Four days in february, p.7
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       Four Days In February, p.7

           Roy Diestelkamp
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  "Mr. Ishnik, you may not remember me because we have not met for nearly two decades, but I am Charles McKinley Adams. Three days ago I was appointed Senior Special Counselor to the President. I need to know why the Secretary of Defense has demanded a meeting with the President, and on such short notice."

  "I remember you, Mr. Adams! You were Solicitor General for one President, and Attorney General for another."

  "Yes, a long time ago. I did not know if you would remember me."

  "I can hardly forget you," Ishnik said. "Your Justice Department ruled many of my initiatives, illegal or unconstitutional. My boss and I had our hands tied by you."

  "Rather so. The intelligence service is not supposed to be spying in our country and on certain citizens. Our laws forbid that sort of thing. I know the agency does not like that, and does not always respect it, but that is what the law was about."

  "You weakened our ability to protect the country."

  Adams replied, "But you weakened our ability to have our country. Our country is under law, not under spies. So, we remember each other well, or perhaps I ought to say, not so well. However, we now both serve at the pleasure of President Woods, so we need to put the past behind and work on the present. Again, why do you need to see the President, it really is not convenient for him now?"

  "I need to see the President because I am Secretary of Defense and am charged with matters of national security. I have issues that I am prepared to discuss only with the President, and for which only he can give me proper instructions."

  "I have been given wide responsibilities in this White House, and am authorized to hear matters of the highest national security," Adams said.

  "That may be, but you will not hear them from me," replied Ishnik. "I am a constitutional officer, and I will speak of these matters only with the President. I made an urgent appointment to see him, and I am here and expect to do so."

  "Actually," Adams said, "you assumed that the President himself would see you. However, he chose to send me to speak with you."

  "Then you better go back and tell him that I have spoken with you, and now must insist that I speak with him too. Considering the President is sick, and that no one has seen or heard from the President for several days, even in the middle of a crisis, I again must insist on seeing him personally. I must know that he is alive and giving the orders to the military. I will not be filtered by you or anyone else. The nation's security is his constitutional responsibility, and I am his Cabinet officer charged with America's military forces."

  "Really, Secretary, what matters do you need to speak about to the President? That is all I am asking. Is America in imminent danger of being attacked by some other country, are American soldiers newly imperiled by some foe, or is there a specific danger, that you seek to warn about?"

  Ishnik fumed, "If I do not speak with the President shortly, I will go back to the DoD, and hold a press conference where I will explain to the media and the nation, that White House staff are keeping me from speaking to the President. I suspect that will create quite a furor, is that what you want, Mr. Adams?"

  "The question is, is that what you want Mr. Secretary? You have the capability for all kinds of mischief, and to create all kinds of furors, but to what purpose? Will that help our country? Will that resolve any issues? Will that reduce any dangers? Really, Mr. Secretary, I do not understand why you resist in telling me your purpose. I could then be in a position to either help you, or if necessary, have you speak to the President."

  "Senior Special Counsels do not decide whether Secretaries of Defense have important enough matters to speak to the President of the United States. I am going back to the DoD, you can watch my press conference on TV if you want to."

  Adams sighed, "Be calm my friend, wait here for a short time; I shall go and see if you can be worked into the President's schedule. I shall check again with the White House Chief of Staff."

  "Why don't you do that, Mr. Adams? I will be right here."

  Adams, turned and walked out of the room, and went down the hall and around a corner. Out of sight he sat down on a small couch and looked out the window. The rain had not yet come to a stop, but he saw that the sun wass shining through some breaks in the clouds. A rainbow suddenly appeared, bright and beautiful, but just for a moment, and then disappeared. He thought to himself, I hope that our efforts are successful today, and for a longer time than that rainbow.

  The Deputy White House Chief of Staff passes by, and asked: "How are things going with you and Secretary Ishnik?"

  Adams replied: "As expected ...testy. He is not accepting that he cannot see the President. I am going to have to let him go upstairs. I am just trying to buy some more time for the House to work. Right now I am having a conference with myself, but Ishnik does not know that. I will wait here for a few more minutes and then go and tell him he will see the President in about an hour. The Secretary won't like that, but he will not pass the offer up either. Nor, will he storm out of the White House and hold a press conference – at least not right now."

  "Do you think the President is up to seeing Ishnik? Can he hold his own with him."

  "The President will do his best, he is trying with all his might to have Pinchon in a position to succeed him. He is the one who thought up this plan. It is certainly unprecedented. He brought me in to assist if the House leadership has difficulty getting on board any unpredictable members of either party. I do not think he is going to let a dissident or defiant Secretary of Defense stop him. He will rise to the occasion and do whatever he has to."

