George the Falsehearted is not the first great decider to occupy the palace. He follows in the confident footsteps of Richard the Tricky. In Philip Roth’s 1971 novel, Our Gang, we find Tricky and his closest advisers in the basement of the White House. The President is wearing the pristine football uniform in which he rode the bench for four years at Prissier College.
A mob of Boy Scouts is demonstrating outside. Normally they would be part of Tricky’s base, but he has angered them by “coming out for the rights of the unborn.” The Scouts are furious at the president for coddling embryos who are, after all, the product of disgusting sexual behavior:
Indeed, even in the midst of the most incredible international blunders and domestic catastrophes, he has till now, with the aid of his football uniform, and a good war movie, been able to live up to his own description of the true leader in Six Hundred Crises as “cool, confident and decisive …”
TRICKY: Gentlemen, by all reports they are growing more surly and audacious by the hour. By morning we may have on our hands the most incredible upheaval in history: a revolution by the Boy Scouts of America! (In an attempt to calm himself, and become confident and decisive, he puts on his helmet).
Gentlemen, you can go to war without Congressional consent, you can ruin the economy and trample on the Bill of Rights, but you just do not violate the moral code of the Boy Scouts of America and expect to be reelected to the highest office in the land! Surely I have tried to give no indication whatsoever to the people of this country that I even know what sexual intercourse is.
POLITICAL COACH: If you were to go on TV and say you were a homosexual, in the minds of most Americans you would have cleared yourself of the charge the Boy Scouts are making, that you are a heterosexual activist. You’ll be entirely in the clear.
TRICKY: Okay, I’ll do it! There — that’s the way to be in a crisis: decisive! just as I wrote in my book, summarizing what I learned during General Poppapower’s heart attacks, “Decisive action relieves the tension which builds up in a crisis. When the situation requires that an individual restrain himself from acting decisively over a long period, this can be the most wearing of all crises.”
You see, it isn’t even what you decide — it’s that you decide. Otherwise there’s that darn tension; too much, and, I tell you, a person could probably crack up. And I for one will not crack up while I am President of the United States. I want that to be perfectly clear.
If you read my book, you’ll see that my entire career has been devoted to not cracking up, as much as to anything. And I don’t intend to start now. Cool, confident and decisive. I’ll do it — I’ll say I’m a queer!