When the connection was cut, Cannon grinned at Matthew Fisher. "That's it. We've saved a ship. It can be repaired where it is without a fleet of Soviet moon-cats prowling around and interfering. And we've scotched any attempts at propagandizing that the Soviets may have had in mind." He chuckled. "I'd like to have seen their faces when that thing started to burn in a vacuum. And I'd like to see the reports that are being flashed back and forth between Moscow and Soviet Moon Base One."
"I wasn't so much worried about the loss of the disabled ship as the way we'd lose it," Matthew Fisher said.
"The Soviets getting it?" Cannon asked. "We didn't have to worry about that. You heard him say that Thayer was going to destroy it."
"That's exactly what I meant," said Fisher. "How were we going to destroy it? TNT or dynamite or Radex-3 would have still left enough behind for a good Soviet team to make some kind of sense out of it--some kind of hint would be there, unless an awful lot of it were used. A fission or a thermonuclear bomb would have vaporized it, but that would have been a violation of the East-West Agreement. We'd be flatly in the wrong."
Senator Cannon walked over to the sideboard and poured Scotch into two glasses. "The way it stands now, the ship will at least be able to limp out of there before anyone in Moscow can figure out what happened and transmit orders back to Luna." He walked back with the glasses and handed one to Fisher. "Let's have a drink and go to bed. We have to be in Philadelphia tomorrow, and I'm dead tired."
"That's a pair of us," said Fisher, taking the glass.
Another month of campaigning, involving both televised and personal appearances, went by without unusual incidents. The prophets, seers, and pollsters were having themselves a grand time. Some of them--the predicting-by-past-performances men--were pointing out that only four Presidents had failed to succeed themselves when they ran for a second term: Martin Van Buren, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, and Herbert Hoover. They argued that this presaged little chance of success for Senator James Cannon. The pollsters said that their samplings had shown a strong leaning toward the President at first, but that eight weeks of campaigning had started a switch toward Cannon, and that the movement seemed to be accelerating. The antipollsters, as usual, simply smiled smugly and said: "Remember Dewey in '48?"
Plays on Cannon's name had caught the popular fancy. The slogan "Blast 'em With Cannon" now appeared on every button worn by those who supported him--who called themselves "Cannoneers." Their opponents sneeringly referred to them as "Cannon fodder," and made jokes about "that big bore Cannon."
The latter joke was pure epithet, with no meaning behind it; when Senator James Cannon spoke, either in person or over the TV networks, even his opponents listened with grudging interest.
The less conservative newspapers couldn't resist the gag, either, and printed headlines on the order of CANNON FIRES BLAST AT FOREIGN POLICY, CANNON HOT OVER CIA ORDER, BUDGET BUREAU SHAKEN BY CANNON REPORT, and TREASURY IS LATEST CANNON TARGET.
The various newspaper columnists, expanding on the theme, made even more atrocious puns. When the senator praised his running mate, a columnist said that Fisher had been "Cannonized," and proceeded to call him "Saint" Matthew. The senator's ability to remember the names and faces of his constituents caused one pundit to remark that "it's a wise Cannon that knows its own fodder."
They whooped with joy when the senator's plane was delayed by bad weather; causing him to arrive several hours late to a bonfire rally in Texas. Only a strong headline writer could resist: CANNON MISSES FIRE!
As a result, the senator's name hit the headlines more frequently than his rival's did. And the laughter was with Cannon, not at him.
Nothing more was heard about the "mysterious craft" that the Soviet claimed to have shot down, except a terse report that said it had "probably been destroyed." It was impossible to know whether or not they had deduced what had happened, or whether they realized that the new craft was as maneuverable over the surface of the moon as a helicopter was over the surface of Earth.
Instead, the Sino-Soviet bloc had again shifted the world's attention to Africa. Like the Balkan States of nearly a century before, the small, independent nations that covered the still-dark continent were a continuing source of trouble. In spite of decades of "civilization," the thoughts and actions of the majority of Africans were still cast in the matrix of tribal taboos. The changes of government, the internal strife, and the petty brush wars between nations made Central and South America appear rigidly stable by comparison. It had been suggested that the revolutions in Africa occurred so often that only a tachometer could keep up with them.
If nothing else, the situation had succeeded in forcing the organization of a permanent UN police force; since back in 1960, there had not been a time when the UN Police were not needed somewhere in Africa.
