The morning was filled with news leaks indicating an agreement movement on the budget, breaking the stalemate that had stalled progress for weeks. Congress had stayed in session all night.
There were pictures of sleeping Senators and congressional people at their desk. The word I received from the Vice President was the two separate bills were in conference committees, working out the differences. The Senate version contained the cuts and tax bill as I wanted. The House version, liberals had tried to eliminate the spending cuts but kept the tax.
I had told the group that had come to the White House to discuss the new revenue portion – the wealth tax had to be included as written, the cuts had to stay in place and there was to be no additional spending or else – no signature.
Even if they passed it I would use the pocket veto and the government would close three days before Christmas and remain closed until the Senate and House returned for special session or in January, unless Congress stayed in session for the ten days that I had to sign or veto the bill. They didn’t like the threat but they took it seriously.
If it was put off to the new Congress, I would have even more leverage with the numbers of conservative legislators coming in. But I knew they would never allow the government to be closed down over the holidays.
I finished my Christmas list and called senior agents Brewer, Carter and Tull and asked if there was any way for me to leave the White House incognito to finish my Christmas shopping at the mall.
”With your luck finding terrorists at mall’s, not likely. Get your list together and we will send someone to get the things for you,” Brewer said.
”The media and Congress would find out about it and I would have to hear a raft of horse crap about it, plus the hearings and all the other crap to go with it. I will just have to do differently. How were Clinton, the Bush’s and Obama able to get out discretely for the things they did?” I asked.
”They didn’t carry the risk that you do. There are still very serious unresolved death threats against you,” Brewer replied.
”Every President had death threats against them,” I said.
”You have had many more and too many close calls,” Agent Brewer said.
”OK,” I said.
I called Ziva and Abra to come to my office. I would have to get them to do the shopping for me as much as I hated it. They were on the JBG payroll so neither Congress nor the media could say anything.
I explained the list item by item of the things that I wanted them to get for me and why I needed them to do it for me. I had used catalogs to put the list together.
”What do Abra and Ziva want for Christmas? What can I get you?” I asked.
”JBG has already given a nice Christmas bonus. I don’t think I need anything else,” Ziva replied.
”I agree,” Abra added.
”Well, that is not what I wanted to hear but if that is the way you want it, so be it,” I said.
I knew that gold coins were to be given to Andy, Burt, Robert and Cindy. I would give each one of my personal JBG security group a coin. They had been shot at protecting me; it was the least I could do.
I had ordered as much as I could from the internet, the problem was every single package had to go to the decontamination center and be opened, inspected and tested for contact poisons before it got to me. It was a process that left everything messy.
I sent a text to Vicky, she and Ching Lee were coming over to stay with me for a couple days. ”Please bring five rolls of the Thimble Shoals gold coins and the plastic gift cases for them when you come over” I said.
I called the ethics group to send someone over – I had a couple questions I wanted answered. It was my first Christmas as President; I needed answers to issues related to me giving gifts to my staff. Did those gifts have to be reported, did the person have report them on IRS forms? Did they have to be entered on campaign or other disclosures? There was still so much to being President I had to learn.
I went back to work on the list of things to do after January fifth when the new Congress was sworn in. I started another notepad with rules and laws I wanted to have Congress change, agency by agency.
Every President loaded up the agencies with new rules and requirements that aligned with their political persuasion. Those rules were going to be reviewed and removed, either by Congress or me by executive directive.
It was 1800 when the helicopter touched down on the lawn. Not only were Ching Lee and Vicky on it, but all my mates and all the kids who were bundled up like the Pillsbury dough boy. All the mates were carrying briefcases again.
I was glad to see them and displayed my affection as soon as the door closed off the cold air. I gave each of them a gigantic hug and kisses, including the boys.
The chefs had to change the supper plans – the boys wanted Mac and Cheese and hot dogs and we all were getting a much better meal than I had planned for myself.
With Christmas just two days away, the boys were out of school. Takeo and Sara were walking and talking. Damn, when did that happen? I was missing so much of their youth, they were growing so fast.
