Four days in february, p.10
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       Four Days In February, p.10
 

           Roy Diestelkamp
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CHAPTER TEN

  "Mr. President, we are one minute from broadcast. I will count down from ten, and point to you, and you will then be live on TV."

  "Yes, yes, I know the routine. As a governor and then Attorney General, I used to tape TV speeches."

  President Woods was standing at one of two lecterns, a camera only showed him, for the moment. Standing just off camera, at the other lectern was Bull Pinchon. Woods was calling up all his strength for one last broadcast to the nation. He was dying, but he didn't want to die on live TV. Moreover he did want to introduce the man who would replace him. That would help the continuity and legitimacy of the next administration. The nation had never before had a transfer of power to someone else other than a Vice President. Besides, many people would not know there were others in the Presidential line of succession.

  Also, there would certainly be skeptics over the process that was used to get General Pinchon to this place. The nation must not be confused as to its lawfulness. The President must take care to show that this was not illegitimate.

  "Thirty Seconds, Mr. President."

  "Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership, and your determination to provide the nation with a capable new President."

  "Charles, I could not be doing this without you. So thank you. ...General Pinchon, when I introduce you, I want you to step beside me and shake my hand, then step back to the other lectern and I will then ask you to make a statement to the people of America."

  "Fifteen seconds, ...Ten seconds ...Five ...Three ...Two ...One ..."

  "Good afternoon, dear Americans. I need to explain to you why in the perilous times we have endured, I have not spoken to you. I assure you it was not for lack of desire, but rather a lack of ability.

  "Our nation suffered the tragic and horrific assassination of President Caroline Carr. Upon assuming office I asked for your prayers, and that we all work together to keep our nation strong and free. Immediately I commanded that federal law officials, and all intelligence services determine who perpetrated this cowardly deed. Pursuant to that order, investigation has been scrupulously made by all federal authorities, with the assistance of state and local law enforcement. Disturbingly, no perpetrator or their sponsors have yet been uncovered. Neither has any individual or organization claimed responsibility, in fact many of our nation's foes and even international terror organizations have repeatedly denied responsibility. Let me assure the nation that your government's determination to solve this crime, and to punish the perpetrators; whether domestic or foreign, whether individuals, organizations, or foreign powers; has never wavered. We will find out who did this! We will punish them!

  "But that does not account for my not communicating with you, and appearing to be inactive and inattentive. Two days after President Carr's and my own inauguration I found out that I had an inoperable and aggressive brain tumor that would very shortly take my life. However, after my death I knew President Carr could nominate a new Vice President to be confirmed by the Congress. But we then suffered the calamity of President Carr being cruelly assassinated. Since that tragedy I have refused, as President, to be sedated, but simply to be given whatever medicines were appropriate to make me comfortable; again, as long as they would not cause me to become unconscious. A hospital room was set up in the family quarters of the White House, and since that time I have been there.

  "I have been conducting the affairs of state from bed. Certain staff were able to come to the room to keep me informed, and to receive my instructions for themselves and others. The administration was functioning and working well under very difficult circumstances. I thank all who have worked so hard for the nation. However, I knew that there was additional and very important work to be done. Therefore, I appointed Charles McKinley Adams, a Boston lawyer, and a former U.S. Attorney General to be Senior Special Counselor to the President, answerable only to me. I assigned him to take charge of preparing for even yet another President.

  "Since I had been the Vice President, upon my succession to the Presidency, that office was empty. As President I could have appointed another Vice President, subject to Congressional consent. However, that would have taken weeks for the process to be completed. I have to tell you again that I am dying; the doctors have told me I cannot live. I simply did not have time to get a new Vice President.

  "The next in line to become President is the Speaker of the House, and after him the President pro tempore of the Senate. Both of them felt their age or health made it likely that they would not live out the nearly full four year term of this presidency. They felt the office should go to another. We could have then gone to the list of Cabinet officers in the line of Presidential succession, but these would only be temporary appointments until another Speaker or pro tempore occurred. Again that would mean more multiple Presidents, or if you will, more acting Presidents in the next four years.

  "My own conclusion was that I must try to find a solution that would hopefully last the nearly four years that remain until the next election. Then the American people could again elect the President of their choice.

  "At this difficult time, I also wanted us to avoid the partisan politics that could spring up in Congress because its two houses have different parties in the majority. I did not want the House or Senate, to begin racing to appoint a new Speaker or pro tempore to give their party the presidency. Somehow we had to avoid partisan politics. I had Charles Adams talk with both Speaker Burlson, and President pro tempore Richard Sharon, both honorable men, though of different parties.

