Work Header

Big Little Libels

Work Text:

Friday, March 15, 2013
9:14 A.M. EDT

CHLOE: Hey, all you awesome Beltway listeners, and good morning!

ZIGGY: Happy Friday!

CHLOE: I'm Chloe Mackenzie...

ZIGGY: And I'm Ziggy Chapman...

CHLOE: And, per usual, we are delighted to be co-hosting Capital Beats, your number one local station for political hot-takes and head-bopping tunes.

ZIGGY: Our standard disclaimer: All of the views expressed on this show are our own, and in no way, shape, or form reflect those of our mothers.

CHLOE: Thanks, Zigs.

ZIGGY: Always, Chlo.

CHLOE: Coming up, we've got some Alabama Shakes, Diana Ross, Jefferson Airplane, Elvis Presley, and more—but, before that, let's talk some VAWA!

ZIGGY: Yeah, how about that?

CHLOE: Ziggy, wanna give us a background?

ZIGGY: Sure, so, the Violence Against Women Act was first passed in the mid-1990s to make it easier to combat violent crimes against women.

That meant that the U.S. Department of Justice poured more money into domestic violence investigations and prosecutions, and created an Office on Violence Against Women, which issues grants to community-based organizations aimed at combating domestic violence.

Also, importantly, VAWA made it possible for survivors to obtain mandatory restitution from convicted abusers, or civil redress if the feds weren't willing to prosecute.

CHLOE: Translate that last bit into English for us, please?

ZIGGY: Basically, it allowed survivors to demand payment from the assholes who abused them, whether or not said assholes went to jail for what they'd done.

CHLOE: So, progress!  Well, other than that thing where the SCOTUS said that survivors no longer could sue their attackers in federal court.

ZIGGY: Yeah, that wasn't so great.

CHLOE: Commerce Clause squabbles, gotta love 'em.  So, VAWA's up for reauthorization: What's the big deal now?

ZIGGY: Well, the big deal now is that our new President...

CHLOE: For all of our new listeners, that would be my mom.

ZIGGY: Our new President, aka, Chloe's mom, has put VAWA reauthorization at the top of her incoming policy agenda.

The good news is that everyone seems to still agree that violence against women is a bad thing.

CHLOE: Nice that we can still all agree on something, in this climate.

ZIGGY: The bad news is that Congress is pretty sharply divided over the specifics of the reauthorization.

Republicans are balking at the idea of extending VAWA protections to LGBTQ+ Americans, as well as to undocumented immigrants.

There's also some contention over whether tribal governments should be given the right to prosecute Americans who commit violent crimes against women on tribal territory.

CHLOE: Well, VAWA was a bipartisan bill when passed, so hopefully at least the Senate will be onboard with reauthorization that includes those provisions?

ZIGGY: I'm thinking yes, eventually.

CHLOE: Same, but the House, on the other hand...

ZIGGY: Yeah, that's gonna be a tougher sell.

CHLOE: We'll just have to wait and see how it all plays out, I guess.

But, while we're waiting, we've got some great music for you in the next hour, starting with Michael Kiwanuka's "Cold Little Heart"...

10:28 A.M. 

"The Governor of Mississippi just called," Jane informed the President.

Madeline groaned.

"What does he want?"

"He wants the blues back."  Jane grinned at Madeline as she groaned again and turned away to stare out the window towards the rose-less Rose Garden.  "Come on, you're only two months into this, you can't go around looking this gloomy all the time!  Aren't you still excited about all of it?"

"Yeah, of course," Madeline sighed.  "Of course.  Just, a lot going on."

Jane did her best not to roll her eyes.

"Is this about Nathan?"

"Jane, did I hire you to be my Chief of Staff or my psychotherapist?"

"Don't respond to it," Jane advised.  "Tell Ed not to respond to it.  It's stupid and petty and far below the dignity of your office."

"That asshole has absolutely no right to go after my husband like that!" Madeline ranted, wheeling back around and slamming her hands on her desk.  "Jesus.  He can accuse me of anything he wants, say that my policy proposals are shit, but the second he says anything demeaning about Ed..."

"I know," Jane said calmly.  "But don't rise to the bait.  Or sink to his level.  Just, don't move from wherever you are."

"You're still positive we can't call the National Guard on him?" Madeline grumbled.

"Positive," Jane promised her.  "Just let it blow over.  The entire country loves Ed; he'll be just fine, so long as you don't do anything to make matters worse."

Madeline glowered at Jane.

"Are you allowed to talk to me like that?"

"Yeah, you literally hired me to advise you on these sorts of things.  Also on policy."  Jane shoved a thick binder into Madeline's hands.  "VAWA."

"Another day, another round of VAWA," Madeline sighed.

"You could have chosen anything for your first major policy battle, Madam President..."

"I know, I know."  Madeline sat down at her desk and cleared her throat.  "So, where are we?"

"The Senate Majority Leader's office called over just now; they're still trying to whip votes in favor of the new provisions, but it's turning into a longer process than expected."

