|Joe Steele |
Relevant POD: July, 1932
|Novel or Story?:||Novel only|
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Date of Birth:||c. 1900|
|Occupation:||Journalist, Author of Non-Fiction, Author of Fiction, Speech Writer, Soldier|
|Parents:||Pete and Bridget|
|Political Party:||Democratic Party|
|Military Branch:||United States Army (World War I)|
|Professional Affiliations:||Associated Press|
The Democratic National Convention
Sullivan was a reporter with a Chicago newspaper and stringer for the Associated Press in 1932. A Democrat, Sullivan supported California Congressman Joe Steele in his bid for the Democratic nomination. (Sullivan's brother, Mike, supported New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt.) While covering the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Sullivan by chance met Joe Steele and his aide, Vince Scriabin while in his hotel. Steele's presence was unorthodox, and Sullivan agreed to keep this secret.
Sullivan covered the convention, including the first days of voting. At the end of the second day, when Roosevelt seemed to be gaining an edge, Sullivan happened to overhear Vince Scriabin placing a long distance phone call. Scriabin told the person on the other line that something had to be done that night, as tomorrow would be too late. Sullivan didn't think Scriabin noticed him at the time. Sullivan, while mildly curious, gave little further thought to the phone call until news came hours later that Governor Roosevelt, his wife, and several staffers had died in a fire in the Executive Mansion in Albany. James Farley, Roosevelt's field boss, released the New York delegates to vote as they pleased, and Steele won the nomination.
That same evening, Steele summoned Sullivan to his hotel room. Initially, Sullivan was convinced that Scriabin knew Sullivan had heard the phone call, and that Sullivan was now headed to his death. Instead, Steele and Scriabin met with Sullivan, thanked him for his "fairness" in reporting on Steele and his campaign. Steele promised that Sullivan would always have access to Steele's camp, and all parties looked forward to the election.
Charlie kept Scriabin's phone call to himself until a few weeks later, when, during a dinner with his fiancé, Esther Polgar, his brother, Mike, and Mike's girlfriend, Stella Morandini, Charlie grew quiet when the question arose as to whether or not the fire at the Executive Mansion had been an accident. Charlie intimated he knew something, but waited until they'd returned to Mike's apartment before sharing what he'd heard of Scriabin's long-distance phone call. While all agreed that Charlie hadn't heard Scriabin specifically order fire, they also agreed that it was possible.
Covering Steele's First Term
Nonetheless, Charlie Sullivan remained a Steele supporter, and nobody pressed the issue. Steele won the election that November in a landslide. In his first month in office, Steele introduced legislation to nationalize the country's banks. Sullivan watched the legislation's lead opponent, Virginia Senator Carter Glass, enter the Oval Office determined to stop the nationalization scheme, but leave the office 90 minutes later and announce his support for it. Curious, Sullivan contacted Steele aide Stas Mikoian, the most approachable of Steele's aides, who, over a steak dinner, described how Bureau of Investigation chief J. Edgar Hoover had found evidence that Glass had fathered a love child with his family's Negro maid. Sullivan agreed to keep that information on background, but he did share this with his brother Mike, who was horrified.
For his part, Charlie Sullivan was impressed with Steele's momentum, and now was willing to presume Steele had nothing to do with the Roosevelts' death, a sentiment his brother did not share. They even had somewhat heated words at Charlie's wedding to Esther Polgar, but Mike was willing to let it go for the time being.
Not long after the Sullivans returned from their honeymoon, Steele proposed legislation for electrifying the Tennessee Valley, the last piece of legislation in the special session. He went on radio to ask the American people tell their Senators and Representatives to support the bill. During the speech, Esther noticed that Steele had pointedly "told" the American people that this was "your" government, but that if the government didn't listen to the people, "we" would throw them out, an observation she shared with Charlie. Days after the speech, Sullivan had lunch with Lazar Kagan, who implied, on background, that the Administration also took the liberty of composing letters, claiming to be from citizens, and sending them to Congress. Kagan also confirmed that Steele still saw Charlie Sullivan as fair to the administration, and wished that Mike Sullivan could be as "fair".
However, the federal judiciary began overturning the legislation on appeal, and soon, most of the Four Year Plan was before the Supreme Court, which systematically began ruling the legislation unconstitutional. Sullivan was able to get off-the-record quotes from Stas Mikoian and Vince Scriabin. Both men condemned the Supreme Court, and cryptically hinted that Steele was taking steps to respond. It was during the meeting with Scriabin that Sullivan first laid eyes on J. Edgar Hoover. Not long after, Steele gave a radio speech in which he denounced the Supreme Court as nine old men who were not elected, and who were actively wrecking the country. Steele implied the Court's actions were deliberate, and promised that there would be an investigation.
Covering the Treason Trials
In February 1934, Sullivan received an anonymous phone call directing him to be at the Supreme Court the next morning. While the caller didn't identify himself, Sullivan was certain it was Scriabin. The next morning, Sullivan grabbed a photographer and set up a vigil outside. After a long wait in the cold, Sullivan was able to cover J. Edgar Hoover's public arrest of the four associate justices who came to be called the Supreme Court Four. Sullivan was further surprised when Steele announced that he was suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus for the Four. Steele argued that, while the country was not in a rebellion or at war with another country, it was at war with hunger, want, and poverty. Sullivan was willing to be persuaded by the argument.
