Friday, November 30, 2012

Taft 2012 by Jason Heller (Quirk Books 2012)

Secret Service Incidence Report
Agent Ira Kowalczyk

At approximately 1042, an oversized mammalian figure covered in mud appeared behind the White House South Lawn Fountain, approaching the press conference in progress on the lawn. It was unclear to me for several seconds whether the intruder was a man or a large animal as it lurched toward the crowd while moaning loudly. As the closest perimeter guard, I drew my firearm and ordered the intruder to halt while the executive guard secured POTUS. The intruder bellowed louder and attempted to proceed past the South Lawn Fountain in the direction of POTUS and the press corps. I discharged my weapon once, striking the intruder in the leg, and he collapsed against the fountain. I approached and saw that the water from the fountain, along with the morning drizzle, was washing the mud from the intruder’s body. He was a very large man, over 6 feet tall, probably 300 pounds, wearing a formal tweed suit. He had white hair and a handlebar mustache. My first thought was that he looked like some sort of deranged presidential history buff dressed up as William Howard Taft.

From Taft: A Tremendous Man, by Susan Weschler:

I’ll never forget the moment I first saw him on the television screen. Not a picture—him. There was no mistaking him. I’d been studying the history of the man who owned that plump, jowled, puffy-eyed face my entire professional life:

William Howard Taft. Twenty-seventh president of the United States. Weighed in at 335 pounds. Worked with unceasing devotion to the job for four years—but was so honest a politician, he ended up infuriating every single interest group that had ever supported him. Lost his 1912 reelection bid in a miserable, crushing defeat. And then just disappeared the morning of March 5, 1913, the day his successor, Woodrow Wilson, was inaugurated. Taft was never seen or heard from again; his last known words, spoken right outside the White House just hours before Wilson took the oath of office, were: “I’ll be glad to be going. This is the loneliest place in the world.” After that sad utterance, Taft never showed up for the ceremony. Or anything else. Ever.

Which meant the chaotic footage they kept replaying on CNN couldn’t be real. Couldn’t be him. How could he be here now, a century later, stumbling mud-covered into the midst of an unsuspecting White House press conference?

And yet that was clearly no fake girth, no Halloween mask. It was either the oddest terrorist attack in history, the stupidest reality-show prank imaginable … or it was Taft.

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