For All Nails #68: She's Got Legs
by Noel Maurer
Immanuel Moctezuma was, well, it was hard to say. When a heterosexual man is confronted with a beautiful but completely unavailable woman, is that cause for happiness or unhappiness?
Maria del Rey sat across from him in the Calles Room of Chapultepec Castle. The room was well-lit, but panelled in very dark wood, and that gave it a romantic atmosphere. Which was just what Del Rey wanted, of course, and Moctezuma did not. She was a former film and vita estrella. And she was wearing an incredibly short pinstriped business suit, the skirt-jacket whatchamallit thingy barely reached her thighs, let alone her knees, the navy blue looked almost black against her pale white skin ...
Must ... stop ... noticing, thought the President of the United States, with lust in his heart.
"The workers of my state are very concerned about the Clean Air bill, Mr. President," purred the head of the Senate Commerce Committee, hand-picked by Mercator to run for the Senate from México Central in 1965 and easily re-elected in 1971.
For a second, Moctezuma's envy of Del Rey's husband was outmatched by his envy of every Mexican president before 1950 -- they had to deal with Congress under rules-of-order written by General Jackson. The Constitution made the President the president of the Senate, and Jackson's rules gave the president agenda control. But the Constitution also gave the Senate the power to write its own rules, and the Senate had done just that at the beginning of 1972. In a blatant power play, lame-duck Domínguez had signed off on the reform. Now a committee chairman could block a bill from getting the floor.
Ah, nothing like thoughts of parliamentary procedure to break the spell! No wonder Mercator had picked this woman. She could charm the red off an apple. Wait, he thought, that makes no sense. Focus.
"They have no reason to be, Senator," said the President. "The costs of the Clean Air Act are minimal, and the benefits immense. In your state alone, the value of the reduction in the incidence of bronchitis, other contamination-related illnesses, and lost work days comes to billions of dólares." He paused and leaned forward. "It's a vote winner, Senator."
Del Rey shifted her chair, tugging her skirt slightly down over her crossed thighs. "Tell that to the locomobile workers in Tenancingo and Orizaba, Mr. President."
Moctezuma leaned back again, trying to concentrate on the Senator's face, or her legs, or those stockingless feet in the high-heeled sandals. "Senator, the additional cost of contamination-control equipment comes to less than 4,000 dólares per vehicle, and the Tax Reform Acts includes tax credits that lets the loke companies write off most of that expense. The chance of job losses is nil. In fact, some studies even predict that employment will rise." FN1
The Senator just smiled. Oh, what a smile. That was a million-dólar smile, back when a million dólares was real money. "I'm sorry, Mr. President, but I don't believe in those studies."
"Puebla is one of the most polluted cities in Mexico, Senator del Rey. Córboda, Tulancingo, and Gusher aren't far behind. Not to mention your constituents in the Mexico City suburbs. That's a lot of votes." FN2
"That may be, Mr. President, but let's take a look at the Tax Reform bill again. It increases the excises on alcohol and vulcazine. That's a direct blow to the breweries and petroleum refineries in my state. How can you ask me to vote for both the Clean Air Act and Tax Reform?" She smiled that smile again. "My constituents would never forgive me."
El Popo shifted in his chair. What was she angling for? "I understand your worries, Senator." Lessee, she was a Mercator ally, practically a Mercator creation ... "Mexico needs cleaner air, and Mexico needs tax reform," and both are popular, you b---h, he didn't say, "but both bills are only part of my Progressive Reform package and there is plenty of room to compromise." In other words, make me an offer.
Maria del Rey had survived in the cutthroat world of the Mexican entertainment business. Mexico City was no-sweat after years in Cancún. She smiled again. "Well, yes, there is. You know that the coffee and sugar growers of my state have been suffering under Cuban, Guatemalan, and New Granadan competition. Workers in those countries earn practically nothing," not quite true for New Granada's prosperous coffee growers, but true enough for Guatemala, "and that's a blow to good, hard-working tax-paying Mexicans."
"Aaaaah-haaah. You realize, of course, that all three of those countries are our long-standing allies?"
"Yes, of course, but how you can claim to care about national security when part of your Progressive Reform package includes loosening our export controls?"
She was beautiful, she had legs, she had that incredibly sexy page-boy haircut, she was playing on the fact that Moctezuma the stolid widower hadn't touched a woman in ten years, and she was a brilliant politician. Moctezuma's admiration -- obviously biased -- only grew.
He leaned back and laughed. "You, you're good, Senator!" She blinked at the sudden familiarity, and the smile grew. "Gaaaaah baah. You want tariff reform, right? Protection for coffee and sugar? That won't make Mercator happy, and you know it, so you also want the export controls kept. In return, you help me pass Clean Air and Tax Reform."
Del Rey tugged at her skirt again. "Well, Mr. President, I can't say that I know what the Secretary wants or doesn't want," she lied, "but I do believe in prosperity for Mexican farmers and security for the Mexican people. That means keeping cheap foreign sugar out and advanced Mexican technology in."
"Right. I see." He laughed. "How many Senators have signed on to the tariff idea, Maria?"
"Let's see now. All four from my home state, all four from Hawaii, the two senior members from Durango, and three from, well, three from your home state, Mr. President." She smiled. "Did I mention the travails of the textile industry?" FN3
"Thirteen senators? Quite a voting block. Well, how does this sound to you, Senator? I won't openly support tariff revision, but you have my word that I won't veto it. I also won't push export controls, we'll let that bill die in committee. In return, you do what's already in your own political interest to do, and pass Clean Air and Tax Reform. Do we have a deal?"
"We do indeed, Mr. President," replied Senator del Rey. She stood up and stuck out her hand. Moctezuma stood and grabbed it. For such a slim woman, she had a hell of grip. Looking him right in the eyes, she added, "It was a pleasure, and I look forward to a long and productive relationship."
El Popo looked back, their gazes holding for a heartbeat too long. "Me too, Senator, me too."
And with that, Immanuel Moctezuma made a deal that he, and Mexico, would dearly come to regret in the decade ahead.
Forward to FAN #69: Waiting for the Chancellor.
Forward to 2 June 1972: Some Rival.
Forward to USM politics: "Call Me Judge Lancito".
Return to For All Nails.