Magazine November 27, 2017, Issue

The Kellyanne Conway Show

(Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Episode 211: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Fade in

Int. Kellyanne’s office — day

Kellyanne enters her office, looks at her desk. She checks her messages.

Kellyanne: (calling out to her assistant) Louise! Louise!

Louise enters wearing her usual apron and drying her hands on a dishtowel.

Louise: Yes, Miss Kellyanne?

Kellyanne: Where are my messages from this morning? Where are the papers in my inbox?

Louise: You took care of them before lunch, Miss K.

Kellyanne: So you’re telling me that I . . . I . . . I have an empty inbox?

Louise: Yes ma’am! What with Mr. President out of the country and whatnot, sure does seem mighty quiet around here.

Kellyanne thinks about this. Then:

Kellyanne: That will be all, Louise.

Louise: I can call that nice Mr. Stephens in if you like. He’s always got something for you to do, dear.

Kellyanne: No, Louise, I think I’ll just . . . busy myself with . . . myself . . . by myself.

Louise: (shaking her head as she exits) Okay, Miss Kellyanne. But some days you sure do confuse a person.

Louise exits. Kellyanne goes to her desk and sits. She arranges a few things on her desk and then rearranges them. She leans back in her chair, puts her feet up on her desk, and slowly shuts her eyes. She smiles as she relaxes. Soon, she’s sleeping. Chief of Staff John Kelly enters.

John Kelly: Conway! Wake up!

Kellyanne starts awake, her feet sliding off her desk as her chair comes upright. Papers and pens go flying off her desk.

Kellyanne: (still in her dream) No, Mr. President! You cannot touch Michelle Obama’s hair! You have to ask first and then –

(she slowly wakes)

– and then, and then . . .

John Kelly: Conway! Snap out of it!

Kellyanne: Yessir! Right away, sir!

John Kelly: Conway, in a few minutes the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, is going to call you and ask for talking points during his overseas trip. And do you know what you’re going to do?

Kellyanne: I am going to give them to him?

John Kelly: Yes, Conway. Yes. Only this time, we’re going to be proactive. Do you know what I mean when I say “proactive,” Conway?

Kellyanne: Sure. You mean –

John Kelly: Don’t interrupt, Conway. Rhetorical question. Now. When the call comes in, the president of the United States and constitutionally designated commander in chief, Donald J. Trump –

Kellyanne: Sir, you don’t have to keep saying that. I know who he is.

John Kelly: I repeat that, Mrs. Conway, for a reason. It’s a device I picked up during hostage survival training. If a captive continually reminds him- or herself that he or she is a captive and reiterates the circumstances of his or her captivity, it enables the hostage to retain mental and emotional stability. I repeat the term “president of the United States and constitutionally designated commander in chief” in reference to the current holder of that office because I have found that during the day, when I am not being vigilant, my brain simply rejects these facts and begins constructing alternative realities, and we cannot have that, Conway. We. Cannot. Have. That.

Kellyanne: That happens to me, too, sir! It’s a nice little break in the day.

John Kelly: Conway, here’s the plan. When the current officeholder calls in, we will deliver some key talking points in reference to his meeting with the Chinese president. And we will brief him on the future meetings in the rest of his Asia trip, but we will not — not — discuss the election results in Virginia or what they might mean. Why aren’t you writing any of this down?

Kellyanne: Because you terrify me, sir, and I remember everything you say.

John Kelly: Copy that. So what’s the plan?

Kellyanne: Phone call comes in. Asia and China, yes. Virginia, big fat no. Permission to ask a question, sir?

John Kelly: Permission denied.

Kellyanne: Permission to ask it anyway, sir?

John Kelly: Okay. Let’s hear it.

Kellyanne: Why don’t we want to give the president any points for the Virginia election? People are saying it’s a sign that his political clout is weak and that the voters are rejecting him and that the midterms are going to be a disaster for the Republicans. Seems like we should prepare the president for those questions.

John Kelly: Kellyanne, I am only going to go through this once. See if you can follow me. If we don’t give the president of the United States, Donald J. –

Kellyanne: — Trump, yes, I know who he is, sir –

John Kelly: — any talking points, what is going to happen?

Kellyanne: He’s going to say something crazy.

John Kelly: And then what?

Kellyanne: People will write about what a crazy thing he said.

John Kelly: And then what?

Kellyanne: They’ll forget the original question.

John Kelly: And then what?

Kellyanne: It’ll just keep happening! Sir! That’s brilliant! We give him talking points for what we don’t want to talk about, and no talking points for what we do want him to talk about.

John Kelly: Exactly, Conway. We are leveraging what we call Effective Chaos. This is a winning strategy. This is how we successfully invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and installed stable, democratic governments in those countries.

Kellyanne: Um, sir?

The phone starts ringing.

Kellyanne: Sir?

John Kelly: That’s the call, Conway. You know what to do!

She picks up the phone as we:

Fade out.

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