  "I came to the following idea. If the then present Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Ryan Burlson, would resign being Speaker, the House of Representatives could immediately appoint a new one; who would then be able to lawfully take the powers of the President, upon my disability or death.

  "I sent Mr. Adams to breech this idea with the Speaker. Mr. Burlson showed his patriotism. He loves the House of Representatives, and being its Speaker. However, he would sacrifice himself for the sake of the country. He agreed to resign so there could be a new Speaker. This was accomplished today. The House of Representatives today then appointed retired General Ulysses Pinchon as its new Speaker of the House.

  "This I am sure is a total surprise to you. You were not expecting the need of a new Speaker, and you probably thought that such a one had to be selected by the House, from one of its members. That has been the practice of all Congresses thus far, but such is not required by the Constitution, or the law. Article I, Section 2, of the Constitution only says that: 'The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker, and other Officers.' Thus the tradition was that the Speaker was an elected member of the House, but the Constitution and the law did not require this. The House was free to choose at its discretion who should be Speaker. At my request, along with that of the former Speaker, and may I say the leaders and whips of both the Majority and Minority parties, General Pinchon was elected. These men and women acted in the interest not of themselves or their parties, but for the nation. I, and I say we, owe them our highest praise.

  "You may rightly ask, 'but who is this General that is suddenly thrust upon us?' Ulysses Pinchon, is a West Point graduate, and a retired four-star General. He has fought America's battles for thirty years, receiving many awards, including the purple heart, when he was a young officer. He rose steadily in rank and led numerous actions from Africa to the middle-east. At one time or another he had command of U.S. troops in Korea, and also has served as NATO Commander. His expertise is in planning and strategy. Something I find very commendable, is that his subordinate officers highly respected him, and his troops loved him. They knew he would do his best to take care of them. A good General fights. A wise General knows when and where to fight, and when to wait. General Pinchon is good and wise.

  "I face my untimely future with peace of heart, knowing I have not General, but Speaker, Ulysses Pinchon, ready to take up the power of the Presid
ent. His nick name by which many friends call him is "Bull." This did not come from his Army days, but from his strength and power when a football running back in high school, and then at West Point. He will be a good President for America, I ask you to follow his leadership.

  "I present to you, Ulysses Pinchon."

  President Woods extends his hand, and Bull steps over to him and gently shakes his hand.

  Pinchon steps back to the lectern and says, "May God bless the United States of America. May our republic ever be under His protection, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

  "My prayer is that the doctors are wrong and that President Woods will only temporarily be disabled from his office. I promise him, and you, that until then, I will fulfill my duty to keep the nation safe.

  "I ask the American people, man and woman, young and old, of every background, race, education, and level of wealth, to work for the common good. This is not the time for disharmony, but for unity. An Army must stand together, or it will not stand at all. A people must stand together, or they will fail together. A nation must stand together, or it will fall. America will stand together, and if it does will withstand its enemies, and will succeed together, and grow stronger. Thank you President Woods, for your leadership, and for your confidence in me."

  President Woods then said, "God bless America."

  "You saw the picture close off. You heard a startling speech by the current and evidently future President of the United States. This is John Sanker of Network News, and I want to present again the main points of the speeches we have just heard.

  "President Thomas Woods, who has only been in office less than three full weeks, since as Vice President he succeeded the assassinated President Caroline Carr ...tells the nation that he is dying! Because of his apparent imminent death, the President, together with then Speaker of the House, Ryan Burlson, and the House leadership, came up with a plan to install retired four-star General Ulysses Bull Pinchon as a new Speaker! All of this was orchestrated so as to make it possible for General Pinchon to be next in line to succeed to the presidency.

  "That is astounding, have you ever heard of such a thing, it is so unbelievable. No one got up this morning imagining any such thing. Let's bring in our White House Senior Reporter, Stanley Worth. Stanley did you have any inkling of this?"

  "No, John, this is totally a shock. The White House press gallery had not picked up an inkling. Something like this is what you would read in novels."

  "John let me break in, this is Roanna Jackson."

  "Yes, Roanna Jackson, our Capitol Hill reporter ...go ahead, what do you have to say about this?"

  "Well, the Capitol Hill press gallery knew that something unusual was going on, we just did not know what. We thought that maybe the House was meeting to actually impeach President Woods. He was so unpopular, and did not appear to be doing his job. We did not know the House was actually meeting to do his bidding. After their closed session, House members were amazingly discreet about what had just happened; to me they acted like some of them were almost embarrassed. Some members would only say, on condition of anonymity, that they had been meeting to elect a new Speaker. Reporters asked what had happened to Speaker Burlson, but all that we were told was that an announcement would be made soon by the new Speaker. But then the announcement came from the White House, not the Capitol. I have been reporting here from the House for eight years, and nothing before has come close to this. I am in shock."