  "...But after Ishnik sees him, and knows how bad the President's health is... ...he will not keep that to himself... ...word will get out."

  "Yes," Adams replied, "Ishnik knows now that President is not well, he just does not know how bad. That is why I have to stall him for a while longer. If I can get him to wait for the President until 12:00 p.m. that gives the House a little more time. That way by the time Ishnik gets back to the DoD and probably speaks to the press, hopefully the House will have elected a new Speaker. That is all that needs to happen, and then should the President die with no V.P., the lawful order of succession would take place. In one sense the President's plan is so simple, elect a new Speaker of the House. Of course that is also the difficulty, getting the House to act immediately and to pick the General as Speaker."

  "What if they cannot or do not agree?"

  "Then..." Adams says: "...Nobody knows what may happen. When the President dies, we will probably have political chaos, with politicians on both extremes pushing different solutions as to who should be President, and for how long. That will lead to confusion as to who is effectively in charge of the country. Considering our present situation with dangers within and without the nation, I really am fearful that such circumstances will tempt some military officers to decide that they should also have a say in the matter."

  "Yeah, I have heard that General Yates has been going about arranging quick quiet meetings with chosen commands. That does not look good."

  You are right there," Adams said, "and I do not think General Yates does anything but what Secretary Ishnik and Army Secretary Strate have told him to do. ...And that is worse than frightening."

  "How long are you going to leave Ishnik on hold?"

  "Oh, I better go back now, the Secretary of Defense does not like to be kept waiting."

  Adams gets up and casually walks back around the corner and downs the hall. He finds Ishnik talking very quietly on the phone, so he sits down at the end of a table, and waits. Ishnik cuts the call off, and turns and faces Adams.

  "Well, are we going to see the President now," Ishnik said.

  "Soon, Mr. Secretary, soon. The President will see you at ... o'clock."

  "One o'clock! That is too late! I have to see him sooner; that is two hours and I cannot just sit around here."

  "I really wish you would tell me what you want to
speak to the President about, but I see that you will not. I will try to get the Scheduling Secretary to bump you into the President's meetings at 12:00 p.m."

  "Noon ...O.K., all right, ...and I will hold you to that!"

  Adams replied, "Just make yourself comfortable, I will be back to take you to the President at noon. If you want something I can have staff bring you some coffee, a sandwich maybe, or something."

  "No, nothing, I will stay here and talk with my staff at DoD."

  "As you please," Adams said, and went back out the doorway and down and around the hall, heading for the staircase. He did not want to negotiate any further, or give the Secretary opportunity to try and move the meeting time closer. He also must warn and prepare the President for what will be an almost certain confrontation and test of wills. The doctors will not like this, but Ishnik will not go away, the President will have to see him.

  Adams goes up the stairs, and again approaches the President's room. The Secret Service agent steps aside, and Adams enters the room.

  "Mr. President, Ishnik is down stairs and insists on seeing you. He refuses to tell me what he wants to speak to you about. I strongly suspect due to the confused situation that he will raise the question of your present ability to command and control our Armed Forces ...and also after personally seeing your condition, that he then will add the matter of Presidential succession. I have resisted him as long as possible. I managed to put him off until noon."

  "Have we heard from the Capitol yet," the President said.

  "No Sir, not yet. Melman should be taking the General over there very soon now."

  "Unless the plan comes apart."

  "Yes, Mr. President. ...Sir, are you going to have the strength to deal with Ishnik?"

  "I am President, I have to deal with him. If he gets too rowdy I will have to fire him. I would rather he acquiesce, salute, and take orders. I expect he won't. Personally I never would have appointed him. Carr kept him at Defense from the former administration, to keep the military hawks happy. They thought she was not capable of commanding the respect of the Armed Forces. With the assassination, I kept him at Defense simply because of national unity, and to try and show continuity of administrations. I didn't have the time or luxury to appoint a new Cabinet."

  "No Sir, you did right. Now, you have to tell Ishnik to do right, too!"

  The President coughed, and the doctors pushed Adams back. "The President is too weak for a long conversation," a doctor said.

  "I am still President, and I still have life, and I still have work to do. Adams with be bringing the Defense Secretary in here at noon, and you docs are going to have to let me deal with him. I do not want him to see doctors hovering over me, and I do not want to be in this hospital gown. Get me some pants and a shirt to wear too, and my suit coat. I cannot meet Ishnik in this bed, ...I have to look as strong as possible"

  The President coughed again, and Adams backed away so the President would not try to speak any further. Adams knew that President Woods would do whatever his body let him. They would just have to let the events play out.


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