Was this the big story, the one that could propel me up the pecking order of The Post? Every journo needs the big one. Female journos more than male. It’s still that kind of world.
He was on time and seated exactly where he said he would be. Next to the bay window in the far corner of the hotel lobby. He was a balding, grey haired, fit-looking, dressed in an expensive suite and sipping water. I sat and introduced myself.
He indicated that he wanted to make this quick. Too much people traffic. You don’t know who is who. I don’t want any tape recorder. No pen and paper. You remember what I say, he said. I nodded.
He took a drink then began talking with machine-gun rapidity. Remember Iraq? Weapons of mass destruction, all that crap? I nodded. Good, he said. Remember El Salvador, the Contras, Nicaragua, Guatemala? I nodded again, but I was on shaky ground here. Well it’s going to happen again, he said. This time in Venezuela.
What did I know about Venezuela? I had to think fast. It had a left-wing government. There had been riots over food shortages. It was a dictatorship. And it had oil. I told him this.
He took another drink of water. He looked tense, then he started speaking again. The media, is so stupid. It’s not a dictatorship. Maduro, the president, was elected. Sixty eight per cent in May last year. Sure, he stuffed up the economy by forcing prices down. No incentive for capitalism. But we put sanctions on him to make things worse. He can’t sell his oil. No oil exports therefore no food. Venezuela imports huge amounts of food. With me so far?
I brushed back my long blonde hair. Yeah, I said. With you. It was his turn to nod. He took a deep breath. Okay. Recall Trump saying he wanted to drain the swamp in Washington during the elections? Yeah, I said, I recall that statement. He continued. Yeah, well, he drained the swamp and came up with John Bolton and Elliott Abrams. Are those names familiar to you? Bolton, yes, Abrams no, I said. He shook his head. You guys in the fourth estate need to do your homework, you really do, he said. I’m not a guy, I said.
He looked away, then back at me. Put some lipstick on, powder your nose, it’ll look as though we’re a couple on a date, he snapped. I don’t have any makeup, I said, glaring at him. There was an uncomfortable pause, one in which I thought he might get up and walk out. But he didn’t. He just gave me a hard look. He adjusted his black tie.
Okay, he said. Those guys are back. Swamp creatures. Now they are advising Trump. This time it is not Iraq or Central America it’s Venezuela. They were in the thick of it back then. Bolton advising and urging Bush to invade Iraq, Abrams advising Reagan on how to slaughter enemies of the right-wing governments in Central America; kids, women. The great double act brought together to turn over Venezuela. The bottom line is, Uncle Sam wants the oil. The Venezuelan stuff is quality. So Maduro has to go and a friendly government, friendly to Uncle Sam, is required.
So, now, I think you might want to know what happens now? Indeed, I would like to know, I said. He took another drink. This was it, the very reason he had asked me here. He paused and then started talking very slowly.
Trump, the master of chaos, the master of deception, will follow the advice of these two shits and invade Venezuela. But the timing is all important. When the Mueller Report comes out accusing Trump and his team of colluding with the Russians, then he will invade. I ask you, who is going to impeach a president, the Commander-in-Chief, during a war?
He sat back in the lounge chair. Are you going to write that, he said. I might, I said. He paused, gave me a hard look, stood and walked out of the lobby.
I remained seated and pulled out my compact and red lipstick. I looked around. Nobody seemed to notice me. I was just somebody sitting in the lobby. I had to decide. Had I been given the scoop of a lifetime or had I been fed a pile of bullshit?