David Mamet's new Oval Office satire depicts one day in the life of a beleaguered American commander-in-chief. It's November in a Presidential election year, and incumbent Charles Smith's chances for reelection are looking grim. Approval ratings are down, his money's running out, and nuclear war might be imminent. Though his staff has thrown in the towel and his wife has begun to prepare for her post-White House life, Chuck isn't ready to give up just yet. Amidst the biggest fight of his political career, the President has to find time to pardon a couple of turkeys -- saving them from the slaughter before Thanksgiving -- and this simple PR event inspires Smith to risk it all in attempt to win back public support. With Mamet's characteristic no-holds-barred style, November is a scathingly hilarious take on the state of America today and the lengths to which people will go to win.
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June 24, 2008
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Excerpt from November by David Mamet
Act OneAt rise, charles smith and archer brown in an office.Charles: (Reading a list) What is this? What is this? One spot in Cleveland One in Cincinnati . . . Why?Archer: You see the polls?Charles: What happened to never say die?Archer: I saw the polls.Charles: You saw the polls, how bad can my numbers be?Archer: You broke the machine.(Archer hands Charles a sheet of paper.)Charles: Can these numbers be right? These numbers can't be right.Archer: They're right.Charles: Why? Why? We won the first time, Archie. Four scant years. Why have they turned against me now?Archer: Because you've fucked up everything you've touched.Charles: We're a forgiving people.Archer: Time to cash out, Chucky. Sell a couple pardons, call it a day.Charles: Nobody's spending any money on me. That's the problem, Archie. They dint cut me off, I'd be beating the other guy into Marshmallow Fluff. All I need, I need, some money . . .Archer: And an issue.Charles: How about "continuity."Archer: You've screwed the country into a cocked hat.Charles: Yes, but at least I've done something. What has the other fella done? Have you thought of that? That's the basis of an ad! Get me the committee.Archer: They'll let you keep what you got, put it in your pocket, but they ain't buying any more air.Charles: (To phone) Get me the committee.Archer: You're done, Chuck . . . (The phone rings. To phone) Hello.Charles: Gimme that. (Takes phone) Barry . . . Cathy. Hi. Hon? Hon, can I . . . Cathy, I can't talk now . . . (To archer) Can my wife take the couch? (To phone) Take, take the couch where, hon? . . . Why do you assume we're going home . . . (To archer) 'Cause she hasn't seen any ads on TV. And can she take the couch?Archer: No, she can't take the couch.Charles: No, you can't take the couch, hon. (To archer) She had it re-covered.Archer: It was re-covered with taxpayers' money.Charles: It was re-covered with taxpayers' money, Cath. (To archer) Can she reimburse the taxpayers? And does she get a discount because the couch has been used . . . Cath? (To archer) Get me out of here . . .Archer: (Loudly) Mr. President, Iran has launched a nuclear strike.Charles: What?Archer: Iran has launched a nuclear . . .Charles: Ca . . . Cath? Iran has launched a nuclear strike . . . (To archer) Or could she uncover the couch and take the unupholstered couch . . .Archer: She can't take the couch. (A second phone rings. ARCHER answers.) Hello. Barry, one moment.Charles: (To phone) Cath, I have to, Cath, I'll have to call you back. I'm not being cheap, Cath . . . I'm . . . I'm, yes, I'm trying to save money, 'cause WE'RE GOING HOME BROKE, Cath, and we're being bombed by Iran, so I have to hang up. (archer hangs up.)Archer: Why is the couch so important to her?Charles: She wants it for the Library.Archer: The Library?Charles: My Presidential Library. (Pause) What are you telling me? (Pause) I gotta have a library. Archie? Don't I have, like, a, uh, a Library, uh, an Exploratory, uh . . .Archer: No.