Some weeks later, Mike Sullivan received a copy of the arson report for the fire that killed the Roosevelts. He published a story, which noted that the report implied that bottles of some flammable liquid may have played a part in the fire, but did not say conclusively that the fire had been an arson. Sullivan's story further described the conflict between Roosevelt and Steele, and the fact that Roosevelt appeared to be on the verge of winning the nomination when he died. Sullivan made no direct accusations. Charlie was called to the White House by Vince Scriabin (which Charlie knew meant that Steele was angry). Scriabin warned Charlie to get Mike under control, even though the story made no accusations or libel. This unpleasant meeting concluded, the distraught Sullivan ducked into a nearby bar, and encountered Vice President John Nance Garner. Garner was already in his cups, and lamented how limited the Vice Presidency actually was. When Sullivan asked Garner how he felt about Steele, Garner recognized Sullivan, and pointedly refused to say anything bad about Steele, but he did hint that worse was to come.
Sullivan covered the trial of the Supreme Court Four, and was as surprised as anyone when they confessed their guilt and accused Louisiana Senator Huey Long and radio personality Father Coughlin as part of their conspiracy. When Long was assassinated, Louie Pappas, a photographer with the AP, told Charlie that Pappas' brother, a gunnery sergeant in the Marines, suggested that a Marine was capable of making the difficult shot that killed Long. Sullivan kept that to himself. Upon Long's death, Steele denied the Supreme Court Four's appeal, and ordered their immediate execution, which Sullivan covered.
Mike Sullivan married Stella Morandini a few weeks after the executions. Charlie Sullivan was Mike's best man. Even at his reception, Mike Sullivan expressed anger at Joe Steele and frustration with the public's complacency. Charlie managed to calm him down, and Mike quietly enjoyed the remainder of his big day. However, Stella asked Charlie to try to keep Mike under control. When Charlie pointed out that Stella was now Mike's wife, Stella reminded Charlie that she was not a journalist, and that Charlie would have more influence on that basis.
At beginning of 1935, Charlie covered Father Coughlin's tribunal, wherein Coughlin quickly confessed and was sentenced to death. He also covered Coughlin's execution. Coughlin began a Hail Mary, but was shot after uttering "Ave". The officer who oversaw the execution finished it: "Ave atque vale." Sullivan used a pun on that quote for a headline: AVE ATQUE VALLEY.
The 1936 Election
Later that year, Steele introduced legislation that would allow the Federal government to draft prisoners out of local, state, and federal detention facilities and put them to work building infrastructure in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions. It cleared the House of Representatives quickly and quietly before anyone took notice. Mike Sullivan became aware of the bill after reading a column in the New York Times. In response, Mike wrote an article entitled "Land of the Free and Home of the Labor Camp", in which he argued that Steele's proposed law would allow the Federal government to pull any person from any facility, without regard for why the were incarcerated for in the first place, and without any limit on how long they could be held.
In response, Vince Scriabin once again sat down with Charlie Sullivan. After showing Charlie a part of the legislation that seemed to prevent indefinite detentions, Scriabin convinced him to write an article supporting the legislation. Charlie, wanting to maintain access to the Steele administration, agreed. The bill passed the Senate the following week, and Charlie was invited to watch Steele sign the bill into law.
Throughout 1936, Charlie used his articles to support Steele's bid for re-election. He traded printed barbs with Westbrook Pegler, each quoting from Mr. Dooley to support their positions. When the Republican Party nominated Kansas Governor Alf Landon, Sullivan thwarted Landon's attempt to portray himself as a populist by using the definition of the word "populist" Ambrose Bierce created in The Devil's Dictionary: "A fossil patriot of the early agricultural period, found in the old red soapstone underlying Kansas; characterized by an uncommon spread of ear, which some naturalists contend gave him the power of flight, though Professors Morse and Whitney, pursuing independent lines of thought, have ingeniously pointed out that had he possessed it he would have gone elsewhere. In the picturesque speech of his period, some fragments of which have come down to us, he was known as 'The Matter with Kansas.'"
In short order, Landon was dubbed "the Matter with Kansas" by the Steele campaign. Landon unsuccessfully tried to turn the name around, claiming that if he were the Matter with Kansas, Steele was the matter with the whole country, but he ticket was defeated in a landslide by incumbent Steele, carrying only Maine and Vermont. The Steele administration noticed Sullivan's efforts, as did Mike Sullivan, who castigated Charlie for being a sellout during a Christmas visit.
Steele's Second Term: Chattanooga and the GBI
Charlie covered Steele's second inauguration on January 20, 1937. On a cold and rainy day, Steele announced the Second Four Year Plan, promising to build on the foundation of the first, and promising neither Reds nor Fascists would derail the country. After the speech, he met with Charlie Sullivan, and thanked him for the "Matter with Kansas" line, and reminded Charlie that Mike was still not letting up on his criticism.
