Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chapter Two - The Governor's Aide

“You can’t carry Downstate, Governor.”
“It’s not the electoral college, Buddy. It’s a simple majority. Votes. It is about the number of votes. I don’t need to carry it. Downstate just has to hold Engleson below sixty percent.
“Well you’ve got forty percent. You’ve maybe got fifty.  You’ve given these farmers everything they’ve asked for.  You don’t need to go courting these gee-gaws down here for forty percent.”
“You’re wrong Buddy. I need every gee-gaw I can get.  I need their vote and their wives’ votes and brothers and their dear old moms. So who can carry more gee-gaws? Wolf or Harrison?”
“Wolf,” Bud Nowak said without hesitation. “Haden is the biggest county of the quad, it has the four-year college and Wolf is easier to deal with than Harrison.”
“And he’ll show?”
“Yeah. Wolf will show better than Harrison.”
“So it’s decided. Wolf becomes the lamb.”
“Are you going Biblical on me, Gov?” Most of Governor Powell Paulie’s staff thought Bud Nowak’s use of such a nickname was pretentious and used to make clear his lifelong status in the governor’s life. But the name “Gov” was given decades ago to his friend Paul  – as the governor had been known since birth to Powell Paulie the third and his father’s ambitious third wife, Annabelle – when the two teenagers attended the Illinois State Student Government Convention the year the fourth Powell Paulie was voted governor.
“We’re asking a man to accept a sacrificial seat,” Paulie said to Nowak and turned to look at the short almost gnomish looking man who had been sitting next to him, informing him for a lifetime.
“Not necessarily.”  
Both men knew Bud Nowak had meant, ‘not necessarily sacrificial’ even though both men knew perfectly well the sacrificial seat they planned for William Wolf to seek. Nowak had not meant to say ‘not necessarily asking’ even though both men heard this in the comment as well. That was true. Both men knew that they certainly weren’t asking.  
“How long does he have left in his seat now?” Governor Powell Paulie asked.
“He just won re-election. It was close. But it’s always close. He’s a Downstate Democrat.”
“Why don’t they stagger their terms?” the governor asked.
“I think they do.”
“So we’re asking him to give up his seat and take yet another hit for a party that is all but in exile in his home town.
“No. There’s nothing in the county code that demands he give up his seat while running for another office,” Nowak said.
Both men were silent at this partial truth. Once a man lost an election it was easier to lose the next one.  But Nowak forged onward as was his job.
“That is no way to go into it, Paul,” he said, leaning in toward the governor from his traditional spot in the limousine that was so thoroughly his there was a slump in the seat .  “John Johnson isn’t as strong as he used to be. He’s getting old. This would be good exposure for Wolf.  This guy has some genuine attributes.”
“Genuine attributes,” Paulie repeated and turned to smile at perhaps his only friend.  “Is that what I have, Buddy? Do I have genuine attributes?”
“You have sex appeal and Cook County,” Nowak said.
“Ah yes,” the governor sighed and closing his eyes leaned back into his seat. Keeping his eyes shut he said, “Those are the stronger attributes, aren’t they.”
“And maybe this guy could make some inroads. Wolf is a decent enough guy. Hard campaigner. It sure in the hell wouldn’t hurt Springfield any to have a couple more Democrats representing Dixieland.”
“I’ve told you about that,” the governor snapped at Nowak, his eyes opened but he didn’t turn. To his aide’s well-tuned ear, convivial conversation was closed.
 The governor considered himself a liberal. “A practical liberal,” he said. He demanded his chauffeurs be black. The Dixieland  reference might have provoked a grimacing smile from Paulie in another venue, but not within sight of the chauffeur. It didn’t matter, Nowak knew, that there was no way the driver could hear them.
A black chauffeur played well in Chicago and it played well Downstate. “Not many good deeds get you points the full length of this great state,” Paulie would say during his not infrequent arguments with Sandra Craleck on this demand. Sandra ran  interference between personnel and a great deal of other agencies and the governor’s office. Paulie was exacting .
Sometimes the governor’s mood would go darker even than cynicism and he would add to his good deed quips,  “But we’re not really in the good deed business any more, are we Buddy?”
“Yes you are, Governor,” Buddy Nowak always replied. “You’re doing good every day.”
Buddy Nowak believed that, and believed it as ardently as when the conviction was born in junior high when Class President Powell Paulie knocked nearly senseless in a single blow to the chin  the class vice president who had called Nowak Paulie’s “ grubby little Polack friend.”
“You don’t deserve elected office in a democracy if you believe that,” Paul had said to the vice president whom he had immediately bent over and extended a hand to help to his feet. “That isn’t how things get done.”

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