(Pause)Charles: What is it about me people don't like?Archer: That you're still here.Charles: Wait--doesn't everybody get a library?Archer: No.Charles: It's not in the Constitution?Archer: No.Charles: Like a lovely parting gift?Archer: No.Charles: (Pause) Cathy's gonna kill me.Archer: (Re second phone line) It's the committee . . .Charles: (To phone) Hel . . . Hello, Barry . . . Where do you find me . . . ? I'm at the White House, Barry. Where are you? "Nantucket." How are things out there . . . ?Archer: (Sotto voce) He's screwed you on the election. He's holding back funds. Tell him to disgorge the funds.Charles: (Pause) Barry, look, you've screwed me on the election, I need you to disgorge the funds you're holding for my library. (To archer) What do I mean, "he's screwed me . . . ? (To phone) What do I mean, Barry? I'm looking at the time buys . . . (Pause) Well, whose decision was that, Barry? "The committee?" Yeah, no, yes, that's peachy, Barry. With the possible exception, YOU ARE THE COMMITTEE. Barry? You . . . (Pause) Well, who the fuck is the Committee, if not you? (archer hands charles a list.) Three spots in Cleveland, two in Minneap . . . FOR THE WEEK? FOR THE WHOLE FUCKEN WWWW . . . WHY DON'T I JUST GO OUT AND GET CLOWN SHOES, 'N' PUT A RED RUBBER BALL ON MY NOSE, BE . . . be . . . because I want to: Fuck that, Barry, because I'm gonna tell you, no I'm gonna tell you why, and you can jolly well sit there. BECAUSE MY FUCKEN QUESTION TO YOU IS A SPEECH THAT YOU, and your fucken shooting party made to me out hunting quail in Bavaria, when someone turned to me and he said, "Chucky, have you read The Three Musk . . ." Well, it doesn't sound like you're . . . No, it doesn't sound like you remember, Barry, when someone asked me: "All for one and one for all." You remember that? And all your tame Krauts, and lifting the import tariffs, and "This is our man," and all that happy horseshit . . . I DON'T WANT a . . . I DON'T . . . WHAT THE FUCK AM I GOING TO DO WITH A TIME-SHARE IN ASPEN? I want to be president . . . (Pause. To archer) "The hat is empty, there are no more rabbits in it." (To phone) Is this the man I knew? In the snow? In New Hampshire? BARRY, who ruined his fucken shoes going from door to door? Is this the same man? (Pause) Well, in what way is he different? (Pause) What does that mean? What does that mean? "A good one to lose"? You know who thinks that way? Losers. (Pause) Let's move on. Tell me about the library. Well: Oh, okay. Good. "We have a fund." How much money do we have in my library fund . . . (Pause) Million. (Pause) Thousand? (Pause) Four thousand dollars? (Pause) I CAN'T GO HOME WITHOUT A LIBRARY FOR CATHY . . . You know that . . . I should of thought of that when I invaded where? When I invaded where? Barr . . . ? Barry, that was your idea . . . The fuck it was. The fuck it was. The fuck it was, Bar, YES I FUCKEN MIND IF YOU PUT ME ON HOLD . . . ! I am the President of the United States! (To archer) Where is he? In Nantucket? (To phone) Where are you, on Nantucket? HOW ABOUT I GIVE AWAY half of the island to the Micmacs to build their hotel casino. Yes, I can. Yes, I . . . Yes, I can, Barry. Well, what are you going to do to me? (Pause) That record was expunged, (Pause) That record was expunged, and the statute of limitations . . . (Pause) Well, who's to say what's perjury? (Pause. To archer) His friend the special prosecutor. (Pause. To phone) Yeah. All r . . . yeah. All r . . . All right . . . Barry. (Pause) And give my best to Ginny. (Pause; hangs up)Archer: "Life goes on"?Charles: (Pause) He was gonna put me on "hold."Archer: Everybody goes home sometime, Chucky . . . (Pause.)Charles: Couldn't we make it rain or something, just to keep the other guys from voting? The other guys stop voting the incumbent wins, isn' that the rule? Can't we oh, you know, just make it rain . . . ?Archer: We don't have that technology.Charles: In some secret, uh uh . . .Archer: No.Charles: "Facility," or something.Archer: No.Charles: The panic level: raise the panic level!Archer: Nobody cares.Charles: They don't care about the panic level?Archer: No.Charles: After all our work?Archer: Nobody cares. They hate you. Everybody hates you, and you're out of cash. Go home.Charles: I would hate to think. That the people were deprived of a choice. Because one side . . . simply ran out of cash.Archer: That's the American way.Charles: Well, that makes me throw up. (archer hands him a piece of paper.) What is this?Archer: Today's off-the-cuff remarks.Charles: Can't they stick that thing in my ear?Archer: The last one got stuck in your ear.Charles: (To self) That's right. (Re speech) "We must and can and shall move forward." I'm supposed to say this about what?Archer: Whatever they ask you.Charles: How can Bernstein write this crap?Archer: She didn't write it.Charles: Bernstein didn't write it?Archer: No. She's on vacation.Charles: Aha. (Pause) It almost: were I of a paranoid bent, would make me opine. That somebody was out to get me.Archer: I don't follow.Charles: That, one, the committee has ceased spending money on me . . .Archer: Yeah . . .Charles: At the same time. As my speechwriter. Has chosen to take a vacation. Why?Archer: Your ten o'clock is in the anteroom, with fifty thou . . .