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On Air Force One enroute to Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, President Ford briefed President-elect Henry “Scoop” Jackson on the military action that had been put into motion overnight in the Caribbean. With Inauguration Day rapidly closing in it was important to keep the incoming commander-in-chief fully appraised to ensure that chaos would not result during the ongoing operations. “There is a certain element of surprise that results from doing this during the transition,” the President said. “So it redounds to our benefit, but it requires a careful hand-off.”

This invasion of Barbuda, like so many other things initiated by Jerry Ford during his truncated term of office (which was simply the second half of Nixon’s second term) seemed very uncharacteristic for a man so many people from both parties had once characterized as open and honest. But the simple truth was that he was a nice man who was easily manipulated by other men who were not open and honest by any stretch of the imagination. That characteristic which made Ford such an obviously “safe” choice for Vice-President by Richard Nixon also made him fall inexorably under the thumb of Vice-President Earl Roland.

From the air base a motorcade took the two leaders to Mount Rushmore in a little less than an hour. After admiring the monument, which was always far more impressive in person than in any photograph, President Ford invited Jackson to stand at a podium under the granite faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt and participate in a press conference.

President Ford: As some of your organizations have already reported, the armed forces of the United States are taking action on the island of Barbuda in operation ‘Caribbean Rage,’ which I green-lighted shortly before midnight last night. The rogue island state of Barbuda is a haven for organized crime which broke off from Antigua but this secession has never been recognized by the United States or most of the civilized world, including Antigua itself. Barbuda is the sole source of the contraband technology known as the micro which enables users to steal films and music and threatens the large segment of the American economy that relies on the protection of intellectual property. I also hold Barbuda responsible for the ongoing low-level conflict waged by the Church of End Dome against the United States since the 1940s, and I hold President Vargas personally responsible. That is, briefly, where things stand now. At this time I would like to take a moment of silence as I ask all Americans of good will in this great nation of ours to pray for the troops who are in harm’s way tonight, and also for their families.

The President bowed his head for a decent interval, then looked back up.

Ford: Now I’m ready to answer a few questions. If you wish to direct some questions at the President-elect as well, feel free to do so.

There was a cacophony of reporters shouting names simultaneously as the President scanned the crowd for the least hostile journalist, the ones who could be counted on to throw “softballs.” If they had a reputation for asking embarrassing questions the President tended to pass them over, so part of the job of being a White House reporter was in crafting questions that were soft enough to be palatable to the President while being meaty enough to elicit information of substance.

Reporter #1: Mr. President, Operation Caribbean Rage seems to be very similar to what we did when we went into Vietnam a decade ago. How can you assure the American people that we’re not getting into a similar quagmire in Barbuda?

Ford: I don’t want to get in the position in Barbuda that my predecessors were with respect to Vietnam, where the Pentagon came to them with a very honest estimate of when they thought we could finish. And they turned out to be wrong about that. They were not able to stabilize the situation as quickly as they thought they could. But this business with the Church of End Dome in our own country is not helping matters any. So I can just tell you that I think that we have tried to limit our involvement in Barbuda. We have tried to limit our mission, and we will conclude it as quickly as we can. I think that in all these cases, you have to ask yourself, what will be the cost and the duration of involvement and the consequences if we do not move? And I have asked myself that question as well. I’m very concerned that the politicians in the other party who want to chip away at the idea of a re-unified Antiqua and Barbuda will be able to do it principally because we’re not able to show the benefits of unification to ordinary American citizens.

Jackson: If I may add, speaking as a ‘politician in the other party’ it seems to me that the most important thing we can do once we stabilize the situation in the aftermath of the operation to liberate Barbuda is to try to get beyond the military operation so that we can go on with the business of rebuilding the common institutions of the island and possibly get more economic opportunity there.

Another thing that had evolved over the last few decades was the tradition of a reporter asking two questions simultaneously, which sometimes, if the President’s answer to the first one went to some length, required that the reporter repeat his second question. How few times a President asked for the second question to be repeated was an informal indication of how sharp his mind was. President Ford always needed to be reminded. By the middle of his first term reporters had all learned to ask no more than one question at a time. Ford had been selected by Nixon to replace Agnew as “impeachment insurance” knowing that Congress could never stomach Ford in the top job, but all that was before the “smoking gun” tape surfaced.

