. She resents GENERAL KELLY’s consolidation of power, and so she consolidates power herself.]
KELLYANNE CONWAY [to the PANELISTS]: Why are you guys here? [to KUSHNER DAUGHTER] Who are these people holding Redweld folders full of—[KELLYANNE CONWAY gags.]—Chex mix and Ensure milkshakes. That is on fucking background, Maggie, and you know it.
[KELLYANNE CONWAY exits, but first stops in front of a PANELIST. She stares at her plain face, guesses at her measurements and asks her whether she realizes there is no direct sunlight in the conference room. There’s crosstalk as JARED asks GENERAL KELLY how to pronounce “Mnuchin.”]
GENERAL KELLY: It’s Mnuchin. But the panel doesn’t need to know how to say it. Just that he—[GENERAL KELLY reads to JARED from another note card.] Looks like the only thing you can say about him is that his wife was attacked by the sick, fake or bad media. Here, this is a word cloud of what people are saying about him on the internet. It’s your job to make sure none of the panelists say any of this, ever.
IVANKA [powerfully]: And if they do, get me a new panelist, and give their name to Attorney General—[IVANKA stifles her own laughter.]—Sessions.
JARED [reading from word cloud]: Oscar the Grouch but orange? A beached whale if whales could be racist and also orange? If the Law and Order chime were a white supremacist who is also orange?
[KUSHNER DAUGHTER begins handing the group a packet of photos of Presidents and non-Presidents as important as Presidents, like Alexander Hamilton, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Hillary Clinton, that she compiled for them.]
PANELIST [falsely]: If you squint, Trump looks like a President.
ANOTHER PANELIST [profoundly, to KUSHNER DAUGHTER]: If you squint, the Capitol looks like soft serve.
GENERAL KELLY and IVANKA [accidentally in unison]: We can use that.
ANOTHER PANELIST [drinking an Ensure]: If every election is a change election, maybe eventually we can get all the way back to the beginning. Like, how many different ways can you change before you get back to square one?
[GENERAL KELLY is shaking his head. IVANKA is nodding yes. JARED is wetting himself, losing even more credibility. A PANELIST says that, as usual, Trump is right—the White House is kind of a dump. They all begin exiting. They’re not going down to the conference room. They’re following KUSHNER DAUGHTER, who is leaving to play outside, and who has been their tour guide all along. A PANELIST thanks KUSHNER DAUGHTER for her interesting comments. She asks her what it’s like to be so rich, but KUSHNER DAUGHTER politely demurs.]
Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr