And what was past was prologue. Sure, he'd have to die through what he'd already lived through, but he'd also have to encounter the coming hordes of malefactors. That Manson fellow. Pol Pot. Joel Silver. P.J. O'Rourke. Ben Bradlee. Henry Kissinger. An endless swim in an ever-replenishing pool of venomous professionalism and meretricious incompetence.
If he could have summoned up the leg pain from that trip to Egypt, it would have been comforting, a welcome distraction from the mist of agues in which he hung suspended. He sank into himself, as he had in '60, in '62, in '72, as he had done every time he started taking hits, the steel tendrils of his sensitivity curling back onto themselves to enshroud him in a protective cocoon.
This was bad. The worst he'd ever seen, in fact. But he'd been down before, been way down, down as low as a public man can get and still be able to breathe. He'd been called horrible names, had had an election stolen by a goon on behalf of a fop, had had his reputation smeared by the wretches of the press and after that by every opportunistic slime artist in Congress, had had his presidency wrenched out of his grip A he'd left fingernail tracks in the carpet of the family quarters that morning when the Marines came to get him for the chopper ride.
But each of those times he'd come back, and he'd come back now, by God. Pretty soon Len Garment would be down here with him. Safire. Segretti. So what if they brought Woodward and Bernstein in on the same skid? What he had to do now was hunker and get outside his skin, even if he didn't have skin. Work the room, press the unflesh. He even had a slogan working its way into shape: