Our Culture Inchoate (35th and Last in a Series)
PHONE VIDEO RECORDING, HONORIA TORRES, 4:40AM
SUNDAY, AUGUST 4, 2019, BLAIR HOUSE
RELEASED TO WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS AT 9:30AM
TORRES (T): This is Honoria Torres, and I have just been woken up by the Secret Service assigned to me and my family, here at Blair House.
--- John, can you wake everybody?
JOHN TORRES (JT): Sure, yeah.
T: I am recording this on my cell phone in order to have an accurate, maybe emotional, record of what is going on. What I think is going on.
JANE TORRES (JANE): Mom?
T: Yes, Jane, come here, love.
JANE: Mom, Dad just said that Pence is dead.
JANE: Oh my God! Mom! Here, give me the phone. You shouldn’t do this…
T: Not yet, please. I need to get dressed and run a brush through my hair. Why are you dressed?
JANE: My room is so cold, all night. This is the first I’ve been warm since we got here.
(no talking, dead air)
AGENT JOHNSON (AJ): Ma’am?
AJ: Telephone, Ma’am.
JT: Mac, I told the boys and your Mom and Lou to get dressed to leave, be ready for anything.
JANE: Mom’s on the phone, Dad. I don’t know who she’s talking to. Are we safe?
JT: Yes, yes, of course. You’re with me, right? We couldn’t be safer.
T: Okay, John, we need to go to the White House. That was another confirmation. President Pence is dead.
T: Right now.
AJ: Ma’am, we don’t have a motorcade prepped. There’s only three of us here.
T: Let’s go, everybody.
JT: Ma’am, I have to insist. Everything is different now. All the more reason to keep you in place. You are now the President.
T: Look, Agent Johnson, right?
AJ: Yes, Ma’am.
T: I have to get over there right now. We’ll walk it. If you call every cop in DC it will cause a circus. The announcement is not public. Have a detail meet us at the gate, or on the way here. We have to walk, and walk right now.
BILLY TORRES (BT): Mommy?
CARLOS TORRES (CT): Dad?
MRS. MCILHENNY (MM): Honoria, is everything all right?
JT: Let’s go.
AJ: Ma’am, we can’t. We just can’t.
T: Yes, we can, and we will. Right now. This may be the only time you get overruled, Agent Johnson, but we’re leaving.
(muffled sounds, doors opening and closing)
JANE: It’s so warm out here.
MICKEY TORRES (MT): The White House is all lit up!
CT: It always is, dummy.
BT: Mommy? Are you okay?
T: Yes, yes, of course, Billy. I’m fine.
JANE: (whispering into phone): As you can see, there are three agents and now two DC cops just came up, surrounding us. No one else seems to notice or care, and there’s only a few people about anyway. It’s only a couple hundred yards to the gate.
BT: Mommy, I’m scared.
T: Nothing to be afraid of, Billy. Dad’s right here, too. Be brave.
--- Mickey, are you wearing flip flops?
--- Honestly, John. Carlos has a SpongeBob t-shirt on, that’s the best we could do?
CT: I like SpongeBob, Mom.
JT: Who is this?
VIHAAN MOORE (VM): Vihaan Moore, Madame Speaker. Student at GW. I’m a night stringer for the Washington Times. On the lookout, so to speak. I’m not mush of a partier, really.
AJ: He’s vetted, Ma’am. Keep moving everybody. Moore, you can tag along if it’s okay with…
T: Okay, Vihaan, come with us. You have a phone? Can you take video?
VM: Yes, Ma’am, what’s going on?
JANE: Note the time, Vihaan. Ready to go? Keep my Mom in the frame.
(Torres phone video ends)
(Moore video phone feed begins)
VM: Oh, oh, why are those guys running towards us?
UNKNOWN AGENT: Okay, let’s double time, we’re attracting attention.
(garbled talk at the WH guard shack gate)
AJ: The family members are clear to enter. This guy is a GW student and a friend. I can vouch for him. The officers will remain here. Sorry, guys, but thanks much. Be safe.
VM: (whispering to his phone): This is Vihaan Moore, Washington Times, walking behind, I believe, Speaker Torres and her family into the White House. It appears we are going to the West Wing, directly to the Oval Office. The time is 04:51.
T: Mr. Trump, Mr. Kushner.
DONALD TRUMP (DT): Good morning, Mac. Good, well, so sorry this is all happening.
T: Where is Mrs. Pence?
DT: In the residence. Melania is with her. Ivanka is on her way here.
T: That won’t be necessary, Mr. Trump.
