Breakfast was delivered and I ate at the desk in the Oval Office. While I ate I started reading the intelligence updates from the various agencies. I used a hi-lighter to mark out things I wanted to ask questions about.
I had meetings scheduled with all the different agencies at some time today. OJT was not something I was fond of at this level but it was the only choice I had for some things.
Senator Harrison arrived at 0745 for his appointment – fifteen minutes early – as I thought he would.
As all things with the President, he was not allowed to meet with me alone. There was a stenographer and also Troy was in the room at the table.
After congratulating me as the new President and condolences on the death of our friend, we talked about how the death of President Thomas would affect policies and Congress. We had a short discussion about how the funeral would play out.
”I asked you here because I wanted to ask you to be my Vice President. Are up for the challenge?” I said.
The Senator thought for only a minute, ”Yes, I will take that challenge,” he said.
I had Troy summon the House and Senate leaders to be here at 0900.
”I’m going to ask for special session of congress to vote on your nomination for tomorrow. While they are here we will do a quick news conference to announce it.”
At 0830 I called all the White House staff together.
”After the events of last night and the loss of our friend, leader and President- today is one tough day. The week is going to be tough. I can understand the need to sit and collect your thoughts and concerns.”
“If you feel the need just to be away from here today, I understand. If you need to talk I will make time to do that.”
”Connie, you look like you have a question ” l said.
Connie Hines had been one of President Thomas’s personal secretaries; he had two. She had taken notes at many of the meetings between the President and me since I started working for the President on the Task Force. She knew when to write and not to write.
”I know this the wrong time to ask but what is going to happen to the personal staff? We are not protected like other government workers – we worked for the President and not an agency. I am a single mom,” she said.
”All the staff stays on and you can still be the President’s personal secretary – to me. I need people that know their jobs and what I should be doing and when. I can be very hard nosed, stubborn and difficult to work with, I have been told,” I said.
We had an thirty minutes before they were to be here. Troy, the Senator and I talked policy, the former presidents and the changes that could be made. One thing for sure, there was still going to be a push for veteran benefits and an intense push on the illegal immigrant problem.
Another problem that I wanted tackled was fraud in entitlements. Programs that were intended as temporary dragged on forever. I wanted to know why.
Another was waste in military spending, a topic that everyone had tried to address for decades.
The two Senators and two Representatives were on time, not early.
”I asked you here because the events of the last few weeks prove how important it is to have a Vice President. I have asked Senator Harrison to fill the position in my administration.”
”I am asking you to expedite his appointment by having a confirmation vote in the houses and senate immediately. Senator Harrison is no stranger to congress and to the American people. His service spanned forty years with distinction first the House and then the Senate,” I said.
”I know the timing couldn’t be worse for the request but I know from firsthand experience just how important it is to have the Vice President’s position filled,” I said.
They agreed that it was important. After a much longer discussion, a vote would be held tomorrow. There was a discussion on bills in various committees and working their way through Congress.
”There is no chance of the proposed gun control being signed in its current form. Many of the regulations being proposed have been tried in several states with poor results. I have no interest in destroying our rights one law, one piece at a time. There are things I would support and I suggest we meet and come up with legislation that works and we all can support,” I said.
”The transportation bill that has been stalled needs new life. We need to sit down and come with a bill that improves infrastructure in all areas, not just a few big cities. No more multi – billion bullet trains and tunnels that go nowhere or only shave several minutes off a commute.”
”The roads are full of potholes and bridges are falling apart. Let’s fix them and no more funding of environmental upgrades from highway funds,” I said.
”Funding has been the problem,” Senator Kilgore responded.
”First we have to stop the drain on the highway trust fund for non-highway pet projects. Then let’s look at reasonable funding approaches we can all agree on,” I said.
”I propose we have a weekly meeting on infrastructure until we get a bill passed we can live with,” I said.
It was 0940 when two boys saw me through the open office door and ran towards me.
” Mom is this your new office? Mommy said this is your new home but we can come stay with you anytime we want,” JJ said.
”That’s right and when you are not here, I will be there to see you a lot,” I said.
”This is JJ and RJ, they are an important part of my family,” I said.
An aide came in, ”Chief Justice Burger is here in the study with your family.”
”How old are you?” the Chief Justice asked.
”I will soon be thirty six,” I said.
”The requirement is you must be at least thirty five to take the oath. You will be the youngest President ever. JFK was next at forty two,” the Chief Justice said.
