Politics & Policy

Live and Let Die

James Bond discovers the globe’s true super-villain.

James Bond returns in . . .

Live and Let Die!

A Mainstream Media Production

An Axelrod Auteur Film

Bond tried again. After checking that Q’s Multi-lingual Voice Dissimulator was comfortably settled into the place where his wisdom tooth had been, he dialed the top-secret National Security Urgent Priority line for the fourth time. Finally the White House operator answered: “Press 1 for Spanish, 2 for Chinese, 3 for Arabic, 4 . . .”

Cursing, Bond slammed down the phone. It sounded odd to hear his Old Etonian curse words emerge as the subdued bureaucratic tones of David Petraeus. But what use was Q’s clever gadget if he couldn’t get through to the president? He rang again, this time using the number that Moneypenny had gotten from the Johansson woman at some cocktail party. To his surprise, he got through right away to a woman who identified herself as the president’s personal secretary.

“This is the director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” Bond said crisply. “I need to see the president right away on a matter of supreme national importance. It’s not something that can wait.”

“Of course, Director,” replied the woman encouragingly. “Well, let’s see. He has an opening on Thursday of next week at 2:30 p.m. for half an hour. He’s fully booked until then but, wait a minute, another vacancy on Wednesday morning has just opened up. But if I were you, I’d take the Thursday since he plays golf that morning and it usually puts him in a good mood.”

Bond tried to keep any note of desperation out of Petraeus’s voice. “But I need to see him at once, right away, this afternoon, before he meets with Colonel Hawkeye and the North Korean intelligence defector, Mr. . . .”

Bond’s voice trailed away.

“Mr. Oddball?” asked the secretary helpfully. “Yes, that meeting is at 3:30 p.m. Anything before then is quite impossible, I’m afraid. The president has back-to-back meetings with Hollywood agents. They’re turning his book into a film, you know. Isn’t it exciting? But why not come along to the 3:30 meeting? I’m sure Colonel Hawkeye and Mr. Oddball would be simply thrilled to have the CIA along.”

Bond put the phone down and looked across at the mirror, in which the scarred features and cruel smile of Oddball stared back at him — definitive proof that Oddball would never agree to be in the same room with him.

It had all seemed so simple when M explained it to him a month ago in London. Not that the meeting had been altogether a pleasant one. M was in a tearing bloody rage over Bond’s role in the rocket attack on the Homeland Security Department in D.C. It had required all the smooth diplomacy of the foreign secretary to convince the CIA that Bond had persuaded the president to bomb his own government only because he could not break “deep cover.” To make matters worse, one of the rockets had gone astray, hit the British embassy, and destroyed the entire consignment of Churchill busts brought over in case of a Romney victory. After tearing what seemed like a dozen strips off Bond, M had stared at him blankly, sighed heavily, and issued a set of curt instructions.

“We’ve made all the preparations,” M explained. “Romney’s valet, Oddball, has been captured and is in an MI6 safe house. Your plastic surgery will be complete in an hour. Q has this new computer voice imitator that enables you to speak in any one of 20,000 voices. Romney’s expecting Oddball to join him at the Republican convention next Monday. You’ll be there. Don’t mess it up this time, 007.”

The intelligence chief returned to his papers and Bond left feeling undervalued — and determined to prove himself this time around.

Four days later he arrived in Romney’s convention suite just as the candidate was watching the peroration of his wife’s speech to the convention. Romney gave a guttural laugh at the torrent of applause: “Welcome back, Oddball. You are just in time to congratulate my wife on her speech to the untermensch. It was the most revoltingly sentimental pap I have ever heard. Pure goo, just what we needed, liebchen.”

Romney addressed these last few words to the beautiful blonde woman who had just entered the suite and was now fitting a cigarette into a long holder. Bond marveled. Even though he had read her dossier, he found it hard to believe that this gorgeous creature was really the 97-year-old daughter of a Prussian aristocrat wanted by Interpol since 1945 on countless human-rights violations. She smiled at Bond seductively and slipped into her native German accent: “Gin martini, very dry, no vermouth, Oddball. I will need all my strength not to vomit watching this Ryan — how do you say? — wowing the bobby-soxers.”

While she settled onto the sofa opposite the flat-screen television, Bond asked Romney about the new Hurricane Directional Control System, developed by top SPECTRE scientists to undermine Al Gore by inflicting inappropriate weather wherever he was speaking. Why was it being deployed against his own convention in Tampa rather than against the Democrats in Charlotte?