"Jesus Christ, they're still trying to...?"

"They're working on it," Jane repeated.  "You know how it works, Madam President; these things take time."

"Yeah, but—she promised me that, if I just let her 'do her thing' or whatever, this wouldn't take more than a few weeks..."

"She's doing her best.  We all are."

"Well, it sounds like her best isn't fucking enough."  Madeline harrumphed.  "I knew that the House was gonna give me a headache, but to have to face this kind of stonewalling from my own freaking party..."

"Deep breaths," Jane reminded her.  "And please don't do anything too rash."

"Have I ever done anything rash, Jane?"  (Jane wisely maintained a diplomatic silence.)  "Fine.  Call HHS and see if Bonnie can't make it over this afternoon to strategize.  I'll call over to DOJ."

"Will do.  You're free at one-ish."  Jane shot Madeline a mischievous grin.  "Should I ask if Bonnie can lead you in some calming, meditative yoga when she arrives, too?"

"OUT," Madeline ordered her Chief of Staff.

"Say hi to Celeste from me!" Jane called as she left the Oval Office.

Madeline punched a number into her phone, leaned back in her chair, and propped her stilettoed feet on her desk.


"Hey, Madam Attorney General," Madeline sighed.

"Madam President," Celeste answered respectfully.  "How are things going?"

"Ugh, well, this whole VAWA thing is going to make my hair go prematurely gray—and don't you dare say whatever you were about to say about my hair," Madeline added, picking up the binder that Jane had left and flipping it open to the first memo.  "Think you can find your way up Pennsylvania later this afternoon to chat with me and a few other folks?"

"What time?"


"One works for me."

"You're a gem, Celeste.  Everything going okay?"

"Yes, although it'll be great when the Senate finally confirms my Deputy.  Please don't do anything to put pressure on the situation, though," Celeste warned Madeline.  "Katie's hanging in there, with regards to her nomination, and I can do the same."

"Oh, believe me," Madeline promised Celeste, "I have a whole list of pressure points I'd like to hit, when it comes to the Senate, starting with the Majority Leader's smug face."

"Look, I know that this is a tense situation, but remember, there's no need to do anything unnecessarily provocative."

"First Jane, now you—why doesn't anyone have any confidence in my ability to stay calm over all of this?"

"I'll see you at one, okay?" Celeste sighed.  "Have to go meet with the FBI Director right now."

"Sure.  Great.  Say hi to good ol' Quinlan from me."

Madeline hung up, read the first two memos in the binder over twice, then sat back and began scrolling through the news on her phone.

"Goddamnit," she muttered.

And thus began the day that Madeline Martha Mackenzie came dangerously close to losing the right to control her own Presidential Twitter feed.

11:04 A.M.

"Jesus fucking Christ," Renata seethed, storming through the Brumidi Corridors with her heels tapping out a brisk staccato.

"I know," Harper consoled her boss.

"We welcome the chance for Congress to show some actual courage, and call on every Senator to transcend long-held prejudices to better the lives of immigrants, LGBTQ+ Americans, and Native Americans alike—what is this bullshit?!"  Renata's hand jerked as if it were in danger of hurling her cell phone at a nearby marble bust.  "The sheer nerve of her, throwing my own amendments back in my face like this.  What is her fucking problem."

"Senator, I think..."

"I mean, does she not have any filter whatsoever?  Were there not forty million more diplomatic ways to phrase that tweet?  Is it her express mission to try to ruin every single aspect of my fucking life?!"

"She did just nominate your daughter to be EPA Administrator," Harper reminded Renata, grabbing a stack of binders as they breezed into and out of the Democratic cloakroom.

"Well, Amabella has a joint Masters in Environmental Science and J.D. from Stanford, and used to be the Managing Director of the Climate & Clean Energy Program at the National Resources Defense Council, so I literally can't imagine anyone better-equipped to run the EPA."  Renata puffed herself up a bit over what a stellar human being she had raised.  "Great, so that's exactly one thing that the Pussfuck-in-Chief hasn't irredeemably destroyed, unlike my legislative agenda.  How are the Indian Country Senators leaning on the amendments?"

"Um, well, the Oklahomans are firmly against..."

"Damn it, Harper, the ones who actually stand a chance of voting with us," Renata snapped.  She set off an alarm as she charged through a metal detector, but silenced any comments from a nearby security guard with a glare.  "Montana, North Dakota—talk to me, what are their staffs saying?"

"Senator, I'm not sure that we should be discussing all of this out in the..."

Renata stopped so abruptly that Harper walked right into her, then quailed under the look that Renata turned on her.  The irate Senator seemed to have taken her frazzled Chief of Staff's point, however, because she held the elevator door open for Harper, followed her inside, then hit the button to close the doors before anyone else could follow.

"Montana was leaning yes," Harper continued, "but now is a definite no-go, unless the state retains criminal jurisdiction over prosecutions of American citizens.  And North Dakota, last I heard, was on the same page..."

