"Why," I said, glancing at Cheney, "that's the front door bell. Who would come by tonight? Some friend of yours, perhaps?"
"Except for you, I have none," he answered. "I don't encourage visitors.This must be urgent business. Nothing less would bring someone out on such an evening and at such an hour."
Then came a loud knocking at the door.
"Come in!" Cheney yelled.
The man entering was well-groomed, with an air of refinement and delicacy in his bearing. The wet umbrella told of the weather through which he had come.
"l owe you an apology," he said, raising a pince-nez to his eyes. "I trust I'm not intruding...I fear that I have brought traces of rain into your snug White House."
"Give me your umbrella, Abrams," said Cheney. "You have come from the State Department, I see."
"Yes, from a meeting with Ms. Rice." he said, surprised.
"Indeed," said Cheney. "That clay and sand mixture upon your shoes is quite distinctive."
"I got her approval, Dick!" he suddenly blurted out.
"That is easily gotten," Cheney muttered with a sly grin.
"Now we just need the President to sign off on it," said our visitor, glancing in my direction.
"I have heard of you, Mr. Abrams," I exclaimed. "You are my Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy! I beg that you will draw your chair up to the fire and favor me with some details regarding this 'signing-off.'"
"Ahhh. It's about Hamas, George," said Cheney. "Elliot has a plan to violently overthrow the Palestinians' newly-elected Hamas government."
"You mean a hard coup?" I asked. "But how?"
"We want to support Fatah with guns, ammunition and training, so that they might fight Hamas for control of the Palestinian government," our visitor replied.
The room was quiet save for crackling logs as I struggled with the possibilities. "Hmmm...what are the downsides here, dear Cheney?"
"Well," he answered. "The Pentagon hates the plan, the US embassy in Israel hates it, the Israelis hate it. Even Secretary Rumsfeld hates it. They think it will fail because Hamas cannot be replaced -- that its rival, Fatah, is disintegrating. They also appear concerned that our anti-Hamas 'program' could backfire, radicalizing our Muslim allies and eventually endangering our troops fighting the Sunni insurgency in Iraq."
"You fill me with interest," I said. "Pray give me the plan's upsides."
"Sowing the seeds of civil war among an occupied people would most certainly advance your program for democracy in the Middle East, Mr. President," he replied.
I thought to myself that there are always flaws in the best laid of human plans as I set pen to paper approving Elliot Abram's secret program. Its implementation was now under the control of the CIA.