Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Episode 23

Political Satire:  Having trouble surviving these times?  You’re not alone.  Join us in columnist John F. Di Leo’s exploration of an alternate universe, where we imagine the impossible:

Joe Buckstop, an aging, corrupt old fool, somehow becomes president in his basement, and every night, an aide has to bring him his soup and discuss the events of the day as he prepares to receive his nightly meds…

Dateline, March 6. Begin Transcript:

“Happy Saturday, Boss! Ready for some soup?”

“Oh, sure. What do you have for me?”

“Saturday Beef Vegetable, sir!”

“Now, that sounds normal for once!”

“Yes sir. Kitchen found it online, sir. Very traditional. Beef, carrot, potato, onion, totally normal. tomatoes, peas… Nothing exciting about it, sir. Just hearty American cooking, sir!”

“Well, it’s about time. I don’t have the energy for anything weird tonight.”

“Oh? Tiring day, sir?”

“You have no idea. Reporters asking for interviews, Senators asking for advice, Congressmen complaining on the deals we might cut with the Senate… It’s been a hell of a week, boy.”

“But isn’t it clear sailing from here, sir? I mean, the $1.9 trillion bill passed both houses, right? So now you just have to sign it, right?”

“Oh no, it’s not that simple. They passed different bills. Now they have to be reconciled. Now we find out if the House will accept what the Senate did.”

“But isn’t everyone on the same side, sir? I mean, you’ve got majorities everywhere, sir, right?”

“It’s not that simple, boy. It’s so razor thin, we can’t lose a vote. Lose a dozen in the House or just one in the Senate, and we’re done for.”

“Oh, I see. So what’s the plan, sir?”

“Plan? Oh, I don’t know. They’re handling it.”

“Who, sir?”

“Oh, they are.”

“Who’s ‘they’, sir?”

“Oh, you know, the ones who call the shots. This is good soup. Glad you brought it. Good call.”

“Oh, I didn’t make it. I just bring down what they cook up in the kitchen upstairs. Sometimes I make a suggestion, that’s all. So… who do you say is ‘calling the shots,’ sir?”

“Oh, you know, just the usual, umm… this is good soup. Could I have some more crackers?”

“Oh, yes sir. Certainly sir. Back in a moment.”

“Dumb dumb da DUM dumb, da dum da dum da dumb dum… dum dumb da DUM dumb…. hmm… where did I put my pencil…”

“Hello, Boss! Your crackers, sir!”

“Huh? What’s that?

“Your crackers, sir!”

“How dare you! You lying dog faced pony soldier! I may not have all my faculties anymore, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let some damn fool intern go around calling me crazy!”

“Um, sir… umm… you asked me to go upstairs for more crackers, sir. I just ran up and got you a bowl of crackers, and ran back down, sir. Remember, sir?”

“Huh? Crackers?”

“Yes sir. You asked for them, sir.”


“It’s okay, we all have rough days, sir.”


“Today must’ve been a doozy, what with the stimulus and all.”


“So, what did they have to come to you about, sir? Did they ask you for okays on dropping stuff from the House bill? Was that the sort of thing, sir?”

“House bill?”

“Yes, sir, I was figuring they’d probably be coming to you to talk about the House bill, to figure what it would be okay to drop, right, sir?”

“House bill?”

“Well, they had to drop some things from the House bill, right, sir?”

“I don’t know… you leave that sort of thing up to the contractor, son.”

“I beg your pardon, sir?”

“The contractor says what you need, and you say yes. That’s always safest.”

“Why’s that, sir?”

“Because it’s their job. It’s their business. They know how to build houses. You argue with them, and you’re the one who’ll have to live there, ya know.”


“Look, once you decide on a house, just pay the whole bill and don’t dicker about it. If you do, before you know it, you’ll have a disaster on your hands.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but I think when I said ‘House bill’ you thought I meant …”

“I remember this one house in Scranton. I’m from Scranton, by the way, did you know I was from Scranton?”

“Um, yes sir, I had heard…”

“Well there was this guy in Scranton who argued with the bill on his house when he was putting in a fireplace. He wanted it this one place, and his wife wanted it somewhere else and the contractor refused but the wife insisted and the bills for that house were piling up… and finally the contractor couldn’t stand it anymore so he put the fireplace exactly where the wife wanted it.”

“Um, yes, sir?”

“In the middle of a supporting wall, without a chimney. The house burned down that winter. Never argue with a house bill, boy. Trust your contractor.”

“Umm… sir, I was asking about the differences between the House version of your 1.9 trillion stimulus package and the Senate version, sir.”


“And I noticed, they keep calling it the 1.9 trillion stimulus, no matter whether they’re talking about the House bill or the Senate bill.”


“But the Senate version stripped a bunch of stuff out of it, sir.”


“And yet, they still act like both bills cost the same. Calling them both by the same name and all, sir.”


“Well I was just thinking, sir….. isn’t that strange?”

“Oh, I don’t know, boy. These numbers are all kind of, ummn… what’s the word… well, son, they’re guesses, you know?”

“To an extent, I suppose, sure, sir, but…”

“No, son, not just to an extent. It’s all made up, practically beginning to end. We don’t know what they hell these things are going to cost, and we don’t know what the hell they’re going to do. But the math whizzes in the cloakroom have a way to estimate these things, and they come up with numbers, and we leave it all to them. It’s been that way as long as I’ve been in Washington, boy. Fifty years.”

“Really, sir? And how long before that?”

“Oh, well, I don’t know. I know they changed a lot right when I got there. It all became easier because we went from budgets to continuing resolutions, and we just started using a lot more guestimating…. yup, before my day, it was a lot harder.”

“Wow, i didn’t realize that, sir. So the math was accurate before the age of the computer and the calculator, but once the computer and the calculator came along to start making accuracy more manageable, they abandoned it?”

“Yeah, you could say that, son. God knows why you’d want to, but yeah, you could say that.”

“So where do we go from here, sir? What happens to all the stuff that they have to leave out in reconciliation so that one final bill can be passed for your signature?”

“Oh, well, in the old days, whatever got stripped out, they’d save up for other bills, later. Some things would surface again and again for years until they finally manage to attach it to something that’ll pass.”

“And in this case, sir? Same as usual?”

“Oh, no. Not this time.”

“Oh? So what happens to the stuff they cut out this time?”

“Eight to one everything they cut from the stimulus will all end up in my stack of Executive Orders to sign next week.”

“Good heavens, sir, can we do that?”

“Well, I don’t know if we can… but we sure do.”


“So, hey, could you get me another bowl of this soup?”

“Yes, sir. Be happy to, sir. Boy, will I have a lot of questions for my Constitutional law class next week. Be back in a jiffy, sir.”

Copyright 2021 John F Di Leo

Excerpted with permission from “Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volume One,” from Free State West Publishing, available in paperback or eBook exclusively on Amazon.

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based international transportation and trade compliance professional and consultant.  A onetime Milwaukee County Republican Party chairman, he has been writing a regular column for Illinois Review since 2009.  His book on vote fraud (The Tales of Little Pavel) and his political satires on the current administration (Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volumes I and II) are available only on Amazon

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