CLEVELAND — It is said that when God closes a door He opens a bedroom.
Due to Marriott’s shameful and possibly illegal practice of overbooking hotel rooms, this veteran journalist was left with nowhere to sleep on the first night of the Republican National Convention. And believe me: after spending the day riding the rails with John Kasich then suffering from an outbreak of painful diarrhea on the convention floor, I was bone tired.
I dialed several of my colleagues, but none could offer me even a floor to sleep on. Michael Smerconish, the charming rogue, was already sharing with his room with several female companions. Ron Fournier would be up all night trying to recruit Ted Cruz and Cornel West to run together on a No Labels unity ticket. And Mikie Barbaro didn’t have a room at all; he was flying back home each night because he once read a negative TripAdvisor review of Cleveland by someone who was approached by a panhandler.
Yet fate intervened in my favor when, at the late night McDonald’s I was drowning my sorrows in, I got myself trapped in the unisex restroom. For once, such dangerous and vexing public accommodations were a boon, as the loose pile of toilet paper in the corner beckoned me to rest my weary head.
I awake Tuesday morning fully recharged. I slick my hair back, apply a dollop of mustache ointment in the bathroom mirror, and confidently stride out as the fire department breaks down the bathroom door.
I need to look my best, because I’ve got one of the biggest interviews of my life this afternoon: an exclusive sit-down with Donald Trump’s family.
I spend the morning at the Cleveland Public Library in intense prep. Trump has put his wife and kids in the convention spotlight, and I intend to use all of my journalistic skills to get to the heart of the story.
Already, the big headline out of Day 1 was Trump’s wife Melania plagiarizing a speech given by Michelle Obama. As a writer, I abhor plagiarism. It’s a despicable act, the sort of petit fraud that can destroy careers and sink a Presidential campaign. I plan to use my facetime with the Trumps to take Melania to task over her thievery and some questionable metaphors she employed.
After I pass through the security checkpoint at the Westin hotel, I’m met in the lobby by none other than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Chris is sporting a bulky headset and holding plastic clipboard, making him resemble a football coach. He gives me a big bear hug.
“Eyy c’mere Diggie, youse remember your old pal Chris from Bergen County?”
“Hello, governor!” I beam.
“Lotsa great guys here, lotta hustle, not da kinda guys who sag their pants in da locker room and disrespect da game,” boasts the bombastic Garden State politico.
“What’s the clipboard for?” I ask.
“Da Big Boss put me in charge of all of todays lunch ordahs. Not just for da family, but for everyone. Dat’s what kinda guy he is. He TRUSTS me. Chris from Bergen County is gonna get everyone’s ordahs right. Someone doesn’t like pickles? I’m on it.”
“Is he making you-”
Before I can finish, Christie places one of his hamhock hands on my shoulders and pulls me tight. He brings his buffalo-like head right next to my ear, and I can practically smell the nitrates from all the gabagool wafting out of his pores.
“When you do da lunch ordahs right, dat’s when dey slot you into da cabinet. Dey don’t let no one who screws dis up be attorney general. That’s Chris, he’s da guy who’s getting all of those sammies right. Then boom, watch out terrorists.”
I nod. Chris from Bergen County has fallen pretty far from grace. Just six months ago, he was confidently issuing commands to Big Ronnie and Da Ball Hog from his Christiebunker in Trenton. After his own Presidential campaign was stabbed in the back by traitors and “lazy divas,” it seems that Team Trump is a sort of Argentina for Christie, a safe harbor where he can live in exile.
Chris ushers me up to the Presidential Suite, where I find the Trump clan splayed out on immaculate hotel furniture as if they’re in a Vogue tableau.
Melania and her son-in-law Donald Jr. are seated side-by-side in ornate William and Mary chairs. Behind them Tiffany Trump, the Millennial of the bunch, is reclining in a chaise lounge, languidly tapping at her iPhone. And seated cross-legged on a footstool is Eric Trump, who flashes me a crooked, half-gum grin as I walk in.
“Gamel al-Digler from Kingdom News?” Eric asks.
“Uhh, yes,” I respond. I’m often mistaken for other newsmen, but I’ve used it for my advantage throughout my career. You always have to confuse your sources to get the scoop.
Eric extends a limp, misshapen palm, and we shake hands. My god, that familiar feeling! Like a Ziploc bag filled with beef stew and stale bread! I’ve known that feeling my whole life!
I gesture at his hand with my left.
“Do you also suffer from Anatolian Carpal Bone Stew Syndrome?” I ask, cautiously yet enthusiastically.
“Oh yes! In fact, Gamel, the Eric Trump Foundation has provided millions in research and awareness campaigns for the disease. We’re actually responsible for the ‘No, My Hand Isn’t Broken’ ads from a few years ago!” he says. “C’mon, take a load off!”
Eric pats the silk rug beside him. As I’m about to remark on the social stigma attached to our inborn afflictions, two men in scrubs flank his seat.
“One moment, Carl. I have a little case of-”
“Slush Blood Disorder!” we blurt out simultaneously, laughing.
“AKA Baron Blood! You got it, my man! Yup, dad says it’s because of how pure his Austrian side is. I take it as a badge of honor. But as you know, I need those regular emu blood transfusions. Hook me up, Ernie!”
Eric undoes his cufflink, and rolls up his sleeve. He takes the gold “E.T.”-initialed adornment and gingerly pops it into his front pocket. Dr. Ernie carefully places an IV into the vein running through his nearly translucent bicep, pumping him full of that sweet emu juice that makes blood flow as it would through a normal human being’s veins.
As Eric and I bond over our shared disabilities, which range from Coward’s Stomach to Holy Roman Eye Bleeding Syndrome, we’re interrupted by Donald Trump Jr. snapping his fingers at us obnoxiously.
