American Football (part 2)

Tales from the Nuclear Age:

 Copyright © 2010 by Charles Glassmire


Dec. 15, 2010

 American Football (part 2)

             Occasionally, the football gets fumbled. To minimize these occasions, there is a spare football stored in a very secure location inside the White House. Military personnel have indicated that there is at least one other official who is accompanied by a military officer carrying the football – probably the Secretary of Defense. This makes good sense, since he would have to verify that the President is indeed the valid issuer of nuclear attack orders. SECDEF could break his Biscuit, and compare his code with the individual on the “telephone”. If both Biscuits agree, then the caller is indeed the President.

          That leaves three members of the football team available to carry for other officials. Could one ball carrier always be in reserve to allow for “sick” days when the regular carrier is ill? Thus, two remaining carriers. Is one stationed aboard the Looking Glass command aircraft? Not likely, since we know that, in the days of 24 hour alert, when one aircraft ended its duty and was in the landing traffic pattern, the next Looking Glass was already airborne. No football handoff could occur.

          So which two officials are followed by the football? Best guess: probably the Vice President (NOTE: this is the guy who recently told Couric:

 “When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on

the television and didn’t just talk about the princes of greed …”

Gosh Toto, I didn’t know they had television in 1929! Was FDR really president that year? I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!)

          Second best guess: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi!

          President Jimmy Carter was one to take his duties seriously. He meticulously studied the football contents, especially the war

Football Handoff

action procedures. Former Minuteman Launch Officer Bruce Blair tells us Carter felt the contents were too confusing. He ordered them to be “simplified”, and so a “cartoon version” was installed which, according to one Aide (Patterson),  resembled, “a Denny’s breakfast menu … like picking one from column A and two from column B…”. Carter liked to carry the Biscuit around in his pocket, and there is testimony that his Jacket was once sent out for cleaning with the Biscuit forgotten in the pocket.

          Bill Clinton was also one to carry the Biscuit on his person instead of inside the Satchel. His Aide was Lt. Colonel Robert Patterson at that period. Patterson has published a book recounting those times. The morning after the Monica Lewenski episode hit the national news, Patterson was the first person on the President’s schedule. He asked the President for the Biscuit so it could be swapped out for a new set of codes. It was time to make a routine upgrade of the contents, and to change the password. Clinton searched his clothing and noted he couldn’t find it, but said he probably just left it upstairs in the residence! Colonel Patterson and his team quickly called upstairs and ordered a search. When nothing was found the Military Office of the White House was alerted, and the ordered search was rapidly expanded to the entire White House. To no avail! The nation was now unprotected against nuclear attack. Upon further questioning, Clinton admitted having misplaced the codes and, in addition, did not remember having them for a period of several weeks or months prior.

          The Clinton saga continued. The BBC News, on Monday 26 April 1999, reported the following item. US President Bill Clinton was attending a NATO summit meeting in Washington at a location near the White House. Deciding to hastily depart the NATO Summit Hall some forty-five minutes early, his motorcade sped off leaving behind his Military Aide and the

          “…most important piece of luggage in the world … When President Clinton’s motorcade left without him the Aide then proceeded to walk the half-mile back to the White House from the Reagan building where the summit was being held…”

           The Aides are armed and are authorized to kill in defense of their charge. DC is not the safest city in the world. As  the Aide hot footed across Washington, what about that strange looking character staring at the suitcase and about to brush past him on the sidewalk … When asked by the press, White House Spokesman Joe Lockhart explained “Rather than wait for everyone to gather he just took off …”.  Then “We’re safe,” remarked Mr. Lockhart following the arrival of the aide, adding “These things happen!”

          Marine Colonel Peter Metzger was the ball carrier for President Reagan. The Associated Press reports that Metzger recalls a terrifying moment when Regan’s assistant Mike Deaver guided Metzger into the wrong elevator when the President was going upstairs. Then Deaver fooled him into thinking that he had completely missed the motorcade departure. Metzger recalled his heart racing “like a gerbil in a cage” until the whole thing was revealed as a rather bad joke.

          When Ronald Regan was shot, he was separated from the satchel. It went into an FBI evidence locker along with the President’s pants. Regan was hospitalized and Metzger didn’t pick up the device again for a time involving weeks. He then placed himself in the Presidant’s hospital room and never left during the recovery. During Bush’s reign, after a hot tennis game  in Los Angeles, he took off without the satchel. The Naval officer had to race to catch up, which he did after fifteen minutes, on Sunset Boulevard.

          Most American presidents have rather ignored the device. Each new President is given a fifteen minute briefing on procedures (one among dozens). Bill Gulley, former Director of the White House Military Office, says (except for Carter) none has ever asked for a follow-up briefing or additional training, despite the fact that the material is changed frequently. Carter actually went down to visit the National Command Post and sat in the chair where he would issue the EAO (Emergency Action Order) to the war room. Kennedy never opened it even during the Cuban Missile crisis. It is reported the satchel was opened during the 9-11 attack, presumably to obtain information on the continuity of government and safe quarters for the President.

          This strange paradox of our times results in surreal juxtapositions during football play. When Bush attended church on Sundays, his Aide sat quietly in a back pew at the service. He received some strange responses when it came time to wish each neighbor “peace be with you…”.

          When President Reagen visited Moscow, he stood observing in the middle of Moscow Square, while behind him, quietly stood his Aide, holding the Presidents Emergency Satchel with the codes to call down Armageddon upon all their heads…

  (to be continued …)



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