In mid-October, a border dispute between North Uganda and South Uganda broke out, and within a week it looked as though the Commonwealth of Victorian Kenya, the Republic of Upper Tanganyika, and the Free and Independent Popular Monarchy of Ruanda-Urundi were all going to try to jump in and grab a piece of territory if possible.
The Soviet Representative to the United Nations charged that "this is a purely internal situation in Uganda, caused by imperialist agents provocateur financed by the Western Bloc." He insisted that UN intervention was unnecessary unless the "warmongering" neighbors of Uganda got into the scrap.
In a televised press interview, Vice Presidential Candidate Matthew Fisher was asked what he thought of the situation in East Africa.
"Both North and South Uganda," he said, "are communist controlled, but, like Yugoslavia, they have declared themselves independent of the masters at Moscow. If this conflict was stirred up by special agents--and I have no doubt that it was--those agents were Soviet, not Western agents. As far as the UN can be concerned, the Soviet Minister is correct, since the UN has recognized only the government of North Uganda as the government of all Uganda, and it is, therefore, a purely internal affair.
"The revolution--that is, partial revolution--which caused the division of Uganda a few years ago, was likewise due to Soviet intervention. They hoped to replace the independent communist government with one which would be, in effect, a puppet of the Kremlin. They failed. Now they are trying again.
"Legally, UN troops can only be sent there at the request of the Northern Uganda government. The Secretary General can send police troops there of his own accord only if another nation tries to invade Uganda.
"But--and here is the important point--if the Uganda government asks the aid of a friendly government to send troops, and if that friendly government complies with that request, that cannot be considered an invasion!"
Question from a reporter: "Do you believe that such intervention from another country will be requested by Uganda?"
"I do. And I am equally certain that the Soviet representative to the UN, and his Superiors in Moscow, will try to make a case of invasion and aggression out of it."
Within twenty-four hours after that interview, the government of North Uganda requested aid from Victorian Kenya, and a huge contingent of Kenyan troops marched across the border to help the North Uganda army. And the Soviet representative insisted that the UN send in troops to stop the "imperialist aggression" of Victorian Kenya. The rigidly pro-Western VK government protested that the Sino-Soviet accusations were invalid, and then asked, on its own accord, that a UN contingent be sent in to arbitrate and act as observers and umpires.
"Win one, lose one," Matthew Fisher said privately to Senator Cannon. "Uganda will come out of this with a pro-Western government, but it might not be too stable. The whole African situation is unstable. Mathematically, it has to be."
"How's that?" Senator Cannon asked.
"Do you know the Richardson-Gordon Equations?" Fisher asked.
"No. I'm not much of a mathematician," Cannon admitted. "What do they have to do with this?"
"They were originally proposed by Lewis Richardson, the English mathematician, and later refined by G. R. Gordon. Basically, they deal with the causes of war, and they show that a conglomeration of small states is less stable than a few large ones. In an arms race, there is a kind of positive feedback that eventually destroys the system, and the more active small units there are, the sooner the system reaches the destruction point."
Senator Cannon chuckled. "Any practical politician could have told them that, but I'm glad to hear that a mathematical tool to work on the problem has been devised. Maybe one of these days we won't have to be rule-of-thumb empiricists."
"Let's hope so," said Matt Fisher.
By the end of October, nearly two weeks from Election Day, the decision had been made. There were still a few Americans who hadn't made up their minds yet, but not enough to change the election results, even if they had voted as a bloc for one side or the other. The change from the shouting and arguing of mid-summer was apparent to anyone who knew what he was looking for. In the bars and restaurants, in the subways and buses, aboard planes and ships and trains, most Americans apparently seemed to have forgotten that there was a national election coming up, much to the surprise of Europeans and Asians who were not familiar with the dynamics of American political thought. If a foreigner brought the subject up, the average American would give his views in a calm manner, as though the thing were already settled, but there was far more discussion of the relative merits of the horses running at Pimlico or the rise in Lunar Developments Preferred than there was of the election. There were still a few people wearing campaign buttons, but most people didn't bother pinning them on after the suit came back from the cleaners.
A more detailed analysis would have shown that this calmness was of two types. The first, by far in the majority, was the calmness of the complacent knowledge of victory. The second was the resignation to loss manifested by those who knew they were backing the wrong man, but who, because of party loyalty or intellectual conviction or just plain stubbornness, would back him.
When Senator Cannon's brother, Dr. Frank Hewlitt Cannon, took a short leave of absence from Mayo Clinic to fly to the senator's campaign headquarters, there was a flurry of speculation about the possibility of his being appointed Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, but the flurry didn't amount to much. If President Cannon wanted to appoint his brother, that was all right with the voters.