Sullivan traveled with Steele and his aides to Chattanooga in March 1937, to celebrate the completion of a dam in the Tennessee Valley. He socialized with Scriabin and Mikoian on the train ride down. He was present when Roland Laurence South attempted to shoot Steele dead during his speech, and was the first person to reach Steele's side and determined Steele's injury was superficial.
While Charlie publicly maintained some support of Steele, he was still privately unnerved by Steele's creation of the GBI under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover shortly after the attempt on Steele's life. He was also disturbed by the mass arrest of several military officers in the summer of 1937 as part of the "conspiracy" to assassinate Steele. He was horrified when his brother Mike published a piece entitled "Where is Our Freedom Going?", which harshly criticized Steele, but as he was not summonsed to the White House, Charlie hoped Mike was in the clear. Instead, the GBI arrested Mike just after midnight. Mike was adjudicated and sentenced to a camp in Montana. Mike's wife, Stella, reached out to Charlie for help. While Charlie did sit down with Stas Mikoian the next day and begged for his brother's release, Mikoian refused. Charlie had no choice but to tell Stella and his own mother that he could do nothing for Mike.
Personal Tragedies and Triumphs
Ironically, as this horror was being inflicted on his family, Esther informed Charlie that she was pregnant. Another round of phone calls informed both his parents and her parents. Once again, the family reminded Charlie both directly and indirectly that he needed to do something for Mike. In the end, Charlie couldn't secure his brother's release. He was relieved to receive a card from Mike in the Fall of 1937, and learned that Mike's wife, Stella, hadn't received the card her husband had sent her the month before.
Amidst these personal issues, Sullivan was still responsible for reporting on the world, which now seemed to be sliding towards war. In March 1938, he was tasked with explaining Germany's annexation of Austria when Esther called to tell him that she'd gone into labor. Hours later, the doctor informed him that his wife had given birth to a daughter, whom they named Sarah.
That September, despite loud support from Steele and Soviet leader Leon Trotsky (both of whom feared what Hitler might do unchecked), France and Britain, rather than fight Hitler, brokered a deal in which the Sudetenland was granted to Germany in September 1938.
In response, Steele decided to issue a statement, but found his writers not up to the task. He summoned Charlie to the White House and asked him to help. After fifteen minutes of work, Charlie produced a draft that greatly pleased Steele. In fact, Steele was so pleased he offered Charlie a job as a speechwriter on the spot, which Sullivan accepted, realizing that saying "no" might prove detrimental to his life.
Speechwriter for Joe Steele
Outbreak of World War II
Six months into the job, Sullivan was tasked with writing a speech about Germany's annexation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and creation of the independent Republic of Slovakia, and how this now positioned Germany to move on Poland.
In August 1939, Hitler began making demands on Poland. Leon Trotsky, realizing that France and Britain could not be counted on, sent his foreign commissar, Maxim Litvinov to Berlin to negotiate a non-aggression pact with Litvinov's German counter-part, Joachim von Ribbentrop. (Charlie, among others, found it ironic that the Jewish Trotsky had sent the Jewish Litvinov into the "world's capital of anti-Semitism.")
Steele and his administration realized quickly that the U.S. was too far away to influence anything beyond publicly pleading with Britain and France to stand firm against Germany, while condemning both Germany and the Soviet Union, to no avail.
Germany invaded Poland a week later, setting off World War II. The Soviet Union attacked Poland from the east a few weeks after that. Upon Poland's capitulation, Hitler and Trotsky met at the new frontier.
Steele didn't enter the war. With Charlie's help, Steele gave what came to be called the "Plague on Both Your Houses" speech, which promised that the U.S. would not enter into Europe's "latest stupid war".
However, by May, 1940, Germany occupied most of Western Europe, including France, and had driven Britain off of the Continent. Steele realized that now only Britain stood between the U.S. and Germany in the Atlantic. He decided to supply Britain with arms and money, and pushed legislation through Congress, and tasked Charlie with writing a speech in support of Steele's plan. The American people accepted this plan, although they were still wary of entering the war directly. Winston Churchill, who'd become prime minister earlier in the year, responded to the aid by saying "If the Devil opposed Adolf Hitler, I should endeavor to give him a good notice in the House of Commons. Thus I thank Joe Steele." Charlie, who heard the speech on the radio, was astonished by Churchill's brass, and warned Esther, who'd also been listening, against repeating Churchill's words.
When Steele sought an unprecedented third term in 1940, Charlie was tasked with writing speeches, and had a worm's-eye view in Steele's election apparatus. While Republican candidate Wendell Willkie was energetic in his campaigning, making speeches across the country, Steele didn't campaign as much, leaving his machine to do most of the heavy lifting. He campaigned on a promise that he would not send Americans to die in any foreign wars. In the six weeks leading up to the election, Steele frequently met with J. Edgar Hoover.