"Shit."  Renata took a deep breath as the elevator doors dinged open on the basement level.  "Okay, then.  Thank you."

"Senator?" Harper added, tentatively following Renata out onto the landing above the Senate subway platform.  "Can I just advise that you don't make any public statements quite yet about what the President...?"

"I SAID THANK YOU," Renata roared back at Harper.  Four TV cameras immediately swiveled in the Senate Majority Leader's direction as she stomped down the escalator steps and barreled onto an empty subway car, leaving her Chief of Staff behind in the dust.

Alone in the subway car, Renata furiously dialed Madeline's cell phone.


"With all due respect, Madam President, what the fuck do you think you're doing?" Renata snapped.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Madeline replied, "did you miss the part where I'm actually allowed to have my own policy agenda?"

"Yeah, you see, that's the problem: It's not your policy agenda, it's our policy agenda, and you've just royally insulted a bunch of people I almost had ready to vote for the new provisions as written.  'Transcend long-held prejudices' —Jesus Christ, are you trying to alienate every moderate Democrat in the Midwest, by implying that they're racist, nativist homophobes, just because they're not raring to let go of bits and pieces of their jurisdictional sovereignty?"

"I'm not trying to alienate anyone, Majority Leader Klein, I'm trying to help a bunch of people in this country who currently aren't getting the help they need."

"Yeah, well, pissing off a bunch of Senators whose votes you need isn't going to help anyone, I can promise you that."

"Thanks so much for pointing that out, but maybe if someone had done a more effective job of garnering those votes back when she said she would, none of this would have happened..."

The doors of the subway car opened at Dirksen, and an intern tried to usher a bevy of visitors onboard, but retreated when Renata shot the group a venomous look.  The doors closed again.

"You know, I'd really appreciate it if you'd let me whip my own caucus on my own terms, before you start making waves on fucking Twitter, of all places," Renata spat.  "Might I remind you, Madam President, that you've never sat in the Senate?  I proposed those amendments knowing exactly how I was going to have to maneuver to get the right people to sign off on each one, even if it took longer than expected.  So please, if I can offer something as objectively as I possibly can, do not fuck with my how I handle my coalition."

"Heaven forbid I should ever try to do such a thing," Madeline said innocently.

"And don't think that just because you're flying high now means you'll be there forever," Renata snarled.  "Too many political missteps like this, and believe me, the second you're out of the White House?  You're dead in this town."

"Oh, that's so sweet of you to say, Renata.  Remind me again how many percentage points you ended behind me, in the California primary?"

Renata bared her teeth.

"Fuck off, Madeline."

The subway car doors opened under Hart with a jingle, and the Senate Majority Leader stormed out onto the platform, making a beeline straight for the offices of those Senators for whom she hoped the damage could be controlled, if addressed quickly enough.

By Nathan Carlson
The Carlson Report
Posted: Friday, March 15, 2013, 8:31 A.M. EDT

Long-time readers won't be surprised to read that I remain somewhat skeptical about our new "First Gentleman" Ed Mackenzie.

It's not just that he seems a little off, if you know what I mean.  A little crazy behind the eyes.  Maybe subconsciously threatened by how powerful and dominant his wife has become in comparison to him.

No, what's bothering me right now is this latest little stunt that the FGOTUS pulled on Ellen yesterday.

Chocolate chip cookies?  Seriously?

Now, I get it.  The days of women working barefoot in the kitchen are long over, and I'd be the first person to say that that's a good thing.  But for Pete's sake, does that mean that we have to be bombarded non-stop by so many saccharine (pardon the pun) images of the President's husband, dancing and baking cookies with Ellen DeGeneres?

Maybe it's not enough that Ed Mackenzie is today's standard-bearer for the evolved man.  Before his wife became President, he worked at home (computer programmer).  Mr. Sensitive even split childcare fifty-fifty, if we are to believe that repeated talking point from every single stump speech that then-candidate Maddie gave.


Mr. FGOTUS, there's really no need to emasculate yourself even further by publicly baking cookies, and even letting Ellen post your secret recipe on her website.  Maybe thousands of housewives across America found it endearing, especially when you almost put a cup of salt into the batter instead of a cup of sugar—which I guess is what happens when you also repackage your dried goods into glass jars from World Market, instead of leaving them in their fucking original packaging, like normal people.  But some of us found it just plain annoying, and, in fact, embarrassing for you.

You can do whatever you want, Ed Mackenzie.  Just don't subject the rest of us to it.  Especially not on national TV.

12:54 P.M. 

"You really shouldn't have written anything, hon," Bonnie said into her cell phone.

"I mean, isn't the First Amendment still a thing?" Nathan retorted.  "I have the right to express my thoughts, and she has every right to snidely respond, with... whatever it was she tweeted, implying that I was shit and Ed was God's gift to women."

"Fine, but you know that this doesn't reflect at all well on me, don't you?"

"Bonnie, sweetie, Madeline nominated you knowing how much I hate Ed.  Tell me how this changes anything?"