  "Thank you Roanna. Do either of you know, is General Pinchon now President, or does that come later?"

  "The White House is now reporting that President Woods has sent a letter to the Speaker of the House and President pro tempore of the Senate. It reportedly states that for health reasons President Woods is not able to carry on the duties of his office, and that at 4:00 p.m. today, that is in about five minutes, the Speaker should assume the powers of the President."

  "Did you say at 4:00 p.m. today, that's almost right now?"

  "Yes, 4:00 p.m., that is correct, that is what the White House press office has just reported to us."

  "Roanna Jackson, do you find it strange that the President sent a letter, to the new Speaker, when that new Speaker was standing right beside him. Why didn't the President just tell him you will have to replace me."

  "I suppose the letter was a formality, and we are just being told that the President did what he was required to do if he was unable to serve. That is, he needed to provide a letter notifying of his disability to the Speaker and President of the Senate. But yes, I find it strange."

  "Stanley Worth, here again."

  "Yes, Stanley, go ahead," said John Sanker.

  "The White House press office release did not explain the situation, but only actually said that the Speaker of the House of Representatives would assume the 'powers' of the President at 4:00 p.m."

  "Which now is just one minute away."

  "Yes, so it seems to me that General ...or Speaker Pinchon is only going to be 'Acting President,' and is only using the powers of the President."

  "It is somewhat confusing right now, but I suppose as long as President Woods is alive that is the case. Pinchon in his speech did say he wished Woods would be able to resume his duties."

  "Roanna Jackson here, so who is President right now, is there some confusion, is it Woods or Pinchon?"

  "No, President Woods still evidently holds the office, but because of his disability, General Pinchon is using the powers of the presidency. Now if the President dies, I don't know what the actual situation is?

  "We will need to get a constitutional lawyer to help us."

  "You're right, and I am sure we will," John Sanker said.

  "Stanley Worth speaks up, "I have to go, those reporters who are still here in the White House have just been called into the East Room; we are to witness the swearing in of General Pinchon. It evidently is still to take place. I will get back to you as soon as possible."

  As the reporters filed into the East Room, a long red velvet covered cord had been stretched to keep them from getting too close. They could see Charles Adams, and other White House staffers gather at the front of the room, along with a woman in a black judicial robe. Someone said the woman was Federal District Court judge Nancy Kogan. Almost immediately, and with a drawn face, General Bull Pinchon enters the room.

  The General says, "Let's do this."

  Judge Kogan steps up to him and says, "Mr. Speaker, are you ready to take the Presidential oath?"

  "Yes, I have signed my letter of resignation as Speaker of the House, to take effect immediately upon the completion of my taking the Presidential oath."

  "Very well, Sir, ...please repeat after me: "I Ulysses Pinchon do solemnly swear ...that I will faithfully execute ...the office of President of the United States ...and will to the best of my ability, ...preserve, protect and defend ...the Constitution of the United States."

  "So help me God," Pinchon added.

  "Congratulations, 'Mr. Acting President.'"

  One of the White House aides spoke up and said, "The oath wasn't taken on a Bible?"

  Pinchon responded, "Well in our haste we overlooked that. But if I remember right, we would not be the first. I think I read somewhere that Teddy Roosevelt took the oath without a Bible, and I think it was John Quincy Adams who used a law book instead. But I included God. I said, 'so help me God.'"

  With that Pinchon turned to Adams and the assembled staff, and said: "Let's get to work." He then wheeled around and walked out the door.

  As they entered the outer office to the oval, Adams said, "This is Mrs. Mary Margaret Roland. She was appointed Secretary to the President by Caroline Carr, and kept on by Adams."

  "That is fine, you just keep on right there, Pinchon said, we need somebody around here who has been here at least three weeks!"

  Adams, smiled and said, "we are rather short on experience around here. Most of the staff came in with President
Carr, and I came in three nights ago. But the staff does actually have a lot of experience in government."

  Bull sat down behind the President's desk. "I always saw this desk from the other side, and from the back of the room. It is bigger ...once you get behind it."

  "The job you will find is bigger too. Many people have wanted to sit in that chair, behind that desk, but once some of them actually got there, they found the job was bigger than they even imagined. The events, trials, and tribulations of the whole world are going to be on your desk, and everybody wants you to always be right in your response, and will tell you if they think you got it wrong."

  "One thing though, I will be living above the 'store.'"

  "Yes, but you will wish to get out of here. The White House becomes a prison to most Presidents. The Secret Service is going to try to lock you in here and throw away the key, especially after the assassination. You will get lonely, despite the constant flow of people through here. You can almost become a prisoner, cut off from the real world."