Charlie spent election night at the White House. The results soon made it clear that Steele had won even more handily than he had in 1936, which seemed rather inconsistent with how vigorously Willkie had actually campaigned. Even Charlie had to admit to himself Steele had probably employed questionable means to win a third term
When Willkie did gave his concession speech on election night, he did acknowledge certain irregularities in the vote in some areas, but also acknowledged that they wouldn't change the result. He wished Steele luck. Steele and his cronies were amused by the "irregularities"; while none of them said it out loud, the administration had engaged in quite a bit more to secure the election than the irregularities suggested. Steele all but confessed it when he turned to J. Edgar Hoover and asked him if he knew what "Boss" William Tweed said about votes. Steele supplied the answer: "As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it?" Then he pointed at himself and said. "And I damn well do!" When Charlie heard his suspicions confirmed, he got very drunk.
World War II
As 1941 began, Esther got Sarah potty trained. She and Charlie debated the merits of having more children. Concurrently, the war in Europe seemed to stabilize, with Germany invading North Africa, Yugoslavia and Greece in order to save Italy's floundering efforts. Japan continued to advance in China, and were making advances into Indochina with Vichy France's tacit approval.
This move concerned both Churchill and Steele, as both the UK and US had interests in the region, and Indochina would make a viable launching pad for Japan to attack those interests. In response, Steele decided to stop selling Japan scrap and oil, and to freeze Japanese assets in the U.S. While he commissioned Charlie to write a speech designed to mollify the Japanese government, Steele's actions instead increased the tension between the two countries.
However, five days after Steele made this decision, Germany attacked the Soviet Union. Steele immediately called a conference of several generals, during which General George Marshall predicted the Russians would last six weeks. While Marshall argued a German victory would be a deadly danger to the whole world, Steele delighted in the idea of "dead Germans floating down the river, each one on a raft of three dead Russians." Charlie was able to talk to Marshall privately, who recounted the conference However, the Soviets were still in the war six weeks later, surprising Charlie, among others.
As Russia was fighting for its life, Steele met with Winston Churchill for the first time in Portland, Maine. Charlie was ordered to come along, much to his surprise. As he was packing, Esther informed him that she was pregnant again.
Charlie, Scriabin, Kagan, and Mikoian actually met with Churchill aboard a Royal Navy destroyer off the coast. Churchill's first request was that the U.S. extend aid to Trotsky as it had with the U.K. Steele initially refused Churchill's request, but as Churchill grew bolder, reminding Steele that the U.S. was as much a prison state as Trotsky's Soviet Union. He also argued that compared with Hitler, Trotsky was reasonable. Without committing, Steele and his aides returned to their ship after extending a dinner invitation to Churchill.
Alone with his advisers, Steele asked if Churchill was right. While Scriabin and Mikoian argued against aid, and Kagan held his peace, Charlie Sullivan argued that if Russia did fall, Britain would be next, and then the Atlantic would not be wide enough to keep the U.S. safe. That evening, after some cagey behavior, Steele acknowledged that he'd start sending aid to Trotsky, based on Sullivan's advice. Churchill was delighted. For his own part, Charlie was nervous; if the scheme went well, then Steele would get the credit, but if Germany declared war on the U.S., then Charlie would get the blame and face the consequences.
As the year progressed, relations between the U.S and Japan deteriorated. Charlie was not privy to the ill fated attempts by Steele and Japanese Foreign Minister Saburō Kurusu to hammer out a deal. Instead, on December 7, 1941, Japanese forces attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines.. Steele ordered a Cabinet meeting, and ordered Charlie crafted a speech asking Congress to declare war on Japan. Steele also ordered an investigation into Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Walter Short, the military leaders in charge of Pearl Harbor. The next day, Steele gave his speech, asking for the declaration of war.
After the speech, word came that Japanese planes had destroyed U.S. planes on the airfield outside Manila, this despite the fact that the fighting had already been on for a day. Steele now also turned his attention to General Douglas MacArthur's actions. On December 11, 1941, Germany declared war on the U.S. On December 14, 1941, Steele had Kimmel and Short put on trial, and were convicted of dereliction of duty. Steele denied their appeal, and they were executed in short order. Charlie attended the trial, but pointedly stayed away from the execution.
The Philippines continued to fall apart. General MacArthur followed doctrine and had his garrison and Filipino forces retreat to the Bataan Peninsula to deny the Japanese the use of the Manila harbor. Unfortunately, the attack on Pearl Harbor damaged and sank too many U.S. ships preventing MacArthur's forces being relieved which was also part of the planning.
 Steele was displeased with MacArthur and tried to get him to return to the U.S. ostensibly to be given a new command. Charlie was tasked with cleaning up the messages. MacArthur refused, claiming he wished to face the same fate as his soldiers. Eventually Steele had General George Marshall order MacArthur to return. MacArthur did so. He was arrested at the train station by Captain Lawrence Livermore, faced a military tribunal and convicted of negligence and incompetence and then executed. Unlike others, MacArthur didn't appeal his sentence. The day after the execution, Steele issued a public statement explaining his decision. For his part, Charlie came to the private realization that if Steele had been paying more attention to Japan, which could hurt American troops, and less to Germany, which couldn't, Japan would not have got the drop on the U.S. In other words, if Steele ad been held to the same standards as his commanders, he'd likely have met the same fate. Charlie didn't share this observation with anyone.