Romney smiled an icy smile. “It’s something called the negative bounce. Our pollsters tell us that the more speeches the public hears from a party convention, the less likely voters are to support that party. So the hurricane will cut one-and-a-half days from our own convention but it won’t be allowed within a thousand miles of Charlotte. Clever, nein?”

Just then they were called over by Ann Romney. She was excited by Ryan’s speech.

Liebchen, he’s talking about us,” she told Romney. They all turned to the screen where the boyish young politician was explaining that America gave penniless immigrants and political refugees the same opportunities as native-born Americans. “That’s us, liebchen. We were political refugees in 1945. We had nothing, nothing, and now you are running for president. It makes one proud to be . . . ”

Romney interrupted with a patient smile, resuming his Middle American accent: “My dear, those rules do not apply to political refugees who came to America from Berlin via Argentina in the late 1940s. Besides, your official biography says that you were born in a trunk in the Princess Theater in Pocatello, Idaho. Try to remember that or it could get us all into a great deal of trouble. And call me ‘honey,’ not ‘liebchen.’”

Romney then turned to Bond and asked him quietly not to let his wife listen to any more talk radio. But Bond noticed that Ann Romney did not seem entirely convinced. She scowled rebelliously and began muttering something about “a proposition nation” under her breath. Bond wondered hopefully if the Mormon façade was beginning to crack.

Two weeks later at the Charlotte convention, he was sure of it. High above the convention in an airship allegedly advertising Atheists USA, Romney was glued to the television coverage of the opening debates. But he was unusually nervous and uncertain.

“It’s going too well, Oddball,” he told Bond. “Only a handful of the delegates are SPECTRE operatives, but about two-thirds of the hall booed any mention of God. Yes, it helps us with the voters, but what does it mean? Hell, even I think God deserves a mention, and I’m a Satanist.”

Frenchy Galore, chic in a metallic Versace dress made from chains and handcuffs, chimed in: “I agree. It’s kind of creepy. It was bad enough pretending to be a feminist from Georgetown. I’m a nuclear scientist — well, okay, a renegade nuclear scientist, but I have my Ph.D. Spouting complete nonsense doesn’t come easy to me. But it wasn’t as bad as having to defend laws that allow the withholding of medical care from newborn babies who have survived abortions.”

Romney wasn’t so sure: “These babies? The president wanted them for a global organ-harvesting scam — that’s understandable.”

“No,” said Frenchy.

“Well then, he saw that they would increase the size of ethnic groups likely to vote against him in about 20 years? Operation Herod, so to speak?”

“No,” repeated Frenchy.

“Is he perhaps running a hatchery for the raising and conditioning of female sex slaves for the very promising Chinese market created by the one-child policy? And these babies were the wrong sex and had to be disposed of? These slipups happen in the best-run operations.”

“No, nothing like that,” said Frenchy. “He just didn’t want to accept any limitation whatsoever on the right to have an abortion. Allowing babies to survive abortions would weaken that right. I felt kind of queasy making that argument.”

“I don’t blame you, Frenchy,” said Romney with feeling. “It’s shameful, shameful.” Romney suddenly looked closer to his real age of 105. He turned away and walked off towards the bar. But Bond heard him muttering something about “what the world is coming to” and his need for a “stiff gin.”

Two weeks later, Bond and Romney, respectively disguised as Oddball and Colonel Hawkeye, were waiting outside the Oval Office. President Obama had called in Hawkeye to discuss the crisis following the murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and Romney had insisted on bringing along Oddball. Bond had again tried to warn the White House, using Q’s voice dissimulator to imitate Petraeus. All he had achieved was to pick up a mysterious message from the president that he should give a dinner party for the Egyptian Copt who had made the anti-Muslim video.

Bond had queried the message.

“No, it’s quite clear, General,” the telephone operator had said. “Tell Petraeus to take out the Copt before he is proven innocent.”

Now it was too late. The president was welcoming them in and outlining his strategy for dealing with the anti-American riots spreading through the Muslim world. Accompanied on this occasion by his wife, his adviser Valerie Jarrett, and his ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, the president was unusually decisive and snapped out his instructions harshly, stamping his foot at times.

“Gentlemen,” he began, “I’ve asked you along to uncover and defeat the worst plot against the United States in my lifetime. It’s an attempt to show that the death of our ambassador to Libya and the riots against U.S. embassies in the Arab world were terrorist actions which our intelligence should have foreseen, and that the events show my Middle East policy to have been a failure. It’s nonsense, of course. These things were a totally unforeseeable outburst of religious indignation at a disrespectful film about the prophet by random groups of heavily armed pilgrims and innocent bystanders with purely fortuitous inside knowledge of our consular security arrangements.”