  "You trying to scare me?"

  "No, but you may be lonelier still, as you are not married. When you go upstairs you are going to really be alone. Be sure to have some friends come up to see you."

  "Yeah, I didn't slow down long enough to get married. Mind you, I didn't plan not to get married, I just didn't find anybody. I am a hard fellow, it would take a hard woman."

  "Just be careful about loneliness."

  "Generals do know a bit about that. You can't lead your troops into battle and not be lonely. You know when you order an Army to fight, many of your men are going to die. You cannot let somebody else give the order, the commander has to do it. You always feel alone, and responsible. That's why whenever possible I always demanded so much planning and preparation. Maximize the enemies losses, and minimize ours, I hate military funerals."

  Mrs. Roland comes to the door, "Agent Harry Thompson to see you, Sir."

  As Thompson comes in, Adams says: "This is the 'Agent in Charge' of the Secret Service's 'Presidential Detail.' He replaced the agent who was in charge during the assassination."

  "Agent Thompson, I hear you are supposed to keep me alive; I hope you are very successful!"

  "Yes Sir! We are going to need to set up a meeting with you soon, and lay out our procedures in case of security issues that may occur, whether here at the White House, as you travel, or at public events. We want to let you know what we will do in those situations, and also hear your concerns. We will do our best to keep you safe, and meet your requirements."

  "Right now I guess any threat would be against the President generically, as I have not been around long enough for someone to make it personal."

  "Actually the internet has lit up with a lot of chatter, full of threats to you personally, Sir."

  "Why, why would they react that quickly?"

  "First of all there are always unbalanced people who make threats, but some of these sound more concerning."

  "Why concerning?"

  "Because they seem to be coordinated, there seems to be a group out there getting organized to take you out, because they do not believe you should be President."

  "'Acting President.'"

  "Yes, but that subtlety escapes them. They claim you have usurped the office."

  "Do they identify themselves at all?"

  "Only as followers of some kind of 'Patriotic Leader.'"

  "Okay then, keep me informed."

  "Yes Sir."

  Adams said, "It has begun, you haven't been here an hour yet, and the threats have started.

  "Well, at this time the 'Acting President' cannot be seen hiding in the trenches, however let's not be foolhardy. But the nation has to see me acting as President, dealing with the nations affairs. So let's start."

  Adams just got three messages on his electronic device. "It looks like that opposition is brewing. The TV is evidently reporting that the Pentagon has issued a news release, in the name of Defense Secretary Ishnik, that challenges General Pinchon's right to assume the Presidency, and states that he is not going to allow the White House to directly issue orders to American forces."

  "What! I hope they got it wrong. I hope Ishnik is not going to go rogue on us. Turn a TV on let's see what they are reporting."

  Adams presses a button, and the TV pops out of the Cabinet and turns on.

  "You are watching Network News and this is Breaking News. This is John Sanker in the newsroom. Today has truly been a tumultuous day in Washington, D.C. Ulysses Pinchon, a retired General, was sworn in by a federal judge to serve as 'Acting President,' after President Woods declared his own health disability.

  Now we are beginning to hear that some people are beginning to question the lawfulness of this, and others are perhaps going to outright challenge his legitimacy. Roanna Jackson at Capitol Hill, do you have anything to report on this?"

  "Yes, John. At least two members of the United States Senate are speaking out indignantly against what they call an end run around the American Constitution. They are saying that what Woods, Burlson, and Pinchon have done is unconstitutional and must not be allowed to stand. They are calling for the Senate to have an emergency debate about these circumstances, and are asking the House to do so too.

  "Isn't that complicated, because the House no longer has a Speaker, since both Burlson and Pinchon have resigned that office."

  "Yes, I do not know what exactly is planned about getting a new Speaker.

  "Merv Tanner, our Pentagon Reporter, do you have any news about these stories."

  "Yes I do. As we reported a few minutes ago Secretary Ishnik, in an official Defense Department news release, said he did not find the actions of President Woods, Speaker Burlson, and the House of Representatives to be constitutional."

  "Did he say that directly?"

  "Yes he did. Moreover he plainly said that General Pinchon is not accepted as President of any kind, at the Defense Department."

  "In other words the DoD does not care whether Pinchon is regarded as 'Acting President' or the President, they dispute both, and do not recognize him."

  "That's right. And the DoD is not going to let him control troops, or give them orders."

  "Amazing, this is going to be a massive story, unheard of in our history."

  "...Adams turn that TV off," Bull said. "I have heard enough. This has got to be brought to a head and quickly. If Ishnik is given a little rope he will hang us with it. We will see, if I can give orders to military commanders, and they obey them."

  **********

 
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