--- Agent Johnson, please dispatch an agent to intercept Ivanka Trump and escort her to the gate.
DT: Now wait a minute, Mac, uh, Speaker. Everything is under control.
T: Mr. Trump. I am now the president, and yes, everything is under control. I find it bizarre that Mr. Kushner is here, and awful that you find it necessary to be in the very office you resigned from a day ago. But nothing you do surprises me.
T: Agent Johnson, please escort Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner and any, and I mean any, other people who are part of the Trump family or administration, without my expressed approval.
T: Right now, please. We will secure papers and other contraband at a later time.
T: Mrs. Pence and First Lady Trump can remain and leave them undisturbed. I do not know the protocol for President Pence’s remains but please ensure that process has started.
DT: This is all under control, Mac.
T: For the last time, Donnie, it’s Madame President. The Secret Service will now escort you and your entourage from the building.
DT: I was invited to stay here!
T: Consider that rescinded.
DT: My papers! My staff!
T: In due time. Not now. Go to Trump Towers or wherever else you are comfortable, but leave here now.
DT: You’re gonna need to be briefed! Believe me, there’s lots to discuss…
T: Mr. Trump. If you want to be a part of the transition, then leave now. I will contact you.
DT: You’re making a big mistake! This is a crisis!
T: No, it is not a crisis. It is a tragedy. Look, Mr. Trump. I do not like you; I do not trust you; and the only respect I have for you is that 60 million people voted for you.
T: Please leave now. I have work to do, starting with paying my respects to Mrs. Pence.
---- Agent Johnson, make sure everyone is out.
DT: You’re gonna regret this! (shouting and profanity)
T: Vihaan, did you get all that?
VM: Yes, Ma’am!
T: Agent Johnson, is there anyone from the press here? From Pence’s staff?
AJ: Ma’am, Marc Short is here, Mr. Pence’s chief of staff.
T: Great! Please show him in here. Oh, is there anyplace for my family to sit? Have some privacy?
MARC SHORT (MS): Madame President, I’m Marc Short. I so sorry to meet you under these circumstances.
T: Thank you, Mr. Short. Can you still be of service to your country?
MS: I would be honored to help, Ma’am. I am at your service.
T: I am so very very sorry for your loss, too. I know you must have a had a great relationship with Vice President Pence.
MS: Gut punch, ma’am. But I’m ready to work.
T: We need to make a statement, right?
MS: I have a brief statement prepared for immediate release. And I do mean immediate. Other people would love to be the first bell-ringer.
T: Please do it now. I have to trust you on this, Mr. Short.
MS: Yes, ma’am. I’ll be right back.
T: Mom, Lou, how are you holding up?
LOU PICONE (LP): Furniture is kinda lumpy.
(general muted laughter)
MM: I’m fine, Honoria. Perfectly fine. Madame President.
MS: Ma’am, the statement was sent via email at 0500 exactly. It will be all over the news in a minute. We also need to schedule an address by you, for later today. Stephanie Grisham will be here within the hour. She is a pro, and we will need her.
T: At the risk of overstating the obvious, Mr. Short, I am concerned about allegiances.
MS: Marc, please, Madame President. I would not concern yourself with that right now. There is less in the way of allegiances than you would suspect. Allow me to be the gatekeeper for the time being.
T: Okay, good, thanks. Thank you.
T: Yes, Marc.
MS: It will be fine. We do have much to do, to coordinate. And we will need your approval for all of it.
T: Yes, yes, of course.
MS: We will set you up with several secure phone lines in the cabinet room.
T: Good, good.
MS: I would like to secure the Oval Office for the time being, just until about noon. We have not had an opportunity to transition to a Pence Presidency, but we are now almost ready to make a… change.
T: Lou, please meet me in the cabinet room. John, perhaps you could take the boys somewhere? Marc, can you help?
MS: Yes, ma’am. I can bring your, uh, videographer with me.
T: Jane, Mom, we need to go see Mrs. Pence, right now, before anything else.
AJ: (whispers into hand mic) IRISH is on the move, Oval Office to the residence and Mrs. Pence’s location.
T: We’re going to need to change that, Agent Johnson.
AJ: Yes, Ma’am.
MS: Young man, cut your feed. The White House Press Office will handle this from here.
