***This scene sets the agenda, stating Jenkns’s interests. This is where you begin to see a divergence between party-before-country politicians and country-before-party politicians. Will he be able to make a difference?***
Washington, DC – Oval Office
Jenkins sat down behind the Resolute Desk and started to thumb through the various memos Chris had placed there. Aside from the protests calling for the United States to abandon their plan to place nuclear missiles throughout Europe, a few notable reports on the savings and loan issue and intelligence reports, particularly in the Middle East, drew his attention.
He picked up his pen and jotted a few thoughts he had on the savings and loan issue which lead him to thoughts about campaign finance reform. He sat back when he realized that ten months had passed and he felt as if he had not been proactive in addressing areas he wanted to focus on or change. He felt as if he had been reacting to events or situations, not proactive in what he wanted to accomplish. The day to day needs of the job were more overwhelming than he anticipated. He felt lost and at times overwhelmed. He needed to change that. He needed to lead.
He swung his chair around to look out of one of the ceiling to floor windows. He pondered how to get his administration focused on the promises he made while campaigning. His mind kept circling back to campaign finance reform. He recognized the influx of large sums of money from influential individuals, unions, and a select few but successful companies, who were dominating the donations to candidates and party. These large, early payments to campaigns allowed the candidate to execute longer campaigns. In fact, campaigns were already advertising their candidates for the midterms, albeit discretely, over a year out from the election. He shook his head, and Jenkins knew he was just as guilty as the next guy in accepting these large donations. Running a campaign for federal office takes a large sum of money—regardless of the outcome—there was no denying that fact. The favors owed to big business and wealthy making them the agenda setters in Washington, not those elected. While to some extent it had always been that way, Jenkins felt the balance was slipping away from the needs of the many to the needs of the wealthy few. The sad part was that no one gave a damn because the many didn’t have the money the politicians needed to win. Jenkins could see the vast majority of Americans were losing interest in participating in their government. Jenkins felt that middle-to-low-income Americans were not being heard. He knew he needed to change that if a healthy democracy was going to survive.
Jenkins thought about other branches of the government but kept returning to the fundamental issue of growing disinterest of Americans in their country’s government. He wanted to engage them. As the decisive rhetoric continued in the House and Senate, he felt the nation pulling back from engaging with their representatives. How could he re-engage them? How could he ensure giving them a voice in not only the upcoming mid-terms but every day and on every vote?
He smiled when he realized what was lacking. How do you keep the person you elected accountable to the everyday citizen? How do you level the playing field, providing their representative and president with data on issues, and taking away the power that currently rested with lobbyists and big donor’s hands? He was still pondering those questions when Whitaker, his chief of staff, knocked on the door to the Oval Office. Jenkins invited him to enter.
“Mr. President,” Whitaker began. “I wish you wouldn’t stop to talk to the press like that. You throw my whole schedule off course.”
Jenkins gave a quick laugh. “If there is a better solution, I’m all ears.”
“Stop talking to the press,” Whitaker said, knowing Jenkins was talking about the missiles, but couldn’t resist jokingly offering his solution. He smiled when Jenkins looked at him. “We all know there isn’t one, but now our European allies are behind the eight ball. I just got off the phone with Scheidt, and he had a lot to say.”
“Any of it worth repeating?” Jenkins asked.
“Nothing new,” Whitaker replied, dejected. “I just don’t need to hear the same thing over and over.”
Jenkin gave a cheeky smile. “I understand how you feel.” Jenkins watched Whittaker’s face contort into a frown. Jenkins stood and walked out from behind his desk. “Have a seat.” He motioned to the conversation area of his office. When they were both seated, Jenkins said, “I think my administration has been in reaction mode for long enough. We desperately needed to calm a nation torn in many directions. But now, I want to start to lead.”
“I’m happy to hear you say that,” Whittaker responded.
“Good! I want to focus on a couple of areas. One is our banking institutions and Wall Street. The Savings and Loan crisis is getting out of hand. We need to hear what Congress is proposing, and we need to have a strong response if it doesn’t go far enough. Secondly, we need to find a way to engage the middle-class. They are losing interest because big money and corporations are swaying our agendas. I don’t want lip-service. I want solid suggestions on how to get them motivated and engage them in the everyday process. I’m not just talking about getting out the vote.”
Whittaker gave Jenkins a scornful look. “You aren’t talking about what I think you are talking about.”
“Yes, we start with campaign finance reform. However, engaging the middle and lower classes into politics is going to take more than that. They need a voice, and they can’t afford lobbyists,” Jenkins said. “We need to figure out a way to make this office and Congress accountable to all Americans.”
“You will only be highlighting our failures,” Whittaker cautioned.
“Not if we do this correctly,” Jenkins countered. “Democracy means majority rules. We need to address this, or our democracy continues down this path of destruction and disinterest by a large portion of our country who feels they are not represented.” There was a knock on the door. Jenkins stood up and buttoned his coat as Chris opened the door. “You tell me I have the best and brightest working in this White House. Put them to work, and I expect to see some options in a week.” Jenkins looked at Chris.
“Your next meeting is here, sir,” Chris offered.
“Thank you, Chris,” Jenkins responded. He looked at Whittaker. “Are we clear on these two topics?”
“Yes sir,” Whittaker replied. “I’ll get the staff started on them right away.”
Jenkins nodded his understanding. He turned to walk back to his desk, waving to Chris. “Show the Speaker in please, Chris.”
Whittaker hesitated as he started for his office. He wondered if Jenkins was going to present the Speaker of the House of Representatives with what they just discussed.
“Oh, and Fred,” Jenkins called. “Not a word of what we discussed…”
“Goes without saying, sir,” Whittaker interrupted as the Speaker walked into the room. “Mr. Speaker.”
“Hello, Fred,” the Speaker greeted him.
As Whittaker left the Oval Office, Jenkins extended his hand and welcomed the Speaker. He motioned for him to take a seat next to his desk. “I understand you wanted to meet with me, so this is your dime.”