Reporter #2: Mr. President, are American ground troops being used in operation Caribbean Rage, and if they are, how many?

Ford: No. The ground troops are from the Antiguan Reunification Force, who have been training here in the United States for over a year. The only American troops touching down on Barbuda are the Marine helicopter pilots who are ferrying the Antiguan forces in from sea, and even then it is only briefly as they drop off seven of them at a time and go back to pick up more. Now these helicopters and their carriers are supported by the USS Richard Nixon supercarrier task force off the coast of Barbuda and Antigua. Already the airport has been liberated, and we expect to learn shortly of the capture of President Vargas.

Jackson: I might add that Barbuda has quite a reputation as a haven for underworld drug money, money laundering, and as Round Robyn’s favorite off-shore banking locale. I hope the new Organization of the Nations of Earth, despite the United States not being a member of ONE, will come to see the necessity of it and ratify what the President has done. I certainly support the President in this action.

Reporter #3: Mr. President, if the invasion of Barbuda succeeds, what will happen to their money and their facilities for producing micros?

Ford: Operation Caribbean Rage includes the seizure of all of Church of End Dome assets in Barbuda. The liberation of Barbuda will be paid by Barbuda, it will not be a burden on the American taxpayer in any way. Second, we are using the liberated cash to set up a special fund to support the families of the victims of the safe house seizure operations here in the United State. While no monetary amount can replace a husband, I feel that a generous financial compensation is in order. Third, $2.5 billion dollars have been earmarked for rebuilding the affected neighborhoods. The remainder goes to Antigua to settle claims that arose when Barbuda illegally struck out on its own.

Reporter #4: Mr. President, why does your Administration continue to try to seize Church of End Dome tabernacles in cities all across America despite violent resistance which is turning entire neighborhoods into war zones?

Ford: Round Robyn has stated there are seven hundred of these C of ED so-called ‘tabernacles’ globally, and we have reason to believe that this is accurate, and that at least half are in the United States, but we have only uncovered about fifty of them. Those fifty have come under siege because for all intents and purposes the country is in a state of war with the Church of End Dome. That they seem to be defended with truly fanatical resistance merely shows how dangerous a cult the Church of End Dome really is. That still leaves three hundred or so in this country that we don’t know about. That’s still quite a network.

Jackson: Remember too that they run many unlicensed health care facilities under the aegis of ‘Cryoscan’ which we believe pose a serious threat to public safety. So the fifty raids to date are only the beginning, I’m afraid to say. Unquestionably, there are risks in law enforcement action. American first responders will be in harm’s way. The Church of End Dome has taken strong measures to defend their terrorist sanctuaries. But we must weigh those risks against the risks of inaction. If we don’t act, the war will spread. If it spreads, we will not be able to contain it without far greater risk and cost.

Reporter #5: Mr. President, could you tell the American people, what is your own take on who or what the Church of End Dome really is?

Ford: I think they are a dangerous religious sex cult. We know they date back to about 1870, and we know they stole atomic secrets from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation during World War Two. We have reason to believe the Church of End Dome, headed by a woman named Robyn at that time, was a communist front organization. The FBI raided her ‘temple’ in 1944 but the terrorists set fire to their own structure to hide the evidence.

Jackson: We also know that a different woman has come forward claiming to be that self-same Robyn, perhaps reincarnated like the Dali Lama. So the public came to know her as ‘Round Robyn,’ but this person was more of an ongoing franchise than a real woman. We aren’t very clear on how this mind-control cult brainwashes rich men and women into turning over all their worldly goods, but it can’t be denied that the Church of End Dome is very, very good at convincing them to do so.

Reporter #6: Mr. President, in the past, the United States government has placed export restrictions on certain forms of technology such as encryption which it deemed vital to ensure national security, but this Administration’s ban on micros is the first time the US has banned the import of technology. What was your overriding concern when you signed the order for that ban?

