The ghost of Richard Nixon sat down in his favorite armchair in front of the television. He still didn’t know how to work the remote, so the ghost of H.R. “Bob” Haldeman turned on the TV and handed the former president a glass of red wine.
“What channel?” Haldeman’s ghost asked.
“Anything but Dan Rather.”
The ghost of Haldeman got tired of reminding his former boss that the pesky Rather had been gone from CBS for years. He put on the Fox News network, which was broadcasting live from the Rose Garden at the White House.
“I never liked those outdoor press things,” the ghost of Nixon remarked sourly. “You’d always hear those damn hippies raising hell across the street in Lafayette Park. The anti-war crowd, you know. Did we ever find out who was paying them?”
Haldeman’s ghost said, “Still working on that, Mr. President.”
Just then, on television, the current non-ghost president entered the Rose Garden and announced that he’d just walked out of a meeting with Congressional Democrats because they were all out to get him.
“Welcome to the club,” muttered Nixon’s ghost, and took a loud sip of wine.
On TV, the mortal president began to fulminate, veering from one random topic to another —investigations, infrastructure, the Mueller report, his unfairly persecuted son Don Jr. On it went.
Fascinated, the ghost of Nixon edged forward in his chair.
“Didn’t his staff give him a list of talking points?” he asked.
“He pays no attention to his staff,” Haldeman’s ghost explained. “He likes to wing it.”
“Is he insane, or is this just an act?” Nixon’s ghost signaled for more wine. “They said I was nuts for talking to the White House portraits in the middle of the night, but I was drunk as a skunk at the time. What’s this guy’s excuse?”
Haldeman’s ghost shrugged. “Trump doesn’t drink. We’ve had this discussion before.”
The Rose Garden tirade went on for 12 full minutes. The ghost of Nixon watched transfixed, his expression pinched and brooding. Afterward, when the Fox commentators began chattering, he told Haldeman’s ghost to mute the volume.
“Bob, that was the most unconvincing, half-assed denial of a cover-up I’ve heard,” the ghost of Nixon said. “Mine were so much better.”
“Absolutely, Mr. President. Your denials were rock-solid. The gold standard.”
“Well, until the day I resigned.”
“This fellow won’t ever do that,” said Haldeman’s ghost.
“You think they’ll actually impeach him? That’s what he seems to want.” The ghost of Nixon gazed out the window, his mood sinking as it often did. “Maybe I should’ve gone the impeachment route instead of quitting. Made those bastards drag me from the Oval Office kicking and fighting.”
The ghost of Haldeman was accustomed to such maudlin talk. “Mr. President, they don’t have the votes in the Senate to convict Trump. That wasn’t your situation during Watergate. You did the honorable thing by sparing the nation a long, divisive trial.”
“That’s right — and the damn liberal media, they claimed I did it just for the pardon!”
“History will judge you kindly,” said the ghost of Haldeman, a line he used no less than 10 times a day to placate his old friend.
But the face of Nixon’s ghost was a familiar mask of bitter intensity.
“Bob, I could be spiteful, paranoid and anti-Semitic, but I never paid hush money to a porn star! I never hid my IRS returns from the public! I never grabbed women’s privates and bragged about it! I never got campaign dirt from the Russians, even in the McGovern race! And I never ordered anyone working for me to defy a Congressional subpoena. I might’ve asked them to tidy up their testimony a little, but —”
“Mr. President, all you ever did was lie about a third-rate burglary.”
“Exactly! Compared to this guy, I was a model commander-in-chief. My face ought to be up on Mount Rushmore next to Lincoln and FDR!”
It wasn’t unusual for the ghost of Nixon to mix up his Roosevelts after a few drinks. Haldeman’s ghost said nothing.
“Bob, answer me this. Trump tells more lies before lunch every day than I told in all six years I was there. How on Earth is he still sitting in that office? And don’t get me started on his hair! Did he steal that stupid wig from Carol Channing?”
“Time for your nap, Mr. President,” Haldeman’s ghost said gently. “Don’t worry. I’ll wake you up for ‘Jeopardy!’”
“That kid with the name I can’t pronounce — he’s still winning?”
“Yes, he is.”
“Hmmm,” said Nixon’s ghost, rising. “I guess that’s all right.”