"Because this isn't about you and Ed hating each other anymore.  It's about the headlines becoming all about how the Secretary of Health & Human Services probably can't work with her boss because her husband keeps on mouthing off about the President's husband on his political blog."

"Maddie'd better not hold it against you..."

"She won't, but it's about sending a message of unity."

"Unity," Nathan snorted.  "This is Washington, Bonnie.  People aren't so hippie-dippie about things here."

"At the White House," Bonnie sighed.  "Talk later."

She hung up on Nathan before he could say anything more and climbed out of the armored car's door just outside of the West Wing. 

Celeste had arrived a few minutes earlier and was waiting in the Oval Office when Madeline reentered.

"Hey, lady," she said, giving her Attorney General a hug and a peck on the cheek as Celeste stood.  "Love this power suit; is that new?"

"No, I just haven't worn it in a few years.  Have things calmed down since earlier today?"

"Do they ever?"  Madeline sat down on a couch and gestured for Celeste to do the same.  "By the way, how are we doing on getting the DEA to unschedule marijuana?"

"I... don't think I realized that that was near the top of our agenda?"

"Well, it should be; and when that happens, please, have a bushel of weed sent over to the Senate Majority Leader's office.  Given her attitude when she called me just now, I think she could really use it."

"Don't tell me," Celeste smiled.

"I mean, who the fuck does she think she is?!" Madeline ranted in a conspiratorial hiss to Celeste. " 'The second you're out of the White House, you're dead in this town'—seriously, you would think that we were on opposite sides of the aisle!"

"Hmm," replied Celeste diplomatically.

"Acting all high-and-mighty, can't bear the thought that a nobody second-term Congresswoman from Monterey County was able to tug the Democratic presidential primary nomination away from an influential, powerful, third-term Senator like her, reportedly worth billions in Silicon Valley venture capital..."

"Madam President?"

"Oh, for god's sake, Celeste, you can call me 'Madeline' when we're just sitting around and gossiping like this."

"Of course, Madam President.  But Bonnie just arrived."

"Oh."  Madeline stood to greet Bonnie, and Celeste followed suit.  "Thanks so much for making it all the way over here on short notice..."

"Of course," Bonnie said, "and Madam President, I'm so sorry for everything that Nathan..."

"Don't," Madeline interrupted.  "I get that any stupid things he says about Ed are his own problem, not yours.  How's the report coming along, both of you?"

"Going well.  We got the statistics on prosecutions from DOJ about three days ago—thanks for that," Bonnie added to Celeste.  "And right now we're busy corroborating the societal cost of domestic violence with Justice's estimates as to how much VAWA-supported prosecutions have saved the national economy, with regards to protecting women's health and thus their economic output.  It's a pretty powerful statement about why Congress should fund the Act, both economically and morally.  The naysayers are going to have a hard time rebutting it."

"I assume that Labor's also sent over their numbers?" Celeste asked Bonnie.

"Only reason Tom isn't here right now is because he had some pre-existing conflict," Madeline confirmed.  "Some meeting with local coffee shop entrepreneurs, about their supply chains and human trafficking.  So, what are we looking at, in terms of publication?"

"Two, three weeks?"

"We can't shorten that any?"

"Madam President, we want to be sure that all of these numbers are right, and that's going to take some double-checking," Bonnie reminded her.

"I know, just..."  Madeline exhaled.  "It's been two months, and other a big state dinner for the Prime Minister of New Zealand, I feel like I haven't done anything.  I thought we'd be well past this by now, and off solving something like world hunger."

"Rome wasn't built in a day," Celeste reminded her calmly.  "We're getting things done, slowly but surely.  What did Senator Klein say when you spoke to her earlier?"

"Not much that I can repeat in polite company."

"Substantively, though," Celeste insisted.  "I assume she's in danger of losing some of the moderate Dems?"

"Over the criminal jurisdiction stuff, it sounds like.  You should talk to her, Celeste.  She's always liked you."

"Hmm."  Celeste's mouth quirked into a smile.


"Just thinking back to what you were saying earlier, about the DEA."

"I was dead serious," Madeline insisted.  "Think about it: Renata Klein, baked, would behave pretty much like a normal person, right?"

Even without knowing the full context for this remark, Bonnie tried and failed to suppress a smile.

"Madam President?"  Jane appeared in the doorway of the Oval Office.  "Sorry to interrupt all of this, but there's something you should see."

The other three women turned towards the television in the corner as Jane picked the remote off the coffee table, turned the screen on, and flipped the channel to C-SPAN.

"Now, of course I think that women should be protected from violence.  But let's just stop and think about where the money for this Act will be going, if the Klein amendments are passed," the Speaker was saying on the floor of the House.  "These are American tax dollars that would be wasted on illegal aliens, and people who maybe aren't thinking as carefully as they should about what kinds of relationships would be best for them to enter, in the first place.  If we're going to be serious about protecting American women, we should strip away these unnecessary amendments and vote on the reauthorization as it was originally written, with a focus on putting resources towards actual victims, and not people who are asking us to overlook their criminality or immorality to be covered by the provisions of VAWA..."