(end Moore phone video feed)
SUNDAY, AUGUST 4, 0500 AM, CNF STUDIOS, NEW YORK
JOSH TANNER (JT): I am shaken as I report this. President Michael Richard Pence, who assumed the office of President of the United States less than 24 hours ago, is dead. Initial official reports state that he passed away at 0430 am eastern standard time in the White House residence, specifically the Lincoln Bedroom, apparently of a massive heart attack. More information will be available as we obtain it…
SUNDAY, AUGUST 4, 2019, TWO MINUTES AFTER NOON, WHITE HOUSE OVAL OFFICE
ADDRESS TO THE NATION BY PRESIDENT HONORIA MCILHENNY TORRES
PRESIDENT TORRES: My Fellow Americans…
Words cannot describe the gravity of the events of this past weekend.
First, we must extend our sympathy to the family of our late President, Michael Richard Pence. He was a great public servant, and a hero of all Americans. His sudden passing can only be described as shocking, and most tragic. Mrs. Pence, please accept the thoughts and prayers of me and my family, and of all our fellow Americans.
Throughout our nation’s history there have been massive, politically seismic events that have altered our nation, and have cost untold lives.
This instance, this weekend, has marked three different presidents is not, I repeat, is not, one of them. One life has been lost, yes, a truly significant public servant, a giant among men, a model of good judgment and propriety, and an example of the great bounty of American opportunity. This has been devastating for the Pence family. It was fate, sad and tragic. But it is not a crisis of government.
At 430am today I became the President. That is what our constitution, the envy of the modern world, requires. I accept the responsibility, and with every fiber of my being I tell you I never believed, for one second, that this could, or would, occur.
Much has happened in the subsequent seven-plus hours.
I made several calls to national and government leaders, and then more calls streamed in. I appreciate the kind words and well wishes surrounding these awful events from friends old and new, and especially from allies around the world.
My first call was for a Vice President, and I am happy to say that this person accepted the call to service immediately. I did not have a great deal of time to mull over a candidate. In the brief time, about an hour, I had before I made the call, I discussed this person with no one. And I had in the front of my mind that up until 0430 today that this was an elected republican administration, and now is not a time to lock partisan horns. I tell you now that this person came to my mind immediately; a man I have much respect for and, ultimately, could serve ably and honorably as President.
Former Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has agreed to serve as vice president, pending US Senate approval. Thank you, Governor Jindal. Your country needs you.
I have asked Senate Majority Leader McConnell to hold a vote tomorrow, without debate. He has agreed to do just that. We are in agreement that a succession of the executive office is of immediate concern.
I have asked the House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, to conduct a vote on House Speaker as soon as practical, and Leader McCarthy has all but guaranteed a new Speaker fight, and I do mean fight, has already begun. I wish the House well in organizing itself. I know it has been a storm of a year there, but our nation needs comity now, not combat.
For those who have inquired or opined about a swearing in ceremony… The ceremony itself is symbolic. In the Oval Office, at about 600am, after paying my respects to Mrs. Pence, we had a small family ceremony with my husband John and our four children and lifelong friend Lou Picone. My mother, Jane McIlhenny, held a well-used bible that Mick Mulvaney had in his office. Words cannot express the heaviness of that moment, the burden of an office I did not seek, and I am still as shocked as anyone by the manner it came about. But do know this: I am equal to the challenge.
We have a state funeral to plan. The circumstances of me addressing the nation today are an accident of fate. We will not soon recover from this weekend’s events. But we will prevail. We will carry on.
It is instructive to remember that we are not at war on our shores, we are not under attack, and our security today is stronger than ever. Our only concern today is whether we have the fortitude to soldier on in the face of a transition of leadership that is unexpected but not unforeseen. The Founding Fathers and the Constitution they created and the amendments generations of Americans have ratified have seen to this smooth and lawful transition of the executive office of the presidency.
We will discuss and debate the events and decisions of this weekend for many years to come. In some respects, this is now a day of reckoning. Do we act and strengthen the initiatives that unite us? Or will we seek division for the sake of it?
To the world, our allies, our friends, and, yes, our adversaries… The United States of America is still the indispensable nation. We will defend our friends. We will push against our foes if our interests are in conflict. We will maintain all diplomatic ties. Nothing changes.
We will look ahead, mindful of our history and allegiances, yet not handcuffed by problems in the past. I will not judge our history through the moral prism of today. We will be cognizant, but not paralyzed.
Let me close by asking for you support. I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States. I, Honoria McIlhenny Torres, am privileged to be your president.
And I remain your accidental servant.
President Michael Richard Pence, Rest in Peace.
God Bless You, America. God Bless You All.
Thank you to everyone who read and commented and shared this work. Yes, these represent in large part my political views. I guess I had to get this out of my system!