BROOKLYN, NY — A lot has changed since I last visited Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters in downtown Brooklyn.
Every window on the massive gray warehouse is now shuttered with one inch-thick steel plating. Large metal spikes shoot up from the pavement surrounding the building, a security measure against car bombings. And a cordon of NYPD officers in full body armor wielding submachine guns stands a permanent vigil around the perimeter.
These officers are loyal, as direct beneficiaries of Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill which added 100,000 cops on the streets.
All of this is explained to me by Clinton confidante Huma Abedin, who greets me after my strip search.
“Carl,” she apologizes, “I am so so so sorry about the inconvenience. You must understand we are under siege now. We have many enemies who wish to do us harm.”
My eyes have trouble adjusting to the dim torchlight that illuminates the rows of frantic young staffers clacking away on their iMacs.
“We have gone green, you know,” she adds. “I think the torch sconces and melting skull candles add a certain je ne sais quoin.“
She grasps my elbow and leads me, squinting, to the central conference room where Hillary’s senior digital strategists are having a heated discussion. She plops me into a curule chair. I screw up my eyes and some familiar faces come into focus.
There’s Rendon Lau, Hillary’s chief digital strategist, wearing full plate mail bearing the Palm Tree and Crossed Swords sigil of the Clinton Foundation. Seated across from him is social media director Norm Edison, whose eyes are fixed on the 3D-printed hook prosthetic where his hand and forearm used to be. I was there when Norm lost his hand, after losing a duel to Rendon. It is not a fond memory.
“Ser Diggler, of clan Buzzfeed,” croaks a blur of gray and white.
It is the overseer Maester Pike, the wizened old hand from Little Rock who became Hillary’s New Media consultant despite not having used the internet since sending an abusive e-mail to John Anderson in 1980.
“Bow to the pyre, so we may know your loyalty,” says Maester.
I genuflect before a flaming brazier with burning photos of Bernie Sanders and prints-out of hashtags like “#KittehsForBernie” and “#FeelTheFreeCollege.” Less sophisticated readers may view this as bias, but paying our respects is something we veteran journalists must do to gain access to candidates. In 2000, Gary Bauer made me kiss his pinky ring. In 1996, Lamar Alexander forced me to “marry” his daughter.
My fealty established, the meeting continues.
“Rendon,” says Norm, “we can no longer ignore the transgressions of 42, Hillary bless Him. The City is at stake. His remarks to the Black Lives Matter–“
“CONSPIRATORS!” shouts Rendon, smashing his mailed fist on the Herman Miller table. “The Black Lives Matter are extremists paid by the usurper Sanders to undermine us. The One True President Hillary is seen as a liberator by average people.”
My veteran reporter’s ear picks up on the insecurity in Rendon’s voice. Clearly, Bill Clinton’s testy exchange with BLM protesters was a devastating gaffe in what has otherwise been a tightly-scripted campaign.
“The only ‘supercriminals’ are those who would defy Hillary,” avers Rendon, staring at Norm. “Your average urban dweller has nothing to hide. They benefit from Her policies. Should one of our SWAT teams come to their door on suspicion of marijuana possession, the innocent need only point out the family member who violated Bill’s Law so the latter may be taken to solitary confinement, and the non-user may be permitted to continue with their life.
“Will such mercy be offered by Donald Trump? By Ted Cruz? I think not.”
Rendon chuckles and takes a swig from his “MALE TEARS” beer stein.
“But William the Wolf is wreaking havoc on The Message!” squeals Norm. “We must put a leash on him.”
“Do you hear your own words, Norman?” Rendon growls. “You dare address a former President in that way?”
Norm cowers, instinctively protecting his stump.
“No, we shall not sheath one of our best weapons. We shall redirect his energy,” Rendon continues. “These scum, they do not realize that Bill is still beloved in the black community. It’s just that the youth are….there is an unfairness to youth that is later augmented on the battlefield.”
“What do you propose?” asks Norm.
“We shall send Bill to perform with the hottest artists in rhythm and blues. Keith Sweat. Herbie Hancock. Jodeci. Once the youth see that their favorite musicians are singing their melodies whilst Bill plays the saxophone as he once played the swine Gingrich, they will see the light.”
“That is a wonderful idea, Rendon,” cries Norm.
While the Clinton campaign is a serious affair, it is not without compassion. While talking with Rendon and Norm, I am treated firsthand to how they console surrogates who experience how truly rough and tumble primaries can be.
A woman clothed in filthy rags stumbles into the Inner Sanctum, followed by two mean-looking guards. Her hair is plastered to her head with what looks like human saliva. She smells like death. Her sobs fill the room as much as her stench does.
Norm runs to this wretch and grasps her in his arms.
“Haley! Heavens! What happened?”
“It was awful…” she chokes through tears. “There were… beards. Everywhere.”
“Haley is one of the most respected bloggers in the Hillsphere,” Rendon whispers to me aggressively.
