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  • Amogh Dimri and Molly Leahy

Did You Pass the Background Check?

By Amogh Dimri and Molly Leahy

Congratulations on being admitted to INSIDE THE SITUATION ROOM with Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. To complete your background check, please write your name, Social Security number, and address in the attached spreadsheet. Then follow the directions below to encrypt the form and email it to: 

Illustration by Kendra Mosenson



I passed the background check with flying colors. 


Name? I’m Him. Social Security number? 1. Address? 10 Downing Street (Well, the attic when it’s not booked on AirBnb). I am the Columbia University Political Science major: 5.0 GPA. Wrote the Dean’s List. Weekly tea time at the President’s Mansion. SIPA’s dean practically begged me to enroll in Hill’s course. (She must’ve noticed my #I’mWithHer tramp stamp.)


And now here I am, sitting in IAB 417, humbled by the aesthetic and symbolic glory of Hill’s iconic pantsuit (C’mon, Feminism). At this moment, I am nothing more than a boy, sitting in front of a girl, asking her to love him. And she will. I’ll make sure of it.


At 3:40 p.m., we get twenty minutes for a Q&A. That’s twenty minutes to change my life—and Hill’s—forever. 


I stand up and take the mic. “Trevor, Madam Secretary. Trevor Smith—like Adam, only living and handsome. Senior at Columbia College studying Political Science with a concentration in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I’ve been passionate about politics since the first grade, which is when I organized my first political campaign—‘Trevor for Class Monitor: He Gets the Job Done.’ I ran on a platform of sand in the sandboxes and text in the textbooks. After my first year at Columbia, I took time off to establish my own for-profit—A Politician Without Borders—and visit countries like Sweden that clearly need their political priorities straightened out. My professional goals include: becoming the first person to serve simultaneously as President of the United States and British Prime Minister. My question for you, Madam Secretary, is: Can I have a job in the White House? Thank you.” I sit back down.


Hill pauses, clearly bewitched by my mojo. “Okay, Trevor. You can have a job.” She snaps her fingers, and, all of a sudden, we disappear—just me and Hill—from IAB 417.


As my surroundings start to come into focus … I see … so much mahogany. And … are those desk pads? I look up: Hill, stands at the end of a disconcertingly oblong room, in a kickass pantsuit, pointing to a huge map.


It hits me. We’re in the Situation Room. I knew she was powerful, but I had no idea she was this powerful. “Trevor!” she bellows to me from across the room. “You said you wanted a job, right?” I straighten up in my chair. “Yes, Madam Secretary.”


“Great, because we’ve got a job to do right now.”


I look to where Hillary is pointing on the map: Sweden. “After the success of Mamma Mia! and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, fans all over the world feel a claim to ABBA. Their music is iconic—Bill and I even chose ‘Fernando’ as the first dance at our wedding.” Hot. “But after lead singer Agnetha Fältskog sparked hopes that the band would get back together, the Swedish government withheld any new ABBA music from the United States to leverage us to take stronger measures against climate change.” I gasp. “I’m all about effective climate policy, Trevor, but you know how difficult it is to make progress in this country—I mean, we can’t reach net zero by 2025—and now we’re at risk of losing ABBA? You’re the Politician Without Borders, what should we do?”


I start to hyperventilate. I know that all politics is personal, but this? This hits too close to home. (I’ll never forget jamming with the boys to “Dancing Queen” on my 17th birthday.) “Well … There’s no way we can risk ABBA, so I think we need to invest in carbon capture techn—”




“We could pass a policy that holds corporate conglomerates accountable for cutting their em–”




Now I’m really sweating. I can’t solve this problem. There’s too much at stake. I start to lose feeling in my body. The sides of my vision go black. I feel myself falling …


I’m jolted awake. I’m back in my Wien single. I look down and realize I’ve fallen asleep into my signed copy of alternative history novel, Rodham … again. 


Why is “Dancing Queen” stuck in my head?




If my Econ coursework has taught me anything, it’s to thrive in the uncomfortable. To find a way out when no one has before. 


So, when I was in the midst of a diarrhetic episode in the International Affairs bathroom before class one day, with class-A chemical warfare fumes rising from my rectal aperture to the ceiling, and none other than Secretary Clinton strolling in, I tried to keep my calm. 


I certainly did not fart loudly at the sight of my idol’s lime green pantsuit’s leg cuff in the stall door opening in surprise. The Secret Service certainly did not then kick my stall door in and escort me off the premises. 


Ok, maybe I did. My previously approved background check was immediately voided, and I was removed from the class after being classified as “at best, negligent and at worst, a callous affront to human life.”


I glide across my dorm and drop into my Herman-Miller-X-Logitech-G Embody Gaming Chair®, the same one (I’m told) Obama sat in when he no-scoped bin Laden, to concoct a plan to rectify this gross miscarriage of justice. And yes, it involved rizzing up some Secret Service agents.


I caught one of the sunglass-adorned men standing outside his Cadillac off in the Wien Courtyard during class time.

“Hey there, hunk. Come here often?”


“Excuse me? I’m with the United States Secret Service. Who are you? What are your intentions here?”


“Just taking in the beautiful scenery. Nice car you’re driving.”


“Cadillac Coupe DeVille, equipped with bulletproof glass, a bombproof underbelly, two assault rifles in the trunk accessible through the backseat, a liter of the Secretary’s blood, hermetically sealed vents with a two-day supply of oxygen, an AGM-114 hellfire missile that shoots if you honk the horn twice, an in-car radio and TV system, and heated seats.”


“Wowwww, that’s really impressive. No Apple CarPlay though?”


“What is this? Are you gathering intel on Secret Service operations?”


“I just want to know how you operate. You got a permit for those guns? “


“My holstered SIG-Sauer P229 double-action pistol chambered .357 is a standard U.S. government issue, bozo.”


“Not thaaaat gun silly, I meant this one—”


I got 60% of the way to his bicep when I was thrown face-first into the cobblestone pavement. You’d think people would be a little more cordial to a future Harvard Law valedictorian.


On to Plan B: Charm one of Inside The Situation Room’s many illustrious TAs.


I found one of the Ph.D.s smoking in the IAB pit—you know, that little skylight area where Ph.D.s get their daily minimum of Vitamin D before returning underground. 


“So, would you ever want to study a real politician, up close and … personal?”


“What do you mean by that, who do you know?”


“Well, you just happen to be speaking with the future President of the United States. And, with a little luck, you can look in the mirror to see the future First Lady.”


“Wellllll, I just might be interested, how about you tell me a little more later toni-”


I hear her alarm go off: It’s “By The Seaside.” I shudder.


“Sorry, I have to go back underground now. I just received my daily sunlight allotment.”


Foiled again.


My trump card was obvious: sneak into the room before class began. Unfortunately for me, the class preceding Secretary Clinton’s was Advanced Programming (AP). 


I traded my Loro Piana loafers for some hideous HOKAs, and swapped my knit quarter zip for a Minecraft T-shirt reading “Creepers gonna creep.”


After I dragged my feet into AP, I set up my campsite on the floor in a middle row and was soothed to sleep with the sounds of nerds typing. 


I woke up as if on command, to the sound of my idol’s voice. Something about being resourceful and never backing down. At this point, I just went back to bed. She had nothing new to offer me.

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