Medicine to Be Tarnished


Gautier was voracious.  The soup was specially blended by Lapius from herbs and condiments to a delicate flavor that somehow reminded me of lavender.  Soon little droplets appeared on the waxed edges of Gautier’s moustache.  “That is why I wax it,” he explained.  “Protects the moustache from adulterating substances.” 


“Gautier,” Lapius said, after Gautier had finished the consommé and was smiling with pleasure, “You are well connected in high office.  I wonder whether you would do me a favor.”


“Certainly Simon, what is it?”


“I have just been notified that my income tax statement will be reviewed by internal revenue service.”


“There is nothing I can do, Lapius,” Gautier said severely.  “That is a matter between your conscience, your accountant and the IRS.”


“Wait old friend, hear me out.  My conscience is clear.  My accountant is honest, but I have some doubts about the IRS.  You know, they have had a bad press recently.  Accused of hounding political foes and things of the sort.  So of course there is always the possibility that this ‘review’ of my taxes has political implications.”


“I doubt it, Simon.  You are not really a big enough fish for them to bait a hook for.  But what is it you have in mind?”


“I was wondering although I have done nothing wrong, mind you, whether you could secure for me a pardon, in advance, for any torts the IRS might consider I have committed with respect to taxes?”


“How would I do that?”


“You have connections in the White House.”


“Come on, Simon.  Mr. Nixon is a special case.  President Ford can’t go around issuing pardons all over the place.  That wouldn’t be realistic.”


“No, but it might be helpful,” Lapius said.  “It would preserve my mental equilibrium to know in advance that I had nothing to worry about.”


Gautier stared at his napkin ring for a while, before speaking.  “They had to do that to Nixon.  There was no way out.  After all, Simon, he was exposing the system.”


“Do you mean he was bagged?”


“Not exactly.”


“Then he was hounded from office by the radical press?”


“Not at all.  You see, what Nixon did was inexcusable.  He understood politics too well.  So well, in fact that he believed it to be the American way of life:  you know a deal here, a deception there:  a little piety for family televisions:  some homilies for his silent majority:  misdirection to the press:  the usual payoff for political favors.”


“You are convinced he was guilty then.”


“Of course not.  He just played the game.  The average American politician has to do these things to stay politically alive.  They keep it under the table as much as possible.  But to Mr. Nixon, and his cohorts, these things were as American as apple pie.  Nixon didn’t see anything wrong in it.  He had been the politician per excellence and rose to the presidency using these tactics.  But he kept records on tape no less.  The whole business was there for everyone to see and hear, he didn’t know you are supposed to hide these things.  They had to get rid of him, he exposed the entire establishment.  It was a disgrace.”


“Then the pardon was a mistake,” Lapius commented.


“A mistake,” Gautier expostulated.  “Are you mad?  The pardon was foreordained.  A necessity.  Otherwise all the details would have become part of a court record.  Now at least it is all tidy, and neatly hidden away for all time.  Ford had no choice.”


“One would think,” Lapius said dryly.  “That Ford’s loyalty as president would first be to the constitutional process of government.  After all, by pardoning Nixon he infringed on the prerogatives of the judiciary.  As a matter of fact, he has debased the judiciary, rendered it impotent.”


“Don’t be naïve, Lapius.  The judiciary is now part of the system.  Ford’s first loyalty must be to the system that put him there.”


“I’m aghast, Gautier.  You are openly defending a system of corruption.”


“Not at all, Simon.  I am defending a system which makes the gears run smoothly.”


“But lying, deception, conspiracy—that is not what the country stands for.  It sullies the flag.  You lawyers should be the first to object to it.  Are you trying to tell me you are a part of it?”


“Not me, Simon.  Just an interested onlooker.”


“Well, Gautier, as a physician I find it more sinister than amusing.”


“Don’t be so innocent.”


“That’s just the point, Gautier.  As a physician I am a political innocent.  I am aghast to find that the government lies and cheats.  And what makes me more upset is that the government now wants to take over the practice of medicine.  It doesn’t seem right somehow that the doctor’s shingle, a sign of integrity and probity through the years will now be worn by a government that sometimes seems to be naught but a reservoir for jailbirds.  In no time at all, if administered by governmental functionaries, the great profession of medicine will be equally debased.”


Gautier guffawed.  “I know you, Lapius.  You’re worried about the fact that you won’t be able to engage in private practice anymore.  But don’t worry, Simon, you’ll still be able to make a living.”


“Of course.  But will I be able to practice medicine, Gautier?  Keep in mind, old friend, that once government medicine arrives you won’t be able to call me in the middle of the night about your imaginary pains.  I will be off duty.”


“Surely Simon you will be able to make time for me,” Gautier insisted.


“The hell I will.  I’ll be on salary.”


“But of course you will see me, Simon” Gautier winked seductively.  “I’ll make it worth your while.”