I ordered a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with tomato soup and unsweetened tea with Splenda. The General ordered a steak sandwich, American fries and coke. While we waited for them to be prepared, we discussed the media demands to allow reporters to now go to Iran and view the reconstruction.
With the levels of troops now where we wanted them and things reasonably calm, we decided to give in to the pressure.
”Give me a few minutes and I will write out the rules, conditions and limitations for the media to make the visit and you can review them,” I said.
What the General didn’t know was that I had several conversations with Hanna and Melinda about the media visitations to Iran. I was several steps ahead of him.
I had the perfect candidates for coordinators and liaison. I sent them a text to be here at 1300 when Harry was to give the afternoon briefing.
Back at my desk I finished out the list of ideas and waited. The General reviewed them before nodding and leaving. Then Connie and I fine-tuned them and she typed them up and made three copies.
I spent the next forty-five minutes on a call to Prime Minister Attenborough about the base realignment and consolidation that was being discussed. I had told him that I would call when I had more information, so I did.
I ordered donuts and coffee for the news group but told the Secret Service to hold them behind the divider until I was ready to attend.
Melinda and Hanna came in the front entrance and were led to the Oval Office.
”Well girls, have you recovered from the Christmas and the New Year’s celebrations yet?” I asked.
”OH yes, but I don’t think you invited us to come here to find that out,” Hanna said.
”You are right, I didn’t,” I said.
”I’m wondering if you had thought any more about the proposal we had talked about. Were you able to come up with any accumulated days off or could you get time off?” I asked.
”I want you to be the coordinators for me, if you are up for a challenge. This time you will be paid. You could even rotate one of you there a week and then the other, even reporting for your station while you are there,” I said.
”I have agreed to allow the White House press group to go to Iran to report on the reconstruction. I need someone to coordinate and ride herd over them. You have been in the field with my men. You know the risks that are there and the challenges,” I said.
”You know the things you can and cannot do. It is still a very dangerous place. Saying the wrong things and asking the wrong questions of the wrong people may still get you killed,” I said.
”I gave you the language programs weeks ago. I hope you took the hint and have been learning. There will still be an interpreter and a couple of guards and transportation supplied,” I said.
”We will use the draft that they like so much. Two reporters and two camera men along with you and your camera man will make up one group,” I said.
I handed them the folder with the rules and guidelines. The two groups of six would leave Sunday morning from Dover on a government jet and arrive in Iran early Monday morning. They would spend six days on the ground in Iran.
”You would land at one of the military airports and be carried to one of the daily briefings. They would be allowed to question officials at those briefings. From there they would be assigned bunks in a military non-segregated barracks. At that time, they would be given a set of geographic areas that they could chose to report on, based on security,” I said.
”A driver/guard and an interpreter would be assigned to each reporter team. They are to return to the barracks before dark. Your group would get no special treatment, food or housing accommodations,” I said.
”All individuals will have to have all the required vaccinations, passports and be limited on the amount of baggage,” I added.
”My sister Sherry will take over for me while I am doing this project. Grand Pop has been working her at the station on special interest projects. This will be her chance to expand. So, I am in,” Hanna said.
”As long as I can give news reports from there, my bosses will work with me. So, count me in too,” Melinda said.
”I am glad to hear that because it’s going to be implemented quickly. Look the over the rules – we can make changes now. Then we will go out and make the announcement at the 1400 press conference,” I said.
”Connie had printed out the vaccination requirements for you to pass out to get the conversation started. The outside media people as well as the White House press group will be eligible,” I said.
I waited as they read over the rules and limitations and read them myself. I was satisfied with them.
There was a scheduling office for the Air Force for transportation between military bases on a first come first served based on space available. It was used to shuttle DOD personnel from one base to another under non-emergency conditions with available aircraft seating.
Connie had contacted them and there was a C17 freight flight out of Dover to Tehran leaving Saturday at noon with seats for the first media teams.
At 1345 the media groups were notified of the joint news briefing to allow the inside and outside media to get into the media center. The Secret Service was setting up the donut/coffee table as they were coming in.
”I have a quick announcement to make then I need to go. I have decided to allow media access to Iran. Hanna Page and Melinda Schaffer are going to be the coordinators and White House liaisons and they will accompany the media on the visits. That said, I will turn this over to them to explain how they are going to work it,” I said.
”Thanks Madam President,” Hanna said.
”Melinda is passing out several handouts that you need to look over. One is the vaccinations that are recommended for travel to Iran. The second the geographic areas that are open to visiting reporters, as you can see they are divided into areas that you can choose to visit,” Hanna said.
”As you can see by the handout, all of Iran will be open, barring any possible security issues at the time of your visit. You can only choose one location to report out of for the seven day period because of logistics,” Hanna said.
”The visits will be for seven days. When available, transportation will be by military transport planes that are making routine deliveries. The plane departing this Saturday will be at Dover Air Force Base. Departure time has not been scheduled yet,” Melinda said.
