by Christopher Buckley
With his previous nominees destroyed by an egocentric Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, unpopular president "Don Veto" Vanderdamp nominates Pepper Cartwright, a tough-talking TV courtroom judge to the Supreme Court. Bowing to her popularity, the chairman, Dexter Mitchell, cedes to her election, then quits to star as a president in a TV show before running for actual president himself. Pepper, out of her depth, and her marriage floundering, has her loyalties tested when Vanderdamp wins re-election the same year that a Constitutional amendment limiting US presidents to one term is passed, and the case goes to the Supreme Court.
It's a somewhat amusing political satire, with a few jibes at easy targets such as Joe Biden, the debacle that was Bush v. Gore, and the polarization of politics in general. But while Buckley paints a humorously exaggerated picture of the continued merging of politics and popular culture, the gentle poking was hardly sidesplitting, and there’s no teeth to it. It's the satire of a contented conservative. Vanderdamp, for example, is presented as a sort of affable, if dull, hero for vetoing all spending bills his entire term, when of course that would be insanely destructive. There’s no anger – the source for some of history’s sharpest satires – instead, Buckley chuckles wryly at the end that each crisis passes as the system just sort of fixes itself. Worth a chuckle, but vaguely disappointing.