I had signed into the Marines right out of high school at eighteen and gave them ten years. JBG had been in business almost eight years. My birthday was in a few months.
At 1000 with my family, Andy, and my temporary staff in attendance plus senators and representatives along with TV cameras, Chief Justice Hamilton Burger administered the oath, this time in the rose garden. The Navy band played ‘Hail to the Chief’ when he was finished. I fought hard to control the tears.
There would be one more behind closed doors. I didn’t understand at first but each one had to do with rules and secrecy regulations. By 1045 I was finished and a full-fledged President! I almost laughed out loud at the thought. If I thought the VP position was complicated, I was in for a rude awaking.
The lawsuit against me filed by the group of representatives was now mute. When the Chief Justice gave me the oath, it was a sure signal the suit was dead.
At 1100 I went down a floor to the National Security meeting carrying the daily updates I read and highlighted this morning. I felt sorry for them having to start all over with a new President, cold turkey.
But then I wasn’t actually a novice; I had been reading and evaluating intelligence for quite a while. The meeting lasted the entire hour I had allotted for it. We would do it again every day for a while.
At 1200 I carried a cheese steak sandwich and coffee back to the executive meeting room to meet with the Joint Chiefs.
Marine General Ingram – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs – was all smiles.
”Do you know that you are the first Marine to be President? There were several Navy and Army officers but you are the first Marine, and a grunt at that. You have made us proud. That recruiting poster you did a few years ago has been dug out to be used again very soon,” he said.
The meeting lasted two hours and was a warm up for several more to come. I wanted answers from the Air Force and the Navy. In the past few weeks I had read some disturbing reports about ships and planes. Many were parked for the lack of maintenance and parts. Where was the money going? If I needed them, how many would be ready to fight the battle?
I met with Troy, my staff and President Thomas’s advisors. It was a two hour meeting. It answered one question; I would address the nation at 2000.
Troy sent the request for fifteen minutes of air time to all the major stations.
I had three hours to prepare myself, get ready and write down what I was going to say and finish the meetings that were still popping up. What I could use was an hour in the gym to work off some stress.
My mates had been bringing in my clothes and things, I was going to stay in the Lincoln bedroom for the time being. The Queens bedroom was also going to be for my visiting family. The White House staff had been working all day making temporary changes. From somewhere they had found two small beds so the boys could stay and a crib for Sara or Takeo.
I was not going to push for Mrs. Thomas to move out. The funeral would have to be finished, then a reasonable time for things to settle out before movers could move her personal things back to her home in Kansas.
I wrote a statement to say tonight on the TV, then rewrote it several more times. Then I had Troy and Connie read it. After that I read it out loud standing in front of a podium.
Then Connie loaded it on a teleprompter and I tried that. Both was a new experience for me. Usually most of my speeches were off the cuff or answers to questions. I really did not like the teleprompter but used it to go through the speech several times before deciding to use it.
My mates, the boys and I ate supper in the family dining room. It was a pleasant break from the day.
At 1900 I was sitting with a makeup lady. She was fussing over every little detail. When she finished I went to the teleprompter and gave the speech one more time.
At 2000 I was standing in the side hall with Troy and my family waiting for my cue – the final notes of ‘Hail to the Chief’. I thought it was inappropriate given the situation but Troy and several more insisted.
”Good evening fellow Americans. Tonight I speak to you with a heavy heart. Last night President Thomas passed away.”
“President Thomas was a devoted husband, father, grandfather and dear friend – he will be missed. Funeral arrangements have not been finalized at this time.”
“I have asked Senator Harrison to be my Vice President and Congress to expedite approval of his appointment with a vote tomorrow.”
”As with a change of administrations there will be changes in some policies, however none will be drastic.”
”The events of last night show the strength and power of our constitution and our democracy. There were no tanks, soldiers or riots in the streets, just an orderly change because of an unfortunate event.”
”I ask for your support and understanding for any missteps and prayers for President Thomas’s family.”
”Good night, God bless America,” I said.
I turned and walked away from the podium and stepped into the hall.
”You did well,” Troy said as he smiled and nodded.
My mates were smiling; they seemed pleased.
”Let’s call it a night. Tomorrow is going to be another long day,” I said.
Ching Lee, Marcy and Vicky went back to the shore escorted by Secret Service and JBG security. Lorrie, Sara, Jenny and the boys were staying the night and would go home in a couple days.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.