The following year, Charlie's position seemed generally much more stable. Sarah turned five, Patrick turned one, and Charlie was left to wonder where the time had gone. He'd gained the acceptance of Scriabin, and even the confidence of other Steele aides, including the actual confidence of Stas Mikoian. Mike sent a card informing Charlie that he'd enlisted. The war was definitely going in favor of the U.S. and its allies, prompting a conference of the main three allied leaders (Steele, Churchill, and Trotsky) in Basra, Iraq in October, 1943. Charlie was invited along, and was thus able to witness the momentous first meeting between Steele and Trotsky, and the decisions that determined the course of the war.
In early 1944, Charlie was contacted by Thelma Feldman, the wife of Stan Feldman, Mike Sullivan's former editor at the New York Post. Stan had been arrested by the GBI and sent to a camp, and Thelma begged for help. Charlie reminded Thelma that he wasn't able to help his own brother, but he did make the effort, approaching first Scriabin and then Steele himself. Steele flatly refused, saying that Feldman had been a troublemaker for years, and that only a camp would straighten him out. Thelma wailed uncontrollably when Charlie called her to tell her the news. Out of remorse, Charlie Sullivan anonymously sent Thelma $100.00.
In June 1944, Omar Bradley oversaw the successful invasion of Normandy, thereby opening the long anticipated second front in Europe. The end of the war was in sight. Steele turned towards winning a fourth term against GOP candidate Thomas Dewey. While Charlie provided a few speech ideas, Steele didn't use that many, relying on his election apparatus to secure victory.
A few months into Steele's fourth term, the war in Europe was over. With two armies bearing down from either direction, Hitler committed suicide in April, 1945. Germany surrendered a few days later. They attempted to surrender to the Americans and British only, but Steele ordered Bradley to tell them they would do it the Allies way. Steele celebrated the victory in a radio broadcast, but reminded the American people that Japan was still fighting. Steele promised to rain destruction on Japan until it surrendered (Tokyo had been firebombed extensively the month before). In the meantime, U.S. forces continued its island hopping campaign, pushing Japanese forces closer and closer towards the Home Islands. This included a bloody fight for the island of Okinawa, which finally fell in mid-1945. Charlie learned his brother Mike had participated in that battle and had come through ok.
In February, 1946, Charlie was studying the course of the war in the Pacific, and wondering if Mike would be part of Operation: Coronet when Lazar Kagan subjected Charlie to an impromptu quiz on uranium. Despite his relatively modest knowledge, Charlie actually knew a quite bit more than most of the Steele administration, save Mikoian. Kagan informed Charlie that the U.S. government had just learned that Germany had at one point been working on a bomb that used uranium, which would have been powerful enough to destroy a city. The Germans hadn't gotten very far in the project. Steele had summoned Albert Einstein to the White House for a meeting, and Kagan decided that, as Charlie did seem to know something about uranium, he should attend.
Among those present for the meeting were Mikoian, Scribian, Kagan, J. Edgar Hoover, and Captain Hyman Rickover of the U.S. Navy, the man who told Steele about the German experiments When Steele asked about the German program, Einstein admitted that he'd learned of early experiments in 1938 or 1939. When Steele asked Einstein why he'd done nothing, Einstein calmly responded that he was afraid Steele would build the bomb and use it.
Charlie kept his peace while he watched Steele briefly let his rage show. Steele proclaimed Einstein the "king of the wreckers", and ordered Hoover to immediately place Einstein under arrest. Once Einstein was gone, Steele asked Rickover if he could complete the project. Rickover promised to do his best. Steele also gave Rickover access to a number of people who'd already been placed in custody as wreckers. Steele cautioned that if any of these people did anymore wrecking, they would be eliminated. When Charlie suggested Einstein would be too famous to execute, Steele retorted that the U.S. had taken Einstein in, and Einstein had betrayed the country. Steele promised that Einstein would get what he deserved. Charlie realized that pushing the issue could get him imprisoned or worse, and let it go, and opted to pity Einstein privately instead.
About a month later, Emperor Hirohito was killed by a U.S. air attack as he and a convoy fled from Tokyo to Kyoto. (By coincidence, Charlie's brother Mike was present, and quickly identified the emperor.) A cease-fire came immediately after.
Immediately, Steele and Trotsky began establishing new governments in their respective parts of occupied Japan. The Soviets held Hokkaido and northern Honshu, and established the Japanese People's Republic under Fedor Tolbukhin with some Japanese Reds acting as his puppets. Similarly, the U.S. established the Constitutional Monarchy of Japan in southern Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Hirohito's son, Akihito, who was only 12, became the new emperor, although it was General Dwight Eisenhower who actually ran the country.
As part of Steele's entourage, Charlie attended the Wakamatsu Conference in late summer of 1946. This conference was purely between Steele and Trotsky; Churchill's successor, Clement Attlee, was not invited. Charlie noticed that relations between Steele and Trotsky were no less frosty than they had been at Basra. Towards the end of the conference, Charlie was briefly reunited with Mike, who, ironically enough, received a Bronze Star from Joe Steele for correctly identifying Hirohito. Charlie was astonished that Steele had remembered Mike. When Steele was out of earshot, both brothers were darkly amused that the world was effectively divided between Steele and Trotsky.
