You can read this series from the beginning here.
I needed to get some exercise. That was becoming clear now. I had been eating my feelings for the last three weeks and it was starting to take its toll on my waistline. I had been trying to find some sort of exercise program that wasn’t overly bourgeois, but I was having a problem. Weight-lifting was too obviously fascist in nature. Horseback riding was too imperialistic. I gave a lot of thought to starting a co-ed softball league, but that turns out to be closely tied to beer consumption, and I didn’t need the carbohydrates. I had to do something to improve my health that didn’t compromise my revolutionary ethics. (I went so far as to ask my mother for advice on the subject, and she sent me a link to a Chinese tour company that specialized in re-enactments of the Long March, which sounded fascinating but would take me away from Washington at a pivotal time in history, so I didn’t sign up.)
So I was really pleased when Aunt Joan convened an intern briefing to talk about soccer. "That could be the solution," I told Emma as we took the elevator up to Aunt Joan’s office. "It’s multicultural. You don’t need a lot of equipment, so it’s perfect as far as social equity goes. And all you do is run and kick, so there can’t be a lot of rules you have to remember or anything."
"You didn’t play soccer growing up?" Emma asked. "Let me guess. You couldn’t because your mother wouldn’t let you because they used white chalk, and she thought that was racist."
"Don’t be ridiculous," I said. "It was a land-use issue. She thought the soccer fields should be turned into community gardens."
"I stand corrected," Emma said.
"I am just going on the theory here that none of you know anything about international soccer," Aunt Joan said.
"I’m a Paris Saint-Germain supporter," Monique said. "I’m actually going to see them play a friendly in North Carolina later this summer."
"My older sister was on the Gold Cup team in 2006," Emma said. "She just missed out on being on the World Cup because of a knee injury."
"I am just going on the theory here that Justin doesn’t know anything about international soccer," Aunt Joan said. "Fair enough? Okay, there’s an international organization called FIFA that is in charge of the World Cup tournament and basically soccer in general."
"What does FIFA stand for?" I asked.
"Federation Internationale de Football Association," Monique said.
"In English?" I asked.
"It’s not in English," Emma said. "It’s a French acronym. And in France, and everywhere else in the world, they use the term ‘football’ to mean soccer."
"So this isn’t about the Redskins, then," I said.
"For God’s sake, Justin," Aunt Joan said. "No. Try to keep up. All right, so early this morning, the Obama Justice Department announced the indictment of several FIFA officials for alleged corruption, specifically for taking bribes. Specifically, bribes from officials connected to the Qatari bid for the World Cup in 2022."
"Everyone in FIFA is corrupt," Monique said. "This is not news."
"It is important at this point to mention that this office is a notional extension of the Qatari Embassy, and that they pay our electric and telephone and cable service," Aunt Joan reminded us. "And that the Qatari Football Association is a major contributor to the Clinton Foundation."
"So our take is that the allegations aren’t true?" I asked.
"But they are true," Emma explained. "The only reason they are playing the World Cup in Qatar is because of all the bribes. Like Monique said, everyone knows about the bribery. Likewise, everyone knows about the worker deaths connected with building all the new soccer stadiums in Qatar."
"We can expect calls from the media to move the games from Qatar, which of course would lead to a massive loss of prestige for the Qatari government, who are our allies and who are committed to peaceful development of the Persian Gulf," Aunt Joan said.
"So what do we do?" I asked. "Nothing?"
"We have to wait and see," Aunt Joan said. "There is some internal conflict on the issue. You see, the other major bidder for the 2022 games was the United States, and the Clinton Global Initiative was strongly supportive of that effort. And the United States has a very large number of stadiums where soccer could be played over the summer. The international tourism would boost the economy at a point that coincides with the mid-term elections for the former Secretary’s second term."
"Plus, lots of hospitality and fundraising opportunities for the Foundation," Monique said.
"It has been mentioned that the former President would like the opportunity to welcome a variety of foreign guests to America to discuss fundraising opportunities, yes," Aunt Joan said. "And that of course includes young female guests who might be visiting as well. Don’t repeat that, of course."
"So these are our choices," I said. "We can choose to stand with an oppressive Muslim-dominated regime and defend it against perfectly reasonable corruption charges, and by the way keep our jobs, or we can attack them for human rights violations in the hopes that Bill Clinton gets some additional nookie seven years from now."
"Complicating things even further," Aunt Joan said, "are the details of the hospitality package that would be provided to President Clinton in 2022 if the Qataris keep the World Cup. I understand that it’s quite extensive."
"This is just ridiculous," Emma said.
"I find that I agree," Aunt Joan said. "Having said that, until the former Secretary gives us further guidance, we are not to say anything derogatory about FIFA or the Qataris or international soccer in general. If it comes up, we simply point out that soccer is boring and un-American and move on. Any questions? No?"
"So what do we do?" I asked.
"Well, you could start pointing out that George Pataki would make a fine choice for the Republicans to nominate for President, but that he’s too moderate to be given a fair shot."
"The Huntsman treatment," I said. "Got it."
"Okay? Good. Get out of my office, all of you."
"Still thinking about playing soccer?" Emma asked me.
"I think I’m going to take up running," I said. "Less political, and probably safer."
"Just make sure you look both ways before you cross the street," she said.