Jane glanced at the President, whose mouth had literally dropped open.

"Holy fuck," Madeline said.

"If ever there were a politician I'd consider slapping in the face," Celeste muttered.

"Severely misguided," Bonnie said simply.

"Wow, if even Bonnie is agreeing that the Speaker is being driven by some sort of dark psychic force, then I feel less weird about how much I actually want to scream right now."  Madeline decisively clicked off the television.  "Jane, am I allowed to respond to whatever the fuck that was?"

"Yeah," Jane sighed.  "But please, please, let your comms people look over it first, okay?"

1:25 P.M.

Madeline had Jane to rein in her and her big mouth.  Renata had no such luck.

"Madam Speaker," she practically shouted from across the Capitol Rotunda, walking so fast in her stilettos that she was nearly running.

"Oh, Senator Klein."  Mary Louise Wright smiled her kind, grandmotherly smile.  "How are we today?"

"How are we?"  Renata glanced around at the throngs of tourists and reporters observing them and dropped her voice to a hiss.  "We are wrought, Mary Louise.  We are stunned and appalled that one of the most powerful politicians in Washington would stoop to viciously denigrating hardworking immigrants and LGBTQ Americans as 'criminal and immoral'—for what?  For the sake of scoring a few petty political points, in an indefensibly malicious attempt to block the reauthorization of an act that's helped thousands?  We're wrought."

"You're a very passionate and idealistic politician," Mary Louise said neutrally, as Renata followed her into the Speaker's office uninvited.  "So much so that I sometimes wonder if you've lost sight of your own constituents' needs."

"I'm acutely aware of my own constituents' needs," Renata snapped.  "And my constituents happen to include undocumented women seeking better opportunities for themselves and their kids, who do not deserve to be beaten by their partners, just because they can't obtain temporary visas that would make them feel comfortable going to the fucking police for help.  Also, calling the LGBTQ community 'immoral'?  Jesus Christ, Mary Louise, is this not the twenty-first century?!"

"I just want to be sure that we're taking care of our own first," Mary Louise insisted.

"How do you not consider LGBTQ Americans..."

"And," Mary Louise continued over Renata, "to me, that means looking out for honest, clean-living, run-of-the-mill Americans who've unfortunately fallen victim to their partners' reckless behavior, physically, or emotionally.  Financially, even, in community-property jurisdictions."

Renata bristled.

"What did you just say?"

"Raymond, who's my two o'clock?" Mary Louise asked a staffer, turning away.

"What did you just say?" Renata repeated.

"My two o'clock?" Mary Louise said, turning back towards Renata.

"No, you don't get to fucking do this," Renata snapped, closing the office door in Raymond's face and wheeling on the Speaker.  "Don't think that I don't realize exactly why you're coming out so hard against this reauthorization, Mary Louise.  And I'd say I'm sorry about what happened to your son, but you know what?  He didn't deserve to stay in that race, after what came out about him."

Mary Louise's mouth had hardened.

"It was character assassination," she said in a dangerously soft voice.  "Pure character assassination, driven by ridiculous partisan feminist hysteria, and not a word of it true.  Women were always throwing themselves at my son.  How could he help it, if some of them decided later on that they weren't as enthusiastic about their liaisons in retrospect, as they were in the moment?  Their fault, not his."

"What the actual fuck," Renata seethed.  "You may be any number of unflattering things, Mary Louise, but stupid isn't one of them.  You read the exact same investigative reports that I did, you saw the same photographs.  You heard those women testify.  And before you go into mourning over your son's criminal conviction and truncated political career, consider that maybe he should have fucking thought about how all of that would look, before he raised a hand against a woman even once."

"I'm so sorry that you have such a paranoid, suspicious outlook on the world, Renata," Mary Louise said.  "It must be difficult to always see the worst in people."

"Says the victim-blaming hypocrite who just called undocumented immigrants inherently criminal," snorted Renata.

"By crossing the border in the first place, they're inherently engaging in..."

"You are so wrong," Renata said loudly over Mary Louise.  "So wrong, both under our asylum laws and from a fucking moral standpoint.  You know what, Madam Speaker, you can take your xenophobia and your homophobia, and you can shove it.  You hear me?  Calling yourself the party of family values, my ass.  You don't even have the empathy to see people outside your circles as other human beings.  Keep your eyes on your own fucking paper, Mary Louise, and leave my amendments alone, or else."

The Speaker pursed her lips as the Senate Majority Leader slammed the office door on her way out.

"Raymond," she called after a moment, sitting down at her desk, "I'm still waiting to know who my two o'clock is."

Remarks by President Mackenzie on VAWA Reauthorization

Oval Office
2:18 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: It's come to my attention that a prominent political figure recently made some strong statements against the proposed amendments to the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  Statements that not only undervalued the extraordinary impact that the Act has had on the lives of Americans for the past twenty years, but also mischaracterized some of the most vulnerable in our society as being dangerous, or unworthy of VAWA's protection.