While the war was over, at home Steele's administration grew alarmed at the spread of Trotsky's influence in Eastern Europe and Asia, as well as the Red movements in France and Italy. The GBI now turned its attention to finding Reds in the U.S., as well as his bid for a fifth term. In 1947, Steele asked Charlie to write a speech condemning the USSR's sweeping hold on large parts of the world. Charlie produced what came to be called the "Red Curtain" speech, a turn of phrase he was initially quite proud of, until Attorney General Andy Wyszynski used it against various accused Reds the GBI had arrested. Wyszynski got convictions, as did a young Assistant AG from California who'd gained Joe Steele's favor.
In the spring of 1948, Charlie felt the downside of his position when his son Patrick punched another child, Melvin Vangilder, in the nose after Melvin suggested Patrick was a Red. Patrick was sent home early. However, Ms. Hannegan, the school principal, called Charlie later that afternoon to make sure that he wasn't angry at Ms. Tarleton, Pat's teacher, and the person who'd brought Patrick to the principal's office. She also reminded Charlie that Melvin had no idea what Charlie did, or he would never had said it. Charlie admitted he wouldn't have thought of any of that if she hadn't called, then hung up, and began contemplating the matter over a drink. While he'd never used his influence in a vindictive manner, he realized he could have, and wondered if anyone else in Steele's circle had.
The Japanese War
The outbreak of the Japanese War in June, 1948 created substantial chaos in the White House, and gave Charlie a great deal of work.  From Steele's perspective, the war came at the worst time: the GOP had just nominated Harold Stassen as their candidate for the 1948 election, a comparative unknown from Minnesota. Previously, Steele had assumed he'd defeat Stassen in a walk, but now the war required Steele to actually campaign while overseeing a war.
The course of the war went badly at first. Despite warning signs, the attack was a complete surprise, and the South Japanese Constitutional Guard showed little interest in fighting back. The U.S. attempted to bomb North Japanese cities with B-29s, a strategy used against the Empire of Japan during World War II. However, the air defenses of the North had been re-built with Soviet help and new, jet Gurevich 9s proved much more deadly then older propeller fighters. (It was an open secret that the Gu-9s were often piloted by Russians.) As such, daylight raids were attempted for only a few days but losses were unacceptable so only occasional night raids were continued.
U.S. forces were finally able to regroup and halt the North's advance at Utsunomiya. With this military victory, Steele concentrated on winning the election. While a few states went to Stassen (including those that contained resettled wreckers), Steele carried the majority of the electoral vote and won his fifth term.
With the North's advance stalled, the U.S. and South Japanese, over the course of the next year with bloody and hard fighting, forced the invaders back to Sendai, well north of the border.. By the summer of 1949, Hyman Rickover's group had successfully tested an atomic bomb. The test, which took place in New Mexico, was covered up and officially called an explosion at an ammo dump. Charlie was not informed of Rickover's progress, and so believed the ammo dump story. On the night of August 6, 1949, a flight of B-29s dropped an atomic bomb on Sendai, destroying it and the North Japanese forces concentrating there.
Steele gave a speech on August 7, largely written by Charlie, announcing the deployment of the atomic bomb, describing its power, and calling on Trotsky to end the Japanese War, concluding his speech by saying "Enough is enough." Trotsky's response came on August 9, 1949, when a Soviet atom bomb destroyed the South Japanese city of Nagano. Charlie was horrified by the tit for tat attacks, and suddenly understood just what Einstein had been worried about almost a decade before. The Japanese War ended with the status quo antebellum restored.
Two months later, in November 1949, in China, Mao Tse-Tung and his Reds pushed the government of Chiang Kai-Shek off of the Chinese mainland. The U.S. had backed Chiang, and refused to recognize Mao. For a time, Joe Steele had considered using atomic bombs to support Chiang, as they'd effectively ended the Japanese War. However, during a meeting in October, the Soviet ambassador to the U.S., Andrei Gromyko, suggested that any U.S. atomic attack in China might be met with a Soviet atomic attack in Europe. After further consultation with Stas Mikoian and George Marshall, Steele opted not to use the bomb. Charlie was relieved when Mikoian share this bit of information with him.
With Esther's prodding, Charlie cut down on his drinking. Nonetheless, he still ducked in the tavern near the White House, and would still talk to Vice President Garner.
As the years passed Charlie was aware of his own aging, and even more so of Steele's. In late 1950, Steele suffered a terrible headache, and received late night attention from his personal physician, Tadeusz Pietruszka. While Vince Scriabin assured Charlie that it was just a headache, Charlie had his private doubts. Charlie also kept the incident to himself as Scriabin directed.
The remainder of 1950 and 1951 were uneventful. Steele lost interest in Red hunting for a time, and turned his attention to the 1952 election. Charlie and Esther debated the merits of another Steele term, and whether it was time for a less repressive regime.