After a tirade by the Soviet Premier, charging that the UN Police troops in Victorian Kenya were "tools of Yankee aggressionists," Americans smiled grimly and said, in effect: "Just wait 'til Cannon gets in--he'll show 'em."
Election Day came with the inevitability of death and taxes. The polling booths opened first on the East Coast, and people began filing in to take their turns at the machines. By the time the polls opened in Nome, Alaska, six hours later, the trend was obvious. All but two of the New England states were strongly for Cannon. New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Ohio dropped into his pocket like ripe apples. Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida did the same. Alabama wavered at first, but tagged weakly along. Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan trooped in like trained seals.
In Mississippi, things looked bad. Arkansas and Louisiana were uncertain. But the pro-Cannon vote in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota left no doubt about the outcome in those states. North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas--all Cannon by vast majorities.
And so the returns came in, following the sun across the continent. By the time California had reported three-fourths of its votes, it was all over but the jubilation. Nothing but an honest-to-God, genuine, Joshua-stopping-the-sun type of miracle could have saved the opposition. And such was not forthcoming.
At Cannon's campaign headquarters, a television screen was blaring to unhearing ears, merely adding to the din that was going on in the meeting hall. The party workhorses and the volunteers who had drummed for Cannon since the convention were repeating the scene that had taken place after Cannon's nomination in the summer, with an even greater note of triumph.
In Cannon's suite, six floors above, there was less noise, but only because there were fewer people.
"Hey!" Cannon yelled good-naturedly. "Lay off! Any more slaps on my back, and I'm going to be the first President since Franklin Roosevelt to go to my Inauguration in a wheelchair! Lay off, will you?"
"A drink, a drink, we got to have a drink," chanted Representative Edwin Matson, his bulldog face spread wide in a happy grin while he did things with bottles, ice, and glasses. "A drink, a drink--"
Governor Harold Spanding's lantern-jawed face looked as idiotically happy as Matson's, but he was quieter about it. Verbally, that is. It was he who had been pounding Cannon on the back, and now he was pounding Matthew Fisher almost as hard.
Matt Fisher finally managed to grab his hand, and he started pumping it. "What about you, Harry? I'm only a poor, simple Vice President. You got re-elected governor!"
Dr. Frank Cannon, looking like an older, balder edition of his brother, was smiling, too, but there was a troubled look in his eyes even as he congratulated the senator. Congressman Matson, passing out the drinks, handed the first one to the senator.
"Have a drink, Mr. President! You're going to have to make a speech pretty soon; you'll need a bracer!" He handed the second one to the physician. "Here you go, Doc! Congratulations! It isn't everyone who's got a President in the family!" Then his perceptive brain noticed something in the doctor's expression. "Hey," he said, more softly, "what's the trouble? You look as though you expected sickness in the family."
The doctor grinned quickly. "Not unless it's my own. I'm used to worrying about a patient's health, not a Presidential election. I'm afraid my stomach's a little queasy. Wait just a second; I've got some pills in my little black bag. Got pills in there for all ailments. Find out if anyone else needs resuscitation, will you?" Drink in hand, he went toward the closet, where his little black bag was stashed.
"Excitement," said Senator Cannon. "Frank isn't used to politics."
Matson chuckled. "Do him good to see how the other half lives." He walked off, bearing drinks for the others. Governor Spanding grabbed one and came over to the senator. "Jim! Ready to tear up your capitulation speech now?"
Cannon glanced at his watch. "Almost. The polls closed in Nome just ten minutes ago. We'll wait for the President's acknowledgment of defeat before we go downstairs." He glanced at his brother, who was washing something down with water.
Behind him, he heard Matson's voice saying: "I'm sure glad Horvin isn't here! I can hear him now: 'Image! Image! That's what won the election! Image!'" Matson guffawed. "Jim Cannon was winning elections by landslides before he ever heard of Horvin! Jim Cannon projects his own image."
"Sure he does," Matt Fisher said, "but what about me?"
"You? Hah! You're tops, Matt. Once a man gets to know you, he can see that, if he's got any brains."
Fisher chuckled gently. "Ed, you've got what it takes to be a politician, all right."
"So do you, Mr. Vice President! So do you! Hey!" He turned quickly. "We got to have a toast! Doc, you're his brother. I think the honor should be yours."
