Monday I was back at Washington. Congress was in session one more day before the Thanksgiving break that lasted into the second week of December. They had a funding bill that had to pass, otherwise dozens of their favorite agencies would close before they came back from recess.
The reason the funding had not passed was because Thursday and Friday they had been too busy getting TV time and grandstanding on the floor of Congress about the fate of the Iranian five. The bills passed quickly; they wanted out of town fast. All of them were brushing off reporters’ questions about the outcome of the Iranian ploy that they had been duped into playing a part in.
Thursday was Thanksgiving dinner at the White House. It was a joint dinner with the Presidents and Vice President’s staff and family. My mates and four little ones were sitting at the table with the President and his family. I worried about the two boys – they could get out of hand – but they made us proud; perfect little gentlemen.
Saturday was our family dinner; the Jones, Coles, Crash, Jeanna and the Smithfield’s, Lorrie’s Mom and Dad. There was turkey, ham, dressing, cranberry sauce, all kinds of vegetables and all kinds of deserts. My favorite was apple pie a la mode but mincemeat was right there with it.
My bodyguards ate with us – both the JBG and the Secret Service. Everybody would need time in the gym. They rotated days so they could have holiday time with their families.
On Monday I was back on Air Force 2 headed for India. This trip was for four days. I thought there was only two State Department people going but there were six and also four from the DOD.
With so many factions pulling different directions in India, the Secret Service sent thirty agents in another plane as an advance team. I still had my normal Secret Service security team and my JBG security team.
It was a long flight – seventy five hundred miles with a stopover in Hawaii to refuel. The flight gave me more time to review all the information I had and what the DOD officials had brought with them that I had not seen.
It was four grueling days of intense talks; the worst I had been involved in. The Indians wanted every single item to be renegotiated and debated. They were trying to tire me out and get things by me and my team over the previous sessions. In many cases there was no progress at all.
To top it all off, they tried to have parties for us that lasted all night to add to the exhaustion. They thought they were pulling something off. I noticed that the people in their negotiating teams were disappearing early out the back and then there were others trying to delay my leaving until the wee hours in the morning.
It was the morning of the third day when I decided to go full hard line on them. They wanted to play games, so would I. They wanted to renegotiate everything, so did I and to my advantage.
That when the trouble started with both the State Department and DOD people. One State Department individual in particular – Jeff Custis – was a problem.
He undercut me with the first three items of the day, siding with the Indian negotiators, thus ending up with at the original points with a loss of two hours and nothing to show. He started to get argumentative with me at the table with the next item. I called for a ten minute break to stretch.
In the room that was reserved for us for coffee and private discussion and – I was willing to bet – was bugged, the State Department guy started again before I could even refresh my coffee.
He was berating me for even being in these negotiations and interfering with his expert opinion.
Enough was enough and I instantly had enough. I snapped my fingers to get the attention of my JBG bodyguards. Ziva knew instantly something was going to happen.
I grabbed him by the throat and pushed him back and into the wall, slamming his head against the wall. Looking at him square in the eyes, ”Don’t you ever undercut my position, don’t you ever argue with me at the table again or I will send you back to Washington in handcuffs and leg shackles. Do you understand?” I said.
”Yes,” he said.
”Yes what?” I asked.
”Yes Ma-am,” he said.
”That’s more like it and you’d better remember it,” I said.
‘Back in the meeting the going was still slow but there was no disagreement by anyone in my team. By lunch time we were clicking off the items. Once the Indian team figured out the game was up and there was no advantage to their tactics, they were ready to get as much work done today as possible.
I worked the Indian negotiators hard till way after the normal session ending time by two hours. Then there was supper. I cut short the festivities by telling my group there was a 2000 meeting in my room. All of us needed a good night’s sleep.
By Thursday afternoon we were done. The news conference and official document signing was finished by 1600. One last official dinner and political event and we were ready to fly east. I couldn’t wait to step on the tarmac at Morton. It would be late Friday afternoon when that happened.
Saturday and Sunday were family time and I needed it. All my mates wanted personal time with me to talk about their week and I was ready to listen. Two growing little boys wanted time as well. I made up for lost time with all of them.
The girls and I spent both nights in the hot tub and then in the den on the padded furniture just talking before going to bed. The two boys and I went first to Fort Smith and then to the Ratz farm where Dad and Jason were finishing up the corn harvest. They should have been done weeks ago but had stopped combining corn because the soybeans matured early.
Dad was driving the combine and with my permission, JJ rode in the cab with him. The new combine’s cab was climate controlled with heat and AC and was roomy. JJ could stand and watch the corn head devour twelve rows of corn and then he could turn and watch the shelled corn filling the grain bin. I was sure he was getting a little OJT sitting in Dad’s lap.
I took RJ with me on the big John Deere tractor pulling the six row bat-wing bush hog to pulverize the corn stubble. Cutting the stubble made it easier to plant next year’s crop and also made it harder for corn borer worms to survive winter.
The cab on the tractor was good as the one on the combine. I put RJ in my lap and let him steer the tractor, something Dad had done with both Jake and me when we were that size.
The Secret Service were beside themselves; all they could do was sit in the Suburban and watch. That was until I sent them to get coffee for me and Dad plus hot coco for the boys.
On Monday I went goose hunting with Dad, Jason, Vicky, Lorrie and Judge Slaughter.
The Secret Service were beside themselves again. They just didn’t know how to address a group of men with shotguns with the VP. It had been over two decades since there was an avid hunter connected to the White House. All the Secret Service agents who had been there then had long since retired.
We were done hunting by 1000 and had our limit for the day. Several pictures from the morning hunt would make the evening news cycle.
One picture was me walking from the blind with three dead geese in one hand and the other hand holding the Browning ten gauge goose gun on my shoulder. The other picture was a group picture kneeling with the geese on the ground in front of us and the gun resting against me.
Both were sure to bring the animal lovers and anti-gun people into a tizzy.
Jason carried them to the butcher where they would be gutted and plucked (removing all the feathers) then run through a detector so all the buckshot could be removed. With the right sauces, seasonings and cooking they would be delicious Christmas and New Years dinners.
It was two weeks before Christmas and it was the last out of the country visit I had to make before Christmas. This one was back to merry old England. It was a follow up and completion of the talks I had been in with the Secretary of State from a couple months ago.
All the details had been worked out and all I had to do was to sign and go through the formalities with all the VIPs and photo sessions. I was still gone three days, even though everything was ready to sign. I took advantage of the third short official day to do some Christmas shopping for the girls and boys.
With a guide from the embassy I was carried to the most elegant stores. I picked out jewelry for my mates and toys for the boys and little things for Takeo and Sara. I also bought presents for the rest of my family.
Back home I broke all the rules and spent time in my office over the gym. I spent several hours with the girls on JBG business. There were still some things I had to be involved in whether the DC politicians liked it or not. It was taking time to move those things over to the girls.
One of the things we decided on was the size of the Christmas bonus that all forty thousand JBG employees were to get. It had been a good year; they deserved to share in the prosperity. We decided on the same as last year – seventy five hundred – so they would have five thousand after taxes in a separate check.
Back home I helped with putting up the rest of the Christmas decorations. The boys were into Christmas this year. There were lists of the things they wanted. Me, I just wanted time to be with all of them. They were excited and that made us excited.
All of us had front row seats to all the Washington Christmas and New Year parades. It was a Christmas to remember for all of us, especially for the boys.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.