Such statements beg the question: Who are we?

We are a nation that rebelled when bullied by another government.  We must not now allow our own government to bully those who trust in our public officials to uphold their rights.

As Americans, we are obligated to look out for one another.  This White House will not stand silently aside, when a powerful politician smears entire groups of people who improve our society with their hard work, cultural contributions, and desire to do right by their neighbors.  We cannot permit such intolerant, misleading, and offensive remarks to go unaddressed.

That's why I, along with my Attorney General and my Secretary of Health & Human Services, am calling once again on Congress to reauthorize VAWA, along with the Klein amendments.  Everyone in this country—documented or undocumented, gay or straight, cisgender or transgender or non-binary, Native or non-Native—deserves to live free from the threat of violence and abuse, and, if necessary, to seek the justice that they deserve from our court system.  We respect that each Congressperson and Senator must come to a reasoned decision as to how they will vote on this bill.  But, since justice delayed is justice denied, we ask that our national legislature act as quickly as possible, to safeguard the interests of our citizens and aspiring citizens alike.

3:16 P.M.

"Good statement," Ed said, wandering into the Oval Office.  "Abigail just called to express her approval."

"Why didn't she call me directly?" Madeline demanded.

"She assumed you were off doing presidential stuff," Ed shrugged.  "Also, she's still refusing to speak with you directly until you schedule a formal meeting with Amnesty."

"Jesus," Madeline harrumphed.  "This is not acceptable.  You tell her that, the next time she calls, you hear me?  I will not let my daughter manipulate my schedule like this."

Ed lay down on one of the couches with a sigh.

"You become the leader of the free world, and you would think that your own children would have the charity—no, the decency, to give you the time of day, without demanding political favors in return..."

"She'll cave, eventually," Ed reassured Madeline.  "Abby may have your tenacity, but you're more experienced at waging wars of attrition."

"Damn right, I am."  Madeline got up from her desk and walked over to where Ed lay.  "You doing okay?"

"Other than being branded as a girly-man by Nathan Carlson?  Yeah, doing just fine."

"Don't listen to that shit," Madeline insisted passionately.  "He just wishes he were half the husband and father and all-around man that you are.  Baker, too."

"Stop," scoffed Ed quietly.

"I'm serious.  That time you gave me a batch of your famous chocolate chip cookies to take to a Cabinet meeting?  Bonnie ate, like, four, which I suspect indicates how much excellent cuisine she's getting out of Nathan."

"Are we still talking about cookies?"

"Quiet, you," laughed Madeline, kneeling down and kissing Ed.  "Are you really doing okay?"

Ed quirked half a smile at Madeline, the same one he had shot her throughout all of the months and months of endless, exhausting campaigning and unrelenting media scrutiny.

"Yup," he promised.  "You?"

"I've been spending the afternoon questioning why we outlawed dueling," Madeline replied.  "And also questioning whom I'd challenge to a duel first, the Senate Majority Leader or the Speaker of the House."

"Don't make an unnecessary enemy out of Renata Klein," Ed advised.  "You both want the same outcome, you know."

"I know that, and she knows that, too, so why she has to make such a fucking melodramatic production out of every single thing that I do..."  Madeline sighed.  "I'm sending Celeste to go talk to her."

"May cooler heads prevail, then."

"I do not appreciate that, mister."

"Who ever said I found cool heads at all interesting?"  Ed sat up.  "Back to work.  Let me know if you want me to bake Senator Klein some rapprochement cookies."

"Will do," Madeline promised.

Ed kissed her again.

"Stay hinged, honey," he said, before heading out the door.

Madeline wandered back to her desk and was flipping through her afternoon briefing binder, when the subtitles on C-SPAN caught her eye.  She catapulted herself around her desk and unmuted the television.

"Shit," she muttered.

"Hate to be the bearer of more bad news," Jane said, poking her head through the door.

"Already there."  Madeline scowled, her arms akimbo, as Jane crossed the office to stand beside her boss.  "Tell Celeste to bring the Senate Majority Leader back with her, after their meeting.  I think it's high time we sat down and had a civilized discussion about all of this."

3:27 P.M.

"Senator?  The Attorney General for you."

Renata looked up from a memo on a proposed polar bear breeding program for the National Zoo.

"Send her in," she said, and Celeste was shown into the office.

"Senator Klein?"

"Please, Celeste, Renata's fine," Renata said, leaning back in her chair and gesturing for Celeste to take a seat opposite.  "How are things?  And, by the way, I'm so sorry that Ms. Richmond hasn't come up for a vote yet..."

"It's fine," Celeste interrupted.  "I'm here on behalf of the President."

"Brandishing an olive branch, you mean," Renata sighed.  "Look, I said some things to her this morning that I probably shouldn't have..."

"All water under the bridge," Celeste fibbed.  "I think you know how much this Act means to the President—to all of us, really.  And, any hard feelings aside, I know that we all just want to see it passed, with your amendments intact.  So, what can I do to help?"

