THE COUP - A Novel (Doubleday, July 2007)
I GOT THE IDEA FOR THE COUP DURING the impeachment year of 1998. Some commentators argued that the effort to impeach President Clinton was really nothing more than an attempt by Tom DeLay and the Republicans to stage a coup. If that were true, I thought, it wouldn't be much of a coup. It would leave in power a Democratic president, Al Gore, a capable fellow who could have ended up living in the White House for ten years. No, a real coup would result in a takeover by the plotters. That would be hard to do, given the line of succession in this country. Unless the plotter was the vice president. But why would he do that? And how could he hope to pull it off?
I was also struck by the fact that there were a lot of scandals during the Clinton years. Some were scummy but ultimately not worth examining. Some seemed more serious, but while the appearance of wrongdoing abounded, there was no smoking gun. Of course, once Clinton was finally impeached, it was for lying under oath, and plainly there was ample proof that he did it. For various reasons, though, the Senate declined to convict him and remove him from office. I began to wonder if the opposite could ever pertain. Could a president ever be accused of something for which there was no real evidence, but which would be so serious that simply suspecting him of the crime could cost him his job?
Finally, I began to think about the predicaments in which we find ourselves when we are governed by people who are better at winning elections than at ruling, and whose actions we learn about from a news media that often seems to do the right things for the wrong reasons or the wrong things for the right reasons. Sigh.
With luck, you'll laugh.