(Archer hands him papers.)Charles: Get Bernstein to rewrite this crap. Where is she?Archer: She's technically still on vacation.Charles: Get her to write it on vacation.Archer: She's already working on vacation.Charles: What's she working on?Archer: She's working on your concession speech.Charles: OH FUCK THIS FUCKEN LIFE AND EVERYTHING IT STANDS FOR. Fucken Bernstein. Sinking ship . . .Archer: Chuck.Charles: I don't get a vacation . . .Archer: She hasn't had a vacation in four years.Charles: Well, she lives for her work. She hasn't got a family.Archer: She lives with that girl.Charles: Well, they haven't got children.Archer: She went to China to pick up a kid.(Pause)Charles: She went to China to pick up a kid.Archer: She went to adopt a baby . . .(Pause)Charles: She went to China to adopt a baby.Archer: What's so extraord . . .Charles: Aren't we at war with China?Archer: Not yet . . .Charles: Well, it sounds like treason to me.Archer: How?Charles: She, after four years. Goes to China, to quote quote complete her family. To raise a child. Which she could not DO, if, if I were to serve another term. (Pause) Oh, I begin to see it, I begin to see it: Why does she go now. Yes. Bernstein. Why "now"?Archer: Why now what?Charles: For it is not her "quote" biological "clock," as she is buying the child, so whence this sudden rush of wings?Archer: All right . . .Charles: She GOES TO CHINA, NOW, because, she raises the kid NOW, because I'm out of OFFICE. THAT is why it's fucken treason.Archer: . . . Chuck.Charles: To China.Archer: (To phone) Get Bernstein to come in.Charles: . . . the only place you can get a meal on Christmas?Archer: . . . Chuck.Charles: . . . Chinese restaurant.Archer: . . . Chuck.Charles: They're always open. Fucken chinks. They got all the time in the world . . . and they don't mind working themselves to death . . . Sell you the ground they walk on, sell the offspring of their wombs. Fucking Bernstein. Fly'n off to China, her vacation. What'd she get, a baby girl?Archer: That's all they sell . . .Charles: (Reads) "To boldly address those problems which confront us . . . with hope . . ." Who writes this shit?Archer: Children from Yale. (The phone rings. archer answers the phone.) Yes?Charles: Get Bernstein in.Archer: . . . she just got in last night. At three a.m.Charles: Get her in.Archer: She called to say she's sick.Charles: What's she got, "bird flu"?Archer: I think she's just tired.Charles: She's just tired. What is she, "nursing"? Oh. I forgot. She's not "nursing," 'cause she bought the baby.Archer: Your ten o'clock appointment.Charles: Get Bernstein in here. I want to confront her treasonous ass. One thing I've learned in this job, Arch?Archer: Yes.Charles: One thing . . . ?Archer: Yes.Charles: Is who can you trust?Archer: You can trust me, Chucky.Charles: Apart from you.Archer: Nobody.Charles: This broad: one, bails out, two, writes my concession speech, three, THREE? Where does she go to write it?Archer: China.Charles: Do the math. And pee fucken ess: What in the world, do you think, all these cute li'l Chinese baby girls are gonna do, when they grow up, having eaten our food, learned to play the cello, bested all the white children at math.Archer: Chuck . . .Charles: And looked over the water, at their HOMELAND, the preeminent nation in the world.Archer: We're the preeminent nation in the world.Charles: For how long? Until the All-Star break? AND NOW THEY LOOK AROUND, THESE LITTLE FUCKEN BENEDIK ARNOLDS, seeded, seeded here . . .(The phone rings.)Archer: (To phone) Yes . . . ?Charles: By a wily Oriental nation.Archer: (To phone) I'll tell him.Charles: 'Cause they don't count time, like we do. Arch. Have you noticed this? The Chinese? A thousand years is as a single day to them.Archer: I think that's to God.Charles: No, it's the Chinese. They can wait. They can afford to wait. They got nothin' but time. I'm out of time.Archer: (Of phone) The National Association of . . .Charles: Where did I go wrong?Archer: You lost the election . . .Charles: Not yet I haven't.Archer: Take the money, and go home. Sell a buncha pardons . . .Charles: I should sell pardons . . .Archer: Yes.Charles: . . . How many people, are both "guilty," Arch, and have the money . . . ?Archer: Quite a few. And: under the statute, you have until the election to accumulate quote quote campaign funds.Charles: (To phone) Get fucken Bernstein in here.Archer: Any of which, unspent, you can retain for your personal use. For instance:Charles: (To phone) Well, send my protective detail for her. What do you mean they have the morning off? They only work a half day today? Why? Cutbacks? What're we spending all the money on-- (Pause. To phone) Oh-- Well send the Marines.