Safe in the Shadows

The last anxious White House staff member had just left the Oval Office. The President shook his head and mused. How did I ever agree to hire these frightened people? There is not a free thinker among them. If I had another election facing me, I’d call David and get rid of the entire bunch. Axelrod is the best strategist in my administration. We’ve made some mistakes. But I won the election. Without being able to delay and misdirect inquiries about Ben Ghazi, the IRS, the media outrage over phone tapping and NSA’s intercepting phone calls between citizens and their Internet activities, I might not be sitting here. There’s a lot of garbage I have to deal with but I like sitting here. Maybe it is time to make some cuts.

Eric Holder has lost his mind. I like the guy, but where is his common sense? Some cuts might buy some more time. Clapper should also go. How can the Director of National Intelligence be so dumb? God, I forgot about the press conference I agreed to tomorrow. I hate those damned things. They keep dredging up the past and ignore my push to kill the coal industry and focus on climate control. I can’t believe I want to see that old man in the underground office. He doesn’t mince words but he’s clearly giving me straight advice and there’s no danger of him leaking anything about our talks. I wish I could move him up here with me. 

Still muttering, the President rang for Chris Hammond, his Secret Service detail chief. Another person he trusted. He wanted Chris to take him down to the weird office in the tunnel to see the Advisor again.

Again the impeccably dressed old man met the President at the door. “Welcome, Mr. President. Is it too late for coffee?”

“It’s never too late for the coffee you serve. May I have a cigarette with it?”

“Yes, of course, this is after all an office established to serve you. In the past when government was much smaller, this office even took direct action outside to serve the President. It has been a while since that capability has been used. I think the last time was in the first few years of  Franklin Roosevelt’s last term. But you came here today about Ben Ghazi. How much time do you have?”

The President turned to Chris and said “Knock after 30 minutes.”

The old man escorted the President to the small table and poured coffee while the President lit a cigarette and sat back, exhaling. “You know I’m feeling relaxed here, even though I know I’m not going to like what you say.”

“Mr. President, I can not help you if I’m not truthful. It is not my mission to be critical, just to give you my best unbiased advice. I have no other agenda. Shall we begin?”

The President nodded. The Advisor said, “First let me state the common accepted facts.  Ben Ghazi was and is a dangerous place. Your Ambassador, the CIA, the Red Cross, the British, and almost everyone that knew anything about Ben Ghazi agreed it was a dangerous place with terrorist units growing in power. In particular, your State Department, counter to your Ambassador’s request, withdrew security forces from Libya resulting in a very reduced security situation. The Libyan situation on the ground was no threat to your re-election until your staff made it one. The American people do not expect miracles from their President. They do expect that what comes out of the White House has your approval and that they can trust the information. Shall I continue?” The President said, “Yes. That’s why I’m here. The coffee and the ability to get away from my own staff helps. I can’t say I like what I hear, but what you say has the ring of truth.”

The President lit another cigarette and refilled his cup, waiting for the Advisor to continue. The aroma of the rich black coffee and cigarette smoke filled the room. The President brought his focus back to the Advisor’s clear and measured voice and heard, “Your Defense Department contributed to the harm to your presidency. They had no agreed upon contingency plan to protect the people in Ben Ghazi. Nothing was in place ready to go on the Anniversary of 9/11. How dumb can they be? Their excuse is that there wasn’t enough time and too much confusion on the scene in Ben Ghazi. Both statements are false. No one knew how long the battle would last and there were drones over Ben Ghazi relying real-time information back to the Pentagon, the CIA, the State Department, and the White House Situation Room. In addition, two Navy seals with extensive combat experience and the ability to locate and illuminate mortar and machine gun positions and communicate the locations to the designated commands. I know something about combat from Korea and Vietnam. The tactical and strategic information in the hands of war fighters doesn’t get much more detailed or timely.

“Your Secretary of State and the timid commanders in your Defense Department let you down. My advice is to recognize this, get rid of the players who failed, and admit, in all the confusion, you sent your Ambassador to the UN out to provide a story that would cover the mistakes made by your Cabinet. Recognizing al-Qaeda still had teeth in Libya won’t harm you. Continuing to protect the incompetence around you will. The staff that produced the now famous ‘talking points’ must not have had your best interests at heart. You can end the damaging inquires and investigations by taking this advice. Your poll numbers will reflect the correctness of this approach. Lastly, note Saul Alinsky was never the President. His tactics may  have been helpful in getting elected, but you are now much wiser than he ever was about governing. When you are President every issue is the issue. His teaching that the issue is never the issue is only relevant to those trying to seize power. You have all the power you are ever going to have. The people judge their leaders exactly by how they handle issues. When you’re at bat, being called out on strikes doesn’t improve your image.”

The President stared at the Advisor, ground out his cigarette and said, “I must be nuts for coming here. I want to bring some of my key players down here to meet you.”

“That, Mr. President, is  something I can not do for you. You can bring any one you want here, but my protocol requires that I not be here and this office will be empty. The door you opened will not open if anyone is with you. Sorry but I must follow the rules laid down in President Lincoln’s time. What would you like to discuss next time?”

“Discuss is hardily the word. You do all the talking.”

“Not so. You do all the talking outside this room. If you don’t want my insights, just don’t come.  I can’t fix your staff. In fact no one can fix stupid, but you have the power to get rid of them.”

“If I come back I want your lecture on the NSA’s data mining program and later why you are afraid of a larger federal government.”

The Advisor walked the President to the door and opened it, saying, “I am always at your service.”

The author of the Jack Brandon novels is a Korean War veteran and served in the Vietnam War as a CIA agent who has 27 years of

Meeting with President Reagan, Vice President Bush, Deputy National Security Adviser Frank Carlucci and General Colin Powell in the Oval Office.

Meeting with President Reagan, Vice President Bush, Deputy National Security Adviser Frank Carlucci and General Colin Powell in the Oval Office.

government service, including two years serving President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s as an advisor. Considering today’s volatile political situation, you are encouraged to share this blog with others and to send your comments and opinions to the author. http://www.factsandfictions.com.


Filed under Intelligence & Politics


  1. John Nugent

    Be interesting to see what advice would be given on the unconstitutional delay for a year in implementing the Health Care Act. It seems, such delays are not within the executive office’s perogative.

    • Barry Kelly

      No, John, they are not. The problem here is not President Obama but the weak leadership in the House that seems to be fearful of exercising its Constitutional powers. The Speaker doesn’t understand what is happening. In this case the Advisor would say, “Mr. President it is obvious that the House is not going to challenge Executive law making. They, in fact, are giving you more power than ever before. Be careful not to overstep because you can.”

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