In the summer of '52, the Republicans nominated Ohio Senator Robert Taft. They'd attempted to draft either Omar Bradley or Dwight Eisenhower, but Steele privately dissuaded both entering the race, a fact Charlie was able to get Scriabin to more or less confirm. Steele was renominated himself three weeks later, on a platform of "Twenty Years of Progress." An isolationist, Taft called for bringing U.S. troops back from Europe and South Japan, arguing for arming those areas instead. Steele forcefully argued that the U.S. was a part of the world whether it wanted to be or not, and that the march of progress would one day make it possible for the country's enemies to attack the U.S. with rockets. While some of the speech was Charlie's, he admitted he had no idea where Steele had come up with the rocket idea.
Taft went down to defeat. He carried his home state of Ohio, and a few other states, but Steele carried the rest (including Maryland, which had gone Republican in the last election). On election night, Steele broke with usually tradition of celebrating with his cronies, preferring to stay in his room with Betty, a fact Charlie took note of.
Charlie was present in Steele's final meeting on March 5, 1953. To his embarrassment, Charlie joined everyone else present in weeping. Charlie then tracked down John Nance Garner, who proved quite decisive when he came in, giving orders to let the world know, and to arrange a proper funeral for Steele.
Steele's body lay in state in the Rotunda of the Capitol for three days in a row to accommodate the crowds who came to express their grief. Charlie made a point of not having his picture taken around the casket. Steele was then buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Garner gave the memorial address. Once Steele was in the ground, Garner began acting like a president. He got resignation letters from the entire Cabinet as a matter of form, including Steele's three key aides, Lazar Kagan, Stas Mikoian and Vince Scriabin, and Charlie. However, once they'd signed the form letters, Garner announced that he accepted Kagan, Mikoian and Scriabin's resignations effective immediately. Sullivan he let stay on. While both Kagan and Scriabin were indignant, Mikoian had the presence of mind to ask why. Garner admitted that he was angered by the shabby treatment he'd received from the three. He offered them ambassadorships to soften the blow, with Mikoian going to Afghanistan, Kagan to Paraguay, and Scriabin to Outer Mongolia. When Charlie asked why he hadn't been forced to resign, Garner expressed gratitude for the fact that Charlie had in fact talked to him and even drank with him over the past twenty years.
Garner also secured the resignation of the entire cabinet, save for Secretary of State Dean Acheson and Secretary of War George Marshall. And while Mikoian and Kagan left the country for their respective assignments, Scriabin had no interest in going quietly to Outer Mongolia, and began to tap into the remaining clout he had in the Senate. Subsequently, Acheson died in a plane crash. A week later Marshall was about to give a speech, when he turned blue and keeled over. Despite there being several doctors on hand, Marshall could not be saved.
In addition to being a speechwriter, Charlie became Garner's adviser. When Garner figured out quickly that someone was moving against him, he confided in Charlie, pointing out that the Presidential Succession Act of 1886 made the Secretary of State the successor if the President died and the position of Vice President was vacant. Now, there was no legal successor. After a moment, Sullivan accused Scriabin, and told Garner about the phone call Scriabin made that cost Franklin D. Roosevelt his life back in 1932. Garner listened, and decided that Scriabin wasn't the only person who make such deaths happen. Charlie then reminded Garner of another likely enemy: J. Edgar Hoover. He suggested that Garner replace his guard detail, almost exclusively GBI agents, with soldiers. No sooner had Garner resolved to do all of this than he was informed that the House had introduced legislation to impeach Garner for high crimes and misdemeanors, and suspected Scriabin's hand at work again.
Garner took steps to try to slow down the impeachment process. He issued an executive order eliminating the restricted zone for former wreckers, an act criticized by Hoover. Moreover, the leaders of the impeachment drive were unmoved. The death of Scriabin, who was hit by a car, also did little to halt the impeachment. All Garner could do was grouse at a sympathetic Charlie.
In the end the House passed three articles of impeachment, and the case went to the Senate, which voted overwhelmingly for conviction. Embittered, Garner gave a brief press conference where he promised that things would be far worse without him, as it still wasn't clear who was running the country. He planned to retire to Texas, although it was still unclear as to whether he might face criminal charges. Charlie bid him good luck.
Charlie went to the office the following day as per usual, but left early. That evening, while he and Esther were watching television, their program was interrupted by a speech from J. Edgar Hoover, who was now located in the Oval Office. Hoover claimed that Congress was attempting to arrogate the powers of the executive to themselves, and that he had no choice but to take temporary executive authority as Director of the United States. Charlie raised his arm up in a mock salute and said "Heil Hoover", much to Esther's horror. He agreed not to do that in public.
Charlie went to the White House the next day, and was immediately taken before Hoover. While Hoover stressed that he liked Charlie's work, he'd decided that Charlie had too many links to the past that put the country in the "mess" it was in now. While Charlie noted that Hoover had benefited from that mess himself, he kept quiet. Hoover fired Charlie, and gave him three months severance pay. For the rest of the year, Charlie pottered around the apartment. He couldn't get any other work, as people were leery of hiring someone who'd worked for the White House for so long. He published some short fiction under a pseudonym. In December, he received a postcard from his brother Mike, announcing the birth of Mike's daughter, Brenda. Not long after that, however, he was arrested by the GBI.