“So this is Gulen Digen from CNNTurk? Does he understand our language? C’mon, Turk. Take a look at this.”
I rise to my feet and make my way over to the Republican nominee’s firstborn son. He produces an iPad and opens the Photos app.
“I promise you, you have never seen something like this.”
He’s right. For the next five minutes, Donald Jr. scrolls through hundreds of pictures of bloodied, beheaded, and even electrocuted wildlife. They range from African elephants, to snow leopards, to the endangered dhole foxes of East Asia.
“I do not expect the Turk, what with his conniving brain and demonstrated failure at empire to fully grasp this, but here’s what it’s all about,” he states pointedly. “It is man’s destiny to go out and conquer these creatures. God created will and power so the rightful rulers of this realm could prove their superiority. When we play this great game to corner, tame, then eliminate these creatures, we reify the greatest power within us: the power to kill. God rewarded his greatest creatures with a sense of pride when they take a life, almost a signal that they are meant to be strong since birth.”
“I’m not sure I understand, Mr. Trump.”
“Insolent Ottoman! Do you not get it? Do you not understand? We must become great again. The weak must feel the strong again.” He shoves his phone, now displaying an image of a North American grey wolf with a harpoon through its ribs, closer to my face. “We will fully become ourselves.”
After several tense minutes of looking at mutilated animal photos I feel like I’ve gotten to the heart of Donald Trump Jr.’s story. Before I wilt under his oppressive eye contact I manage to edge over to where Tiffany Trump is reclining. She grunts when I plop myself myself down by her feet at the end of the chaise.
“Hiya, Tiffany. What’s the good word in Millennial-ville?”
“Oh my God, what fucking smells in here? Is that fear sweat? Goddamn it, Eric, not again!”
I momentarily get self-conscious, but I push through. The blonde 22-year-old socialite’s speech tonight will be her national debut, and watching Tiffany idly play with her curls and make exaggerated “P.U.” gestures in my general direction, I can’t help but think I’m talking to the next Paris Hilton. I go through my prepared questions.
“Based on your Instagram, it seems you and your heiress friends get into all kinds of wild adventures. What can you tell me about the way Millennial females use Instagram?”
“Umm, I don’t really… care… about you,” she says without averting her eyes from her phone. Boy, I’ve heard that line before, but I’m persistent.
“These women on Instagram, they are obviously looking for romantic attention,” I explain. “You can find them on the hashtags, like #ThirstyThursday and #ChiveOn. That’s a matter of public record, Ms. Trump. So I ask you again, what are they looking to hear in their Direct message inbox?”
Tiffany doesn’t even blink. “They want that… free market… uh… results and private… sector… experience. Are you done now? I feel like I need a shower just looking at you.”
“Ahh, I see, so they want to see your resume. That’s exactly what Brandon Wardell told me when I exclusively interviewed him. He’s a Millennial too, you know.” A long pause. “So what kind of footwear fashion blogs are you vibin’ on these days?”
Before Tiffany can answer, out of the corner of my eye I see Donald Jr. hovering over us. Afraid he’s going to corner me again, I slink over to where Melania is sitting to get the real scoop about her plagiarism.
This entire time Melania has been motionless, facing straight forward with her hands clenching the armrests.
I pull over a footstool and sit face-to-face with her. My heart is racing. This could be the interview that finally wins me that Polk Award. I say to myself, “you are ready for this, Carl. You have all the logic and facts you need to dominate.” It’s Go-Time.
“Madam Trump,” I declare, looking squarely in Melania’s Pegasus eyes resting atop those high cheekbones. “Allow me to take you back to 1987. Pete du Pont Fever was gripping a nation weary of the partisan gridlock holding up foreign aid to the Contras. And a young Senator named Joe Biden–“
“I believe Donald will be positive for United States,” answers Melania in a velvety voice both familiar like a mother’s hug and exotic like a tiger or shwarma.
“I, um, uhh,” I stutter, thrown off-balance by both her thoughtful response and each perfect strand in her walnut-colored hair. I think back to all those modeling photos of hers I Xeroxed at the library for research reasons. “Well, ma’am, there’s the speech… the plagiarism…”
“Donald is ready to serve, for all the Americans. Yeah, that’s so important to me,” she coos. “Don’t you think that’s so important, Kemal?”
“Well, yes, of course I do. But… let me ask the questions here. P-please let me.”
Melania crosses her silk-smooth legs and ever-so-imperceptibly brushes a loose strand of hair from her forehead with her shapely red fingernail.
“I do not what plagiarism is. I just learned English last year. It is bad for you to ask me these question.”
“I– yes, I’m sorry. I’ve been bad,” I pant, obviously suffering from acute dehydration due to my congenital Osmotic Urine Disorder. I look over to Eric and see him use up the last artificial membrane patch. Then I see Donald Jr., staring out the window at a dog park, idly playing with a knife. Then I turn back to Melania, who is carrying herself with the grace and beauty of an angel.
“I need to… I’m bad. I need to be punished… Melania, would you like to use me as a footstool??!” I scream.
The whole Trump family, even Tiffany, glares at me. Melania’s face turns white. She calls to the hallway, “get him out of here!”
Chris Christie bumbles into the suite and lifts me up by my haunches while I plead, “Melania, please! I’m sorry! I’ve been so bad! You wrote every speeches! I lied! You need to punish me!”
Eric is the only one to wave goodbye. “See you at the next Habsburg Diarrhea Syndrome convention, Gamel!”
“Melania! I just wanted to serve you! Find me on Instagram! Tiffany, can you get me in touch with Kyra Kennedy?” I manage to scream just before Christie hurls me into an elevator going down.
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years and is the host of the Digcast, a weekly podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet to @carl_diggler.