“Pilgrims,” said the president’s wife.

“Purely fortuitous,” said Ms. Jarrett.

“Totally unforeseeable,” said Ambassador Rice.

“But gullible voters may be misled into thinking it was some kind of intelligence failure, or a sign that my policy of winning over the Muslim world has not been a 100 percent success,” the president continued. “That’s why I’m announcing today that there will be a total government news blackout until you gentlemen have conducted an independent investigation into the cause of these regrettable incidents, starting with the video terrorists, and reported your findings back to me on November the 7th.”

“We want the truth and we want it then,” said the president’s wife.

“Not a moment sooner,” said Ms. Jarrett.

“At the earliest,” added Ambassador Rice, thumping the table for emphasis.

“Well, gentlemen, you have your orders,” said the president. “You will want to get going. But there’s no immediate urgency. If you feel like a cup of coffee, or a drink, or a cigar while you ruminate on your approach, please relax here in the Oval Office for a few hours. We don’t need it for a while.”

“Make yourself at home,” said the president’s wife.

“It’s got a lovely view,” said Ms. Jarrett.

“The service is awfully good here,” said Ambassador Rice.

When the president and his entourage had left, Romney did indeed relax. He settled back in his armchair, produced two cigars from his pocket, and put his feet up on the presidential divan.

“Please have a cigar, Mr. Bond — no tricks this time, I assure you. It’s a genuine Corona Semper Fidel,” he smiled pleasantly across at the British agent. “Don’t make any sudden moves, I beg you. Five sharpshooters have their rifles trained on you as we speak. And don’t be too surprised. Oddball made his escape from your so-called ‘safe house’ a month ago. We’ve known who you were for more than three weeks.”

Bond accepted the cigar almost gratefully. For a moment both men drew in the scented smoke with sighs of satisfaction.

“I confess that I will miss you, Mr. Bond,” Romney continued. “The trousers you pressed had a much sharper crease than Oddball’s ironing produces. That alone might have given you away if we had not already known. You’re too good — standards of valeting are woefully low in Pyongyang. “

Bond seethed inwardly, but decided to encourage his opponent to keep talking and leaned forward eagerly. The longer a super-villain talked, the better chance his victim had of survival. He had not misjudged his man. Romney was in a talkative mood.

“You know, Mr. Bond, you may be surprised to hear this from a global criminal mastermind, but I really think I would be a better president than this fellow Obama. Did you hear him just now? Not a thought for the people who have risked their lives on his behalf. No determination to get the people who murdered them. Nothing but concern for his own miserable political hide. It’s, well, shameful.”

“Odd to hear such humanitarian sentiments from the head of SPECTRE,” interjected Bond coldly.

“I understand why you say that, Mr. Bond,” responded Romney crisply. “But when I order a killing, it’s to make myself astronomically rich and powerful. I don’t tell my people to let children die simply because it will keep some political interest group happy. And when someone kills a SPECTRE operative, I avenge him. It makes his widow happy and discourages other attacks on SPECTRE. The president’s policy of ‘live and let die’ is one that encourages frivolous murders. Frankly, I think it’s immoral.”

Bond, getting ready to spring, was encouraged by his opponent’s garrulousness. Romney continued:

“And then there’s America. Back in Berlin, I despised this country. But my wife is right: It’s a generous, good-hearted place full of decent people. They deserve better than their current leader. I might be a bastard, but I would be their bastard. In a way I would like that role.”

Bond was about to spring when Romney put up his hand. “Don’t forget those sharpshooters, Mr. Bond. I must be going.” He popped a small device into his mouth. “We had Q’s little gadget copied while you were asleep one night. It’s very useful. Do you suppose that Q might work for SPECTRE?”

“Only if you could give him a life membership at the MCC,” said Bond grimly.

“Ah, the famous British sense of humor,” said Romney. Then switching over to Q’s Voice Dissimulator, he spoke to security in the unmistakable tones of the president: “Colonel Hawkeye is on a secret mission for me. He is leaving the Oval Office now and is to be given full control of the Camp David helicopter. And tell the Marines to arrest the British agent, James Bond, who has defected to SPECTRE. He has a license to kill; so have you. If he is captured, you have my permission to waterboard him, but no more than ten times.”

Romney walked out of the door, throwing an exploding cigar at Bond’s feet, as the Marines burst in through the windows. The last thing that Bond heard before his head hit the water was the sound of a helicopter lifting off and heading west. Then he closed his eyes and thought of England.

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