Dr. Frank Cannon, looking much more chipper since swallowing the pills, beamed and nodded at his brother. "It will be a pleasure. Gentlemen, come to attention, if you will." They did, grinning at first, then forcing solemnity into their expressions.
"Gentlemen," said. Dr. Cannon gravely, "I give you my brother, Senator James Harrington Cannon, the next President of the United States!"
"To the President!" said Governor Spanding.
"To the President!" chorused the others.
Glasses clinked and men drank solemnly.
Then, before anyone else could say anything, Dr. Cannon said: "I further propose, gentlemen, that we drink to the man who will spend the next four years in the White House--God willing--in the hope that his ability to handle that high office will be equal to the task before him, and that he will prove worthy of the trust placed in him by those who had faith in that ability."
"Amen," said Congressman Matson softly.
And they all drank again.
Senator Cannon said: "I thank you, gentlemen. I--"
But, at that moment, the ubiquitous clatter of noise from the television abruptly changed tenor. They all turned to look.
"... And gentlemen," the announcer's voice was saying, "The President of the United States!"
The Presidential Seal which had been pictured on the screen faded suddenly, to be replaced by the face of the President. He looked firmly resigned, but neither haggard, tired, defeated, nor unhappy. To the five men who stood watching him in that room, it was obvious that the speech to come was on tape.
The President smiled wanly. "Fellow Americans," he began, "as your President, I wish both to congratulate you and thank you. As free citizens of a free country, exercising your franchise of the ballot to determine the men and women who are to represent and lead you during their coming terms of office, you have made your decision. You have considered well the qualifications of those men and women, and you have considered well the problems that will face our country as a whole and each individual as a free citizen desiring to remain free, and you have made your choice accordingly, as is your right and duty. For that, I congratulate you."
He paused for a dramatic moment.
"The decision, I think, was not an easy one. The citizens of our great democracy are not sheep, to be led first this way and then that; they are not dead leaves to be carried by every vagrant breeze that blows; they are not children, nor are they fools."
He looked searchingly from the screen, as though to see into the minds of every person watching.
"Do not mistake my meaning," he said levelly. "I do not mean that there are no fools among us. There are." Again he paused for effect. "Every man, every woman, who, through laziness or neglect or complacency, failed to make his desire known at the polls in this election--is a fool. Every citizen who thinks that his vote doesn't count for much, and therefore fails to register that vote--is a fool. Every person who accepts the privileges of American citizenship and considers them as rights, and who neglects the duties of citizenship because they are tiresome--is a fool."
He waited for half a second.
"Fortunately for us all, the fools are in a minority in our country. This election shows that. Most of you have done your duty and followed your conscience as you see fit. And I congratulate you for that."
The smile became less broad--by just the right amount.
"Four years ago, exercising that same privilege and duty, you, the citizens of the United States, honored me and those who were working with me by electing us to the highest offices in this nation. You elected us, I believe, because we made certain promises to you--solemn promises that were made in our platform four years ago."
He took a deep breath and folded his hands below his chin.
"I am certain that you all know we have endeavored to keep those promises. I am certain that you know that we have kept faith with the people of this nation."
He looked down for a moment, then looked up again.
"This year, in our platform, we made more promises. We outlined a program that we felt would be of the greatest benefit to this nation." He unclasped his hands and spread them with an open gesture.
"Senator James Cannon and his party have also made promises--promises which, I am sure, they, too, feel are best for our nation."
"You, the citizens of the United States, have, in the past few months, carefully weighed these promises against one another--weighing not only the promises themselves, but the integrity and the ability of the men who made them.
"And you have made your choice.
"I cannot, and do not, quarrel with that choice. It is the essence of democratic government that disagreements in the upper echelons of that government shall be resolved by the action and the will of the governed. You, the people of the United States, have done just that.
"And--for that, I thank you."
A final hesitation.
"Next January, Senator James Harrington Cannon will be inaugurated as President of the United States. Let us show him, and the men who are to work with him, that we, as citizens of this great nation, resolving our differences, will strive unceasingly under his administration to further the high resolves and great ideals of our country.
"I believe--I know--that you are all with me in this resolution, and, for that, too,-- "--I thank you."
The face of the President of the United States faded from the screen.
After a few seconds, Matson sighed. "Not bad at all, really," he said, stepping over to shut off the set. "He's been taking lessons from you, Jim. But he just hasn't quite got it."
Senator Cannon took another swallow of his drink and said nothing.