”Each team in the field, consisting of one reporter and one cameraman, will be assigned one security guard and one driver. You will report back to the same base for overnight lodging, meals and laundry. What you can carry will be determined by your ability to be responsible for it. No laborers are going to be assigned to you,” Melinda said.
”Currently there are no restrictions of where you can go, see or who you can interview. Currently you will be able to carry a personal weapon for added protection, provided you have had an approved safety course and can demonstrate proficiency with it,” Melinda said.
”As you know, I have been shot in the field, so I intend to carry. Hanna and I both have been through the JBG weapons training course and suggest that you take a course,” Melinda said.
”Those of you wanting to go will be chosen by lottery. There is space for four news teams plus Melinda her camera man and me and my camera man on Saturday and each Saturday thereafter until all of you that wish to have made the journey. Melinda and I will be responsible for two media teams,” Hanna said.
“We will take a ten-minute break at this point, so you can get approval from your news desk,” Melinda said.
After the break, ”If you are interested in going Saturday, put your White House ID in the bucket Melinda is holding and Harry will pull four names,” Hanna said as everyone returned.
An agent came out from behind the divider with one of those bingo cages that volunteer organizations used at fund raisers. Melinda dumped the bucket of ID’s into it and turned the crank several revolutions, giving them a good mix up.
”Harry, please pull four ID’s,” Hanna said.
”John Day, ABC news,” Hanna said.
”Howard Croswell, AP news,” Hanna said.
”Amanda Purcell, UPI,” Hanna said.
”Laurence Palmer, NBC news,” Hanna said.
”While you were on break the departure time was established, you need to meet Hanna and me at the main gate at Dover Air Force Base 0800 Saturday morning,” Melinda said.
”If you need guidance, see Hanna or me and we will try to get everything together,” Melinda said.
”There will be a drawing every Monday to give the next group a few days to pack and get things in order,” Melinda said.
I walked back into the media center just as Melinda and Hanna were finishing up.
”If there are any questions about visits to Iran I will see that Hanna and Melinda get them,” I said.
”Madam President, do you have a response to the challenge of the extra unemployment benefits cuts in the courts? The one the unemployed workers union and the ACLU have filed suit against to reinstate?” one said.
”The elimination of the pandemic enhanced unemployment payments that should have been done years ago was part of a constitutional process called ‘The Budget’. The Constitution clearly describes the process that all spending originates in the House and then to the Senate. That process is followed up by the budget being signed into law by the President,” I said.
”I believe that it would be unconstitutional for a lower court federal judge to overrule that process when Congress had spent tens of thousands of hours debating and formulating that budget based on constitutional guidelines,” I said.
”There seems to be no end to federal judges that think judgeship gives them the power to legislate from the bench. Of course, attorneys hunt for judges they think would be sympathetic to their cause,” I said.
”Vice President Harrison and I have discussed at length such a possibility and I have consulted with the group of constitutional experts that I go to for advice when I have questions. Should that situation arise, I have an outline of actions to oppose such a ruling,” I said.
”The base cuts and cuts to other programs and the wealth tax looks to be sizable, will they balance the budget?” another asked.
”They may not balance the budget completely but combined with other funding changes it will be close. The markets must think so – stocks are up more than average today,” I said.
”What’s going to happen to the closed military bases?” another said.
”I believe the plan – at this time – is to move them to a standby status. That is to keep the grass cut, electric on and in a condition ready to be activated in thirty days or less. Some of them may be sold but at the current time, that just speculation on my part,” I said.
”The manned mission to Mars so far looks good and there have been few problems. How long does this administration plan to continue the project? Former President Thomas was against the mission.”
”I think it is a wait and see thing. The original funding was for five years and we are only in the third year of that. Successful outcomes of each phase of the mission will give it strength as we move forward. A string of failures would not encourage longevity of the program,” I answered.
”I have faith in American engineering, the pioneering spirit and the courage and bravery of the crew up there. It’s been a long ride for them and the successes are very encouraging,” I said.
”There are a couple major pieces of the Mars station assembly happening in the next few weeks; that will be the deciding factor,” I said.
”Word is you may be going back to Russia soon, any thoughts on that?” the API reporter asked.
”We are at another milestone in the reduction treaty. I may make the trip to celebrate reaching that milestone with President Orbatch. The continued progress is very encouraging. Both our nations are ahead of schedule and should be in full compliance earlier than the deadline,” I said.
”There have been several minor agreements that will strengthen trade between our nations. There are several major agreements that will be signed when President Orbatch and I meet. Several manufactures are completing military factory conversions to auto parts and equipment for export to the US. Those factories were slated to be built in China,” I said.
”The move strengthens our supply chain with diversity in the source of supply. It will also mean more trade for the east coast ports, giving relief to those on the west coast that are overwhelmed.”
”That’s all the time I have for now. Let’s do this again,” I said.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.