"Honestly, I don't know," Renata admitted.  "It's a matter of waiting for some of the Senators who don't want their states to lose criminal jurisdiction to come around."

"And will they?"

"Given enough time, and no more sudden jolts to their systems?  I think so.  Until then, though, I think we just have to wait until emotions simmer down."  Renata smiled suddenly.  "You're not allowed to tell the President this, but I think the Speaker's response to her tweet might have nudged some of the more reluctant votes in the right direction since even this morning.  Not even the most moderate member of the caucus wants to find themselves inadvertently aligned with that sort of rhetoric."

"Well, I'm glad to hear that."

"Celeste, are you doing all right?"  Renata's voice had softened with uncharacteristic concern.  "I know it's none of my business, but I imagine this must be a particularly personal issue for you to be tackling right off the bat."

"All the more reason to get it passed," Celeste insisted.  "I'm doing fine, Renata.  But thank you for asking."

"Good luck with everything over there at Justice.  And please don't hesitate to reach out if I can help with anything."

"I'm sure we will.  And please, reach out to the President yourself, once things have calmed down a little.  I truly think you'd be much better friends than enemies."

"Yeah, I know," Renata sighed.

"Senator?"  Harper had reappeared at Renata's office door, looking mildly panicked.  She jerked a thumb at Renata's TV, and when Renata saw what had Harper so riled, she swore loudly.

"What the fuck is this?!  Excuse me," she added to Celeste, who shook her head to indicate that no offense had been taken.

Harper quickly unmuted the television, where Mary Louise was being interviewed on CNN in Statuary Hall, accompanied by the chyron, Senate Majority Leader Threatens House Speaker Over VAWA.

"Well, in light of all of this, we'll have to see about the new emissions standards coming down the pipeline," Mary Louise was saying with a slight laugh.  "It really would be a pity for agencies like EPA, if Congress were to stymie their ability to issue regulations for certain types of greenhouse gases..."

"Oh no you don't, you bitch," snarled Renata, her fists clenching.

"Hello?" Celeste said, answering her cell phone.  "I'll be right over.  The White House," she explained to Renata, hanging up.  "You should come with me, if you can."

"I'll be right there," Renata glowered, still staring at the TV screen.

Celeste nodded to Harper on her way out the door.

"How much do I need to rearrange my schedule to go make peace with Her Royal Fucking Highness, face to face?" Renata asked.

"I think we can squeeze it in," Harper fretted.  "Although, while we're at it, if we can just review the tick-tock for both the fundraiser and the MALDEF gala that you're supposed to be attending tonight, along with your remarks for Monday's FiveThirtyEight podcast interview, and your floor speeches on nuclear nonproliferation and the upcoming vote on the FDA Commissioner..."

"Jesus Christ," snapped Renata, standing up and striding past Harper and out the door, "will somebody give a woman a moment?!"

4:12 P.M.

Jane was waiting outside the West Wing when Renata's motorcade pulled up.

"Thanks for coming over here at such short notice," Jane said as the Senator climbed out of her car.

"Thanks for having me."  Renata smiled grimly.  "Especially given some of the things I said to your boss earlier today, as I'm sure she's mentioned."

"You know what?  Unlike some people, my boss can take criticism in stride, and doesn't blab about private conversations to the press."  Jane paused.  "Also, just between you and me, I was on the verge of confiscating her phone when I saw what she'd tweeted, but you are not allowed to spread that fact around."

"Noted," smirked Renata as she followed Jane into the White House.

Bonnie and Celeste were already waiting in the Oval Office with Madeline when Jane ushered Renata in.

"I see the whole gang is here," Renata observed.

"Senator," said Madeline tersely, stepping forward.

"Madam President," replied Renata, shaking Madeline's hand.  "So, what are we going to do about all of this?"

"Well, it's not a great situation, obviously," Madeline scoffed, taking a seat so that everyone else could do so, as well.  "The Speaker of the House is accusing you of threatening her directly over this bill, and me of being an inherently unstable human being, just because I swatted back at my stupid ex on Twitter for attacking my husband."

"I should add that Nathan honestly doesn't care," Bonnie chimed in.

"What exactly did you say to her?" Celeste asked Renata.

"I didn't say anything!"  Renata scowled.  "Okay, I mean, I said a lot of things; but Jesus, just because I told her to mind her own fucking business or else, she took all that as a threat to her person?"

"Typical Mary Louise," muttered Jane.

"She can say whatever she wants about me, I don't give a damn," Renata insisted.  "But she is not allowed to fuck with Amabella's agency, okay?  Just because she'll be dead long before climate change impacts the globe to its fullest extent, doesn't give her the right to ruin everything for my daughter and her generation."

"Relax, Renata, I'm not about to sign any legislation that would weaken the EPA," sighed Madeline.  "But please, don't do anything to further aggravate the Speaker in the future."

"Don't worry, I'm going do my best to avoid her altogether," Renata grumbled.