Haley catches her breath.
“I was going to the farmer’s market but–I heard…I heard HIM.”
Norm and Rendon gasp.
“His awful voice. ‘Bullion-ayres! Big bankuhs!’ I–I know I wasn’t supposed to go… but I felt it was my duty to see what was going on.”
“You went without protection? Without Hillguardsmen?” Rendon spits, pounding his fist on the table. “We paid for those cops! For you! Were you trying to be a martyr?”
“I thought I could get in and out quickly. But that’s when it began–”
“What began? Did they, oh my god, no, did they harass you?” Norm whimpers.
“I… I got looks at the rally. They knew it. They knew I was a member of the movement. I could tell with how they whispered. All of them were just so….they were taunting infants, just to hear them cry.”
“Bernie Bros are basically allergic to babies, despite their obvious similarities,” Rendon says scornfully.
“A man saw me looking at a seat, and shoved me out of the way to take it. He immediately started manspreading and talking about how race is less important than class. I swear to Her, I am not making this up.”
Wordlessly, Rendon ejects from his chair, stomps over to a wall, and punches it so hard that it seems the foundation of the building shakes.
“The worst part was the train. What happened on the train was evil. It was the darkest that the human heart can get.”
Rendon turns around with rage in his eyes.
“When I got on, I realized that the trains would be filled with Bernie Bros. From the first car to the last, there were buttons, beards, glasses, all of it. I held my breath and got on and….they were sitting on each other’s laps. They were spreading their legs. They had forced the conductors to turn on the air conditioning even though it was cold, just because they know it upsets women. All of them were playing Killer Michael songs from their iPhones, or Bernie speeches, even though they had just returned from one. I had strategically placed a pillow under my shirt to feign pregnancy so they wouldn’t attack me, and I tried to take a seat….and that’s when….”
Haley starts crying again. Norm puts his stump on her shoulder.
“If you need a shoulder Haley, you know that I am always here.”
She embraces him tightly and continues.
“HE PUT A KNIFE TO THE PILLOW AND SAID IF I’M REALLY PRO-CHOICE, I’D BE WITH BERNIE! He said, ‘It’d be a shame if some Bernie Bro were to third-trimester that bad boy!’ That’s what he said! This happened!”
As I’m witnessing this, I hear the familiar “click-clack” sound of a firearm being loaded. I turn around and see that Rendon has tucked a pistol into his waistband.
“Rendon, no!” cries Norm. “They wish to provoke a retaliatory attack!”
“I am going into the Hillary Range to shoot targets, Norman. I am angry, but I know how the Bernie Bros operate. I will not jump into their trap. I am simply going to blow off steam.”
As Rendon starts out, a mud-covered messenger intern runs into the room. He brusquely salutes and hands a scroll to Rendon.
“Why is the seal broken?”
“I… sir, I was waylaid on the, uh, Z train by the Bernie Bros…”
“Take him to my dungeon,” commands Rendon.
A cop smacks the messenger unconscious with his TEC-9 and drags his body off as Rendon unfurls the message. I see his hands tremble and let the document fall to the ground.
“What is it?” offers Norm.
“THE USURPER IS IN MIDTOWN,” screams Rendon. “BERNIE IS EN ROUTE TO A PERFORMANCE OF HAMILTON.”
I reflexively put my hands over my ears but can still hear the thunderous stream of slurs from Hillary’s digital team.
“ENOUGH!” commands Rendon. The cacophony ceases.
“Hamilton isn’t for him! It’s about a young immigrant who pulls himself up by his bootstraps. It’s EVERYTHING that Hillary is and Trump isn’t! It’s practically about Hillary! He’s sending us a very clear message that he’s coming for us,” Norm cries.
“The Usurper Bernie will be stopped here. Engage Protocol Connor. Lin-Manuel Miranda is to be taken alive and brought to me for questioning.”
Rendon dons a pith helmet while two interns place Kevlar onto Norm’s torso. I try to take account of all the chaos, but Rendon slaps my Blackberry out of my hand and tries to jam an SKS rifle in its place.
“Now is the time for you to chose a side, Carl. Will you defend your city, or will you run?”
I am frozen as I look into Rendon’s eyes. The totally dead orbs just shoot my own scared reflection back at me.
“Ser Rendon!” a voice cries out. “Jane Sanders was seen with Miranda taking a selfie-style picture!”
Rendon shoves me back and stands in the door frame.
“CODE ATTICUS RENDITION BLUE. ALPHA BRAVO PROTOCOL. PERFORM ACCORDINGLY.”
The interns and the Hillary Men stampede out the door. In the chaos, I am able to find a fire exit leading into a parking lot. Amidst the Porsche Cayennes and Rav-4s, I gasp at the fresh air and sunlight. I look at my pink, strong hands. I am alive. No matter what happens next Tuesday, I am alive.
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet to @carl_diggler.
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