The novel ends in the midst of Charlie's arrest, leaving his subsequent fate unrevealed.
- Joe Steele, pgs. 1-2, 6.
- Ibid., pgs. 18-21
- Ibid., pgs. 22-24.
- Ibid., pg. 24.
- Ibid., pgs. 25-28.
- Ibid., pg. 35.
- Ibid., pgs. 36-37.
- Ibid., pg. 37.
- Ibid., pgs. 38-39.
- Ibid., pgs. 49-51.
- Ibid. 55-59
- Ibid., pg. 61.
- Ibid., pg. 65.
- Ibid., pgs. 65-66.
- Ibid, pgs. 67-68.
- Ibid., pgs. 69-70.
- Ibid., pg. 70.
- Ibid., pg.71-72
- Ibid., pg. 73-74.
- Ibid., pgs. 76-77.
- Ibid., pg. 80.
- Ibid, pgs. 81-84.
- Ibid, pgs. 87-89.
- Ibid., pgs. 92-94.
- Ibid., pgs. 96-97.
- Ibid, pgs. 97-98.
- Ibid., pgs. 101-105.
- Ibid, pgs. 113-114.
- Ibid., pg. 117-118.
- Ibid., pgs. 118-122.
- Ibid., pgs. 123-125.
- Ibid., pgs. 125-126.
- Ibid., pgs. 127-128.
- Ibid., pgs. 128-129.
- Ibid., pgs. 129-134.
- Ibid., pg. 135.
- Ibid., pgs. 134-136.
- Ibid., pg. 137.
- Ibid., pgs. 137-138.
- Ibid., pgs. 138-140.
- Ibid., pgs. 141-142.
- Ibid., pgs. 143-149.
- Ibid., pgs. 150-157.
- Ibid., pgs. 164-166.
- Ibid., pgs. 166-169.
- Ibid., pgs. 170-173.
- Ibid., pg. 182.
- Ibid., pgs. 183-184.
- Ibid., pgs. 184-186.
- Ibid., pgs. 190-192.
- Ibid., pgs. 195-199.
- Ibid., pg. 202-203.
- Ibid., pgs. 203-204.
- Ibid., pgs. 205-207.
- Ibid., pg. 212.
- Ibid., pg. 213.
- Ibid. pg. 214.
- Ibid., pg. 215.
- Ibid., pg.
- Ibid., pg. 216.
- Ibid., pgs. 223-224.
- Ibid., pg. 226.
- Ibid., pgs. 227-228.
- Ibid., pg.
- Ibid., pgs. 228-229.
- Ibid., pg. 234.
- Ibid., pgs. 234-235.
- Ibid., pg. 235.
- Ibid. pg., 236.
- Ibid., pgs. 237-238.
- Ibid., pgs. 237-239.
- Ibid., pgss. 239-240.
- Ibid., pg. 241.
- Ibid., pgs. 241-242.
- Ibid., pgs. 243-244.
- Ibid., pgs. 244-245.
- Ibid., pgs. 246-247.
- Ibid., pg. 248.
- Ibid., pgs. 248-49.
- Ibid., pgs. 249-252.
- Ibid, pg. 256.
- Ibid, pgs. 257-260.
- Ibid., pgs. 261-262.
- Ibid., pgs. 266-267.
- Ibid., pg. 270-271.
- Ibid., pgs. 276-283.
- Ibid., pgs. 287-290.
- Ibid., pg. 297.
- Ibid., pgs. 290-292.
- Ibid., pgs. 296-298.
- Ibid., pgs. 299-300.
- Ibid., pgs. 301-302.
- Ibid., pgs. 314-316.
- Ibid., pg. 317-318.
- Ibid., pgs. 319-320.
- Ibid., pg. 323-325.
- Ibid., pg. 325.
- Ibid., pg. 326.
- Ibid., pgs. 324-328.
- Ibid., pg. 328-329.
- Ibid., pgs. 333-337.
- Ibid., pgs. 339-340.
- Ibid., pg. 344.
- Ibid., pgs. 347-349.
- Ibid., pgs. 349-354.
- Ibid., pg. 354.
- Ibid, pg. 354.
- Ibid, pgs. 355-358.
- Ibid., pg. 359.
- Ibid., pg. 364.
- Ibid., pg. 365.
- Ibid., pgs. 366-369.
- Ibid., pgs. 368-369.
- Ibid., pg. 371.
- Ibid., pg. 373.
- Ibid., pg. 376.
- Ibid, pg. 376-377.
- Ibid. pgs. 382-384.
- Ibid., pgs. 389-390.
- Ibid., pgs. 351-352.
- Ibid., pg. 397.
- Ibid., pg. 398.
- Ibid., pg. 399.
- Ibid., pg. 400.
- Ibid. pgs. 403-406.
- Ibid., pgs. 407-409.
- Ibid., pgs. 414-415.
- Ibid., pgs. 416-417.
- Ibid., pg. 424.
- Ibid., pgs. 424-427.
- Ibid., pg. 427.
- Ibid. pg. 428.
- Ibid, pgs. 432-433.
- Ibid., pgs. 434-435.
- Ibid., pgs. 436-438.