"Great.  So, what exactly do we need to do on VAWA?"

Renata blinked.

"What do we need to do?"

"What do you need me to do?" Madeline clarified.  "Look, I'll admit that I fucked things up for you earlier today, but by this point in the afternoon, it's crystal clear to me that it'd be more advantageous to spend our time focusing on the fights that actually need to be fought.  So, I apologize.  What do you need me to do to make things easier for you, moving forward?  A public apology for my tweet?  Holding back from making any more public comments on VAWA, until the Senate has passed something?"

Renata gaped for a few moments, then closed her mouth, pulled a notebook from her purse, and wrote out a few names.

"These are the Senators you'll need to call," she said, tearing out a page and handing it over to Madeline.  "Who knows, they might feel reassured to hear from you that you're not planning to completely gut their criminal justice systems.  Maybe let them know about any conversations that you've had with tribal leaders about how they plan to ensure that accused non-Native Americans are given fair trials within tribal courts...?"

"I will," Madeline promised.  "And thank you, for trusting me with handling your coalition."

Renata nodded awkwardly.

"Well, I'd say this is progress, getting the two of you in the same room," Celeste offered.

"For god's sake, Celeste, we're not first-graders," Madeline scoffed.  "We'll wait this out, for as long as we need to.  I'll offer my reassurances to the Senators who are on the fence, and I promise I won't go rogue on Twitter again," she added, shooting Jane a meaningful look.  "I suspect that, once this gets through the Senate, the House will follow suit on the amendments, with enough pressure during reconciliation."

"And with enough reminders of some of the things that were said today on national television," Jane added.

"Agreed," said Renata.  "Mary Louise Wright doesn't hold that large of a majority, after all.  And, believe me, if she starts saying some of the crazy things on camera that she says off camera, the reauthorization and amendments are as good as passed."

"In the meantime," Bonnie added, "HHS will continue to work on this report, with help from DOJ..."

"And DOJ will be at the ready to pick prosecutions back up, the instant funding is reauthorized," Celeste concluded.

"No sweat, right?"  Madeline yawned.  "Jesus, I could use a drink right now."

"Not until after 5:00, Madam President," Jane scolded her.  "You're meeting with the German ambassador about election interference in the EU in ten minutes."

"Scheiße," grumbled Madeline.  "Well, you'd all better leave for the moment, then.  But if any of you ladies are still around in half an hour, swing by the Oval.  I'll call over for cocktails for everyone."

And with that, the other four women showed themselves out.

"Don't tell me she was serious?" Renata muttered to Jane.

"Oh, she was," Jane reassured the Senator.  "Do you need to be anywhere?"

"Technically, yes."  Renata glanced at Celeste and Bonnie.  "But my Chief of Staff doesn't need to know how long this meeting actually went, right?"

"Welcome to the club," Celeste grinned.  "Jane, can we occupy the Roosevelt Room while we wait?"

"Of course.  Make yourselves at home, within reason."

"You actually condone this?" Renata asked Bonnie as they entered the Roosevelt Room.  "Aren't you the one who's supposed to be curbing all of our nascent alcoholic tendencies?"

"I consider wellness to be a critical component of health," Bonnie shrugged.  "And decompressing with friends certainly fits the bill.  I definitely could use a cocktail, at any rate, after everything my husband's gotten himself into today."

Both Renata and Celeste nodded sympathetically.

"Well, while you're waiting for the President to finish up, is there anything that I can do?" Jane asked.

The other three women glanced at each other.

"Bring in a whiteboard, maybe?" Renata suggested, sitting down at the table.  "We might as well put our downtime to use, planning for the battles after VAWA.  Climate change, polar bear preservation..."

"Solving world hunger," Celeste added.

Jane grinned.

"Hang on, I'll see what I can do."

5:02 P.M.

The President, in a show of support for her younger daughter, streamed Capital Beats from her computer at a soft volume all day long.  And so, with the winter sky darkening outside from grey to black, and the faint strains of Leon Bridges' "River" jingling from her speakers, Madeline shook hands with the German ambassador and showed him out of the Oval Office.  Glancing across the hallway through the open door of the Roosevelt Room, she smiled as she took in the Senate Majority Leader, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Health & Human Services, attentively seated at the conference table.  All three women were laughing over the fact that her Chief of Staff had just added the line "HOMELESSNESS (yes, you do care, Madam President!)" to the bottom of a whiteboard that was set up by the fireplace.

"How'd it go?" Jane asked as Madeline entered, and the rest of the women stood respectfully.

"Fine.  Oh, please, sit down, all of you."  Madeline pulled out a chair for herself as her guests reclaimed their seats.  "First things first, cocktails, back in the Oval.  And then, of course, let's figure out how to wrap up with the House on VAWA."

The President surveyed the whiteboard, which featured several new policy proposals, along with potential vote counts in the Senate attached to each.

"But, after that..."  Madeline grinned.  "Well, you ladies tell me: What's fucking next?"