Ford: I banned the import of micros because they have become primarily a means by which to steal movies and music and other forms of intellectual property. We don’t entirely understand how they do it, but if a member of the upper management of Astrodyne simply watches a film or listens to a record or attends a concert, without any visible cameras or tape recorders carried about their body, that record or film or concert will appear on the Swarm immediately, free for anyone to watch or listen to without buying a ticket.

Jackson: Also it was shown in a recent court case that even the software used to run micros is copied wholesale from a legitimate company from the Seattle area called Winspire. In my Administration I will treat this sort of theft as seriously as President Ford does now.

Reporter #7: My question is for President-elect Jackson. Currently about twenty five percent of electricity, globally, is generated by what Astrodyne calls macros. For over twenty years, this technology has proven to be entirely safe, and remarkably affordable yet the United States, alone among the developed nations of the world, refuses to license macros to operate in a full scale power plant. Will this continue to be the policy of the incoming Administration?

Jackson: In my transition briefing I have learned that the United States does indeed have macro power, on a modest scale, as demonstration projects in each of the fifty states. But I object to your characterization of the macro power plants as entirely safe. Certainly they do not produce waste as it is traditionally known in the form of radiation or dirty water or harmful smoke, I’ll grant you that, but after the steam from the macros is run through the turbines it is dumped into the environment and so there is the inevitable production of waste heat. We have heard testimony to the effect that this warm water waste will cause the oceans to rise precipitously over the course of the next few centuries. Unless this concern can be adequately addressed by Astrodyne, and I do not see how, the Department of Energy will not authorize them to scale up their operations in this country over the course of my presidency.

Reporter #8: Mr. President, I’d like to focus on President-elect Jackson’s comment that the oceans will rise as a result of the macros being used throughout the world. There are reports that global sea-levels have, in fact, been perceptibly declining over the last few years and this might be linked to a strange whirlpool that satellite imagery from China and the Soviet Union indicates has formed between New Zealand and Tasmania.

Ford: I have been asked this question before, so allow me to reiterate that the imagery of a so-called whirlpool is being misinterpreted. It is, in fact, probably the largest spill of toxic waste in history. I have sent naval forces to cordon off the area because I consider it a crime scene, and I believe the evidence will show this is the secret dumping ground used by Astrodyne to hide the waste generated by their macros. If this proves to be the case, then the world will clearly see that we are dealing with terrorists. Barbuda ‘oversight’ of Church of End Dome operations is entirel a figment. It’s all a scam. So now, by holding Barbuda responsible for the conflict with the United States, this will have a definite deterrent effect on other pissant little banana republics providing a diplomatic umbrella to terrorists.

Reporter #9: My question is for President Ford. We have just heard President-elect Jackson state that he will continue your go-slow approach to macro power in the United States, so why is your Administration acting in such a way that there will be no macro power plants in this country at all?

Ford: My question back to you, Miss Anonymous Reporter, is where did you hear that I am shutting down the plants? I have made no such decision. There has been no such announcement.

Reporter #9: Actually, Mr. President, I am making the decision to shut four of them them down right now, as I speak, in response to the simultaneous federal raids on the macro plants in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana that are ongoing at this very moment. So I guess this press conference right here constitutes the announcement.

Ford: And who are you?

Reporter #9: Church of End Dome number two gal. Call me Hunky. My follow up question is for the incoming President. If you are just going to carry on the policies of the current President, why’d you bother to run? Why not just let the current President have a second full term?

The President made a hand sign to a Secret Service squad, pointed at Hunky, and before the cameras and the eyes of the top reporters in the country, she was handcuffed and led away. In the awkward silence that followed the President stormed away from the podium, ending the question-and-answer session without a further word and leaving the President-elect to scramble for a way to end the session in something less than a farce.

Jackson: Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, please take another look at the granite faces of the great men behind and above me. No one, I think, can hang a label of left or right, liberal or conservative on any of them. These men were members of their party, to be sure, but they were not partisan. President Ford is taking the extraordinary action of making sure this transition of power will be as smooth as possible, while at the same time defending the national interests. I for one will certainly do the same thing when my term of office is over, and I hope it becomes a new tradition. Thank you, and God bless the United States of America.

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