Welcome To The White House Goat Room
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column is fiction and was totally inspired by Allan Ishac’s recent column: SCAPEGOAT WARNING! Trump Poised To Blame You For His Most Recent Blunders. You should absolutely check it out.]
By David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)
Once I had cleared White House security a bored young woman behind a particle-board desk entered my name into her computer.
“Walrus. . . Walrus . . . OK, here you are Malcolm Walrus, Office Of Presidential Responsibility.” Then she looked up and said, “Oh, you’re the new spinner for the Goat Room.”
“Yeah, the last guy, Floyd Spurge, had a breakdown or something. He ran out muttering, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ We get that a lot around here.”
Noticing my worried expression she gave me a little smile. “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.”
She grabbed a Xeroxed map of the West Wing and scratched a red “X” in front of a small room near the office the President’s Press Secretary. After handing it to me along with my photo-ID she made a shooing motion toward the hallway behind her.
Starting from the “you are here” box I made my way to room 103G and waved my badge over the sensor on the wall. I heard a muted beep followed by a loud CLICK and I pushed my way inside.
A thin young man at a paper-covered desk looked up and squinted at me through a pair of thick glasses.
“They told me to report here,” I said, holding out my badge.
He stared at it for a moment, then stood and extended his hand. “Great, great. Things have been crazy since Spurge flipped out. I’m Claude Merp. Welcome to the Goat Room.” He waved his hand around the small office.
Three large Wheel Of Fortune devices stood near the back wall with the words “Wynn Resorts” inscribed on their hubs.
“Did you say ‘cloak room’?” I asked, looking in vain for coat racks and hangers.
“Not ‘cloak’ — ‘goat.’” Noticing my confused expression, he pointed at the empty chair next to his desk. “Here’s the deal,” he said, then began reading a prepared text from a three by five card:
“The President cannot make a mistake and He is never wrong. Not ever. It’s impossible. But occasionally, something happens that makes it appear to some people as if he has slipped up. It’s our job to correct any such a mistaken impression by directing the public’s attention to the person who is actually responsible for the unfortunate situation.”
Merp looked up. “Got it?” he asked, giving me a hopeful expression.
“Goat room,” I muttered. “When the President screws up, we have to pick a scapegoat to blame it on.”
“Ding, ding, ding,” Merp replied, giving me a big smile. “Let me show you how it works. Have you ever played Clue?”
“Sure, Professor Plum killed the victim in the library with the candlestick.”
“Yes. We work a lot like that.” Merp leaned close and whispered, “I call our little game ‘Screw’ instead of ‘Clue’.
“The first wheel,” he continued in his normal voice, “is the ‘goat’ wheel. It contains the names of the President’s current top fifty enemies who might possibly, at least in some theoretical way, be blamed for the fuck up.
“The names of people whom the President really, really really doesn’t like are usually added multiple times to increase the odds of their being The Goat For The Day. The record is held by Barack Obama who once filled seventeen of the fifty Goat slots for five days in a row.
“The second wheel contains the current list of ‘problem situations’ that might need to be dealt with. Children in cages at the border, no Covid19 test kits, eliminating the White House Emergency Pandemic office, hurricanes not hitting Alabama, the government shutting down, and stuff like that.”
“The third wheel is what today’s goat did or didn’t do that makes him or her potentially responsible for the problem. Given how fast the situation changes we have to update the wheels before every spin. We do a minimum of one spin per day, but when things get really hot we might have to do three or four. And lately with the virus, things have been pretty damn hot. . . . So, have you got it?”
I gave the wheels a close look for a moment or two then turned back to Merp. “Can I give it a try?”
“Sure, knock yourself out.”
The wheels were surprisingly heavy and it took a hard pull to really get them going. Soon the room was filled with a droning CLACK–CLACK–CLACK as they slowly spun down to a stop.
Wheel One died on “Barack Obama”; Two on “shortage of corona virus tests”, and the top of number three read “created a lot of unnecessary government rules and regulations.”
“So,” I said, “Barack Obama is responsible for the shortage of corona virus tests because he created a lot of unnecessary government rules and regulations”?
“You got it,” Merp answered, giving me a little pat on the back. “You’re a natural. Of course, in addition to actually spinning the wheels and translating the results into a press release, you’re going to have to help me keep the categories current. And that’s not as easy as it sounds.
“In order to update the enemies list we have to constantly watch Fox & Friends and listen to Rush Limbaugh. On top of that we have to keep an eye on CNN and the Huffington Post for the latest mistakes that the goat instead of the President will be responsible for. It’s a 24/7 job, let me tell you.”
Without warning the door slammed open and this month’s Press Secretary, Marsha McDougal, fresh off her stint as the Weather Girl at Birmingham’s Channel 67, bustled into the room.
“Claude, the press is all over me about a Washington Post story claiming that the President is refusing to ever wear a face mask because he thinks it will make him look silly instead of like the stable genius he actually is. I need something to go back to them with right now.”
Deep in thought, Merp closed his eyes for a few seconds then handed me a Sharpie and a handful of three by five cards. For the next ten minutes we wrote furiously and then stuffed the results into slots on the second and third wheels.
“Let ‘er rip,” Claude told me, and I gave wheels one and three hearty pulls while centering wheel two on “President Endangers Others By Refusing To Wear A Mask.”
Anxiously, Marsha followed their progress with her beautiful but strangely vacant face going round and round.
The first wheel stopped on “Jeff Bezos” and the third clacked to a halt with the pointer on: “Made This Up, Fake News.”
“OK, Marsha,” Merp told her, “You tell them that this is fake news that was totally made up by Jeff Bezos.”
Marsha nodded, thumbed a quick memo into her smart phone, and hurried out the door.
As I watched her go I thought, “My first day on the job and here I am making up total lies that are going to be told to the entire country in order to cover up the misdeeds of a pathologically dishonest, shameless, demagogue, narcissist, megalomaniac so that he can remain in control of our government.
“Wow. Is this a great country or what?”
— David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)