The young screenwriter proudly places the draft of a movie plot on her agent’s desk. Thick, it is, and it sits several inches high, nearly blocking the agent’s face.
“Talk me through a summary,” the agent barks. “I’m not gonna sit here and plow through all this paper.”
So the writer begins to spin a tale of a man, born in New York just after World War II, the fourth child of a real estate developer and his wife. The young son watches as his father is investigated by the Senate Banking Committee for allegedly abusing the loan-guarantee program by intentionally overestimating the costs of his construction projects to obtain larger loans from commercial banks, pocketing the difference between the loan amounts and his actual construction costs. He is not charged with a crime, but after this, he is not able to obtain federal loan guarantees.
The kid attends private schools, eventually earning an economics degree, and goes to work in his dad’s business. By his 30s, he’s presiding over a large group of family-owned corporations. Some of his housing projects are accused of racial discrimination, leading to a suit by the U.S. Justice Dept., and the man counter-sues, claiming damage to his reputation. The suits go nowhere, but they offer a glimpse into the personality of the young man.
He builds or buys and remodels hotels, casinos, golf courses, and most fall into bankruptcy. He routinely cheats contractors who work on his projects. An overseas bank lends him hundreds of millions of dollars, and he keeps on spending. He buys the Miss Universe pageant and premiers a reality television show in which he stars as a boss who delights in firing people. He cheats on his third wife and gets a friend to pay the women to keep quiet about the affairs.
The agent stabs out his cigar and coughs. “Nice. Where is this going? What happens to this guy?”
“He figures money, even if it‘s borrowed, can get him anything he wants, so he decides to try politics,” the writer replies. “He runs for president.”
“What? Why?” the startled agent asks.
“Maybe he thinks he can get richer that way, and boss people around, like on the TV show.”
”Okay, so what happens? Does he get elected?”
His opponent gets three million more votes than he does, but thanks to the Electoral College system, he wins, the writer explains, and goes on.
After two years as president, the man manages to trash the country’s relationships with its foreign allies, form warm fuzzy relationships with its enemies, cozy up to other despotic leaders, offend women and minorities, destroy families of immigrants, insult anyone who disagrees with him, fire important members of his staff, appoint unqualified friends to important positions of power. Now, the writer adds, no one wants to work with him, and he’s in deep legal trouble, accused of colluding with an enemy to rig his own election. He cans his chief of staff and is thinking of appointing his son-in-law, a slum landlord who’s been doubling as a senior adviser and making foreign policy decisions.
“But this president guy is still president, right?” the agent asks, incredulous.
The writer nods. “For now, at least.”
The agent takes out a fresh cigar and slowly lights it. He picks up the screenplay draft. It takes both hands to lift the heavy tome, and he drops it into his trash can with a dull thud.
“Forget it, kid. Nobody would ever believe this.”