I sent a text to Ziva that when they returned to have the things they were getting locked in one of the security closets, that all my family was here. Marcy gave me the five rolls of the coins I wanted and the cases with a presentation sheet for each one and a gift box. I placed them in my desk in the Oval Office.
Christmas cards had been made with a family portrait of all of us and sent out to all of our friends. I had missed the JBG employee Christmas party this year. I was at the G8 meeting. I was told there was plenty of food, booze and good partying. Politics in high places changes your priorities sometimes, though it didn’t make me feel any better about missing the people and friends I had worked with.
At 2000 there was an announcement that Congress had passed the budget and it was on the way over. My staff that had been following and assisting in the final numbers and negotiations assured me that everything was as I wanted. The tax increases and spending cuts were as I wanted in the final writing.
The details in the bill text would not be made public until after the first of the year when Congress came back into session to swear in the new members. That would be when the crap hit the fan with all the cuts to programs that had started out as short term help and turned into long term entitlements that were going to end. Some of them were done cold turkey – all at once – and others over two years to ease the shock.
The White House reporters on hand and the House and Senate leaders witnessed me signing the document with a dozen pens. With the signatures done, Capitol Hill was deserted in a matter of minutes. Reagan National had stayed open an extra hour so all the private jets could carry the legislators back to their home states.
Lorrie had twenty of JBG’s small jets chartered by various senators and representatives. The California and Texas group had each chartered one of the Boeing 200s and the galley was instructed to have ten cases of champagne and other alcohol on hand for the party atmosphere – all on the congressional government credit card.
Lorrie was wise and sent two flight attendants and two of JBG’s big armed security on each to keep order if necessary. The capitol police would be as drunk as the legislators by the time the flight was half way.
The pilots knew how to handle drunks, just slowly crank down on the cabin pressure and they would all be asleep within minutes. I could see a one hundred thousand dollar new carpet coming on the GAO credit card to get rid of the stains and there would be complaints about it from Congress.
The White House Christmas Party was the following afternoon. Presents were passed out to all my staff and the Secret Service group that worked my personal protection detail.
I called Kitty Winn, Connie Hines, Bobbie Canterberry, Bob Smith, Eric Roberson, Frank Love, Marty Coeburn , General Ingram, and the four joint chiefs, Vice President Harrison, Troy, Ziva, Abra, agents Tull, Carter and Brewer into the Oval Office and closed the door. I gave each of them one of the Thimble Shoals gold coins in the plastic protector and in the gift box information sheet.
Before I passed them out I said, ” I am going to give each of you a special gift for the support and friendship you have given me in this year of unprecedented events and hardship that we have had to deal with. It has been a unique year – in fact the last eighteen months has for all of us,” I said.
”From the chairperson of the task force, to Vice President, death of the President, to President, a history making treaty, a war and an election has been a terrible strain on all of us. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support , loyalty, dedication and above all the special friendship that we share and I depend on so much,” I said.
”These are valuable gifts so please don’t lose them. For obvious reasons I would like you to open these in the privacy of your home,” I said.
My family and I went to the Christmas service at the Washington Cathedral on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning we were going to open the presents that were under the tree in the private living quarters. We were going to wait until Sunday to open gifts at the house with the other family members.
To put all the agents involved with me traveling home on Christmas day we thought was totally unnecessary. The chefs were going to cook a Christmas dinner for all my family that was here with me.
After dinner Ziva, Abra and I went to the storage room and wrapped the rest of the presents they had picked up for me and placed my name tags on them. They were going home to be opened Sunday.
The rest of the family had gone to the heated presidential pool for some swimming. I used the excuse that I had a few more official things to do then I would join them in the pool.
I was able to swim and play with the boys and my mates for an hour before everyone had had enough of the water.
Christmas morning was special as all of them were. The boys were excited and ready. There had been long Christmas list from them with all the usual things growing boys wanted. The living area was a mass of excitement with bows and wrapping paper flying and the kids trying out the new toys.
By the end of the day all were played out, falling asleep shortly after supper. The rest of us were thankful for the quiet time together, it allowed intimate conversation and cuddling – something we all cherished and needed. There was no business talk; that would come tomorrow.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.