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Do We Have a Football

By wiredog in MLP
Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 10:37:47 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot by a John W. Hinckley Jr. The Day Reagan Was Shot by President Reagan's national-security adviser, Richard V. Allen in The Atlantic has transcripts of audio tapes Mr. Allen made that day of Al Haig, Caspar Weinberger, and others. They assumed from the beginning that the shooter would turn out to be a loner. They were concerned about the larger than normal number of Soviet subs off of the coast. US forces were put on higher alert, although the DefCon level was not raised. It's absolutely fascinating reading, and a good look at crisis management in action.

[editor's note, by rusty] The "football" of the title refers to the infamous briefcase containing nuclear launch codes, and the title itself is a quote from the transcripts.


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o Also by wiredog

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Do We Have a Football | 22 comments (11 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
Crisis management? (3.66 / 6) (#3)
by Signal 11 on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 11:38:02 AM EST

It doesn't become a crisis until the public hears about it. :)

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
Haig (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by rusty on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 01:44:37 PM EST

Haig really comes off like an ignorant blowhard, doesn't he? I get the feeling Allen doesn't like him very much. Despite the apologia at the end, which claims that "It is important to point out that, despite brief flare-ups and distractions, the crisis-management team in the Situation Room worked together well," the main gist of the excerpts seems to be "Everyone did their part and helped keep that nutter Haig quiet, and he still almost blew it."

Not the real rusty
Isn't that nice... (3.00 / 1) (#14)
by whatnotever on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 04:35:13 PM EST

Isn't it nice to know that even the most powerful people in the nation, in charge of all sorts of important things, are just people like you and me? Isn't it reassuring that they don't know all those little details of the Constitution, let stress and tempers get in the way of their work, and have trouble working well together, just like your average person?

No, not really.

Creepy... (4.00 / 2) (#15)
by SbooX on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 07:48:26 PM EST

I just realised that for a few hours, the US was ruled by a dictatorship. Haig seized control of the 'helm' until VP 'Daddy' Bush arrived in Washington. His control was unchallenged by those in the situation room. This action was clearly unconstitutional as the VP was still in command, even if in the air. Beyond that, the House Speaker, and Senate President Pro-tem were all ahead of him in the chain of succession. Scary, but I think Haig could technically be considered a dictator for those few hours.

What would have happened if he issued an unconstitutional order to attack the Soviet subs off of the coast?


god is silly. MGL 272:36

Vice president (3.00 / 1) (#17)
by wiredog on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 09:33:46 PM EST

Actually, Bush was out of communication. Or, at least, out of secure communication. SO it should have been the Speaker of the House in charge.

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.
[ Parent ]

well... (3.00 / 1) (#19)
by SbooX on Wed Mar 21, 2001 at 01:49:44 AM EST

Theres nothing in the constitution that says that the (acting?) president needs to be in communication, so I think that Bush would still have at least technically been in charge. The chain of succession/command only applies when someone is dead or incapable of performing their duties. Then again, IANACL (I Am Not A Constitutional Lawyer).


god is silly. MGL 272:36
[ Parent ]

I wonder (none / 0) (#20)
by ZanThrax on Wed Mar 21, 2001 at 05:56:26 AM EST

if being non-comm on a plane couldn't be argued as unable to perform in the modern world. If the soviets had been up to something, Bush wouldn't have been able to make properly informed decisions, even if they had been able to have secure phone lines. Without secure communications available, he wouldn't even have been able to find out about a situation that would require immediate resolution, like, say, that sub suddenly heading straight for the US coast. If the leader is in charge, but unnable to make decisions in a sufficiently short time frame due to situational ignorance and inability to communicate, then can he really be considered to be in charge?

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Precedence says no... (none / 0) (#21)
by SbooX on Wed Mar 21, 2001 at 10:20:48 PM EST

I think. Again, IANACL but there is a lot of precedence that says he would still be in command. The first example (that I can think of) would be Woodrow Wilson. Following WWI he became the first sitting president to leave the country. He traveled to France to work out the infamous Treaty of Versailles. This was an extremely unpopular move in the US. Since in was 1918, Wilson took a ship, which took several weeks to reach France. I would immagine that during that time he was out of communication. This was prior to the 25th ammendment though, which established the chain of command.

I would immagine that Air Force 1 lacked secure communications for a great deal of time in its history. It would be difficult to argue that those presidents traveling on Air Force One were not in command. I'm sure that there are plenty of other examples, but I'm too damn lazy to look them up.

I see your point, but constitutionally I think that the chain holds regardless of comm status. Prehaps it is something we need to reevaluate in this day and age.


god is silly. MGL 272:36
[ Parent ]

Not in any *legal* sense (none / 0) (#22)
by dhartung on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 06:27:38 AM EST

He wasn't a dictator because he didn't act contrary to the laws of the land; really, his statement was a legal nullity (and even he has always argued it was never meant the way it was taken). Now, if he'd tried to prevent Bush from getting back in the White House ...
-- Before the Harper's Index: the Harper's Hash Table
[ Parent ]
I remember it well (5.00 / 2) (#16)
by slick willie on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 09:16:20 PM EST

Probably the only other event in my lifetime that I remember as well is the Challenger disaster, but this was the first imprinted memory of my generation.

Al Haig took a public beating after the "I am in charge here" gaffe. That statement got pored over almost as much as Clinton's definition of "is."

It seems that even though Haig was blustering his way around the White House, Cap Weinberger had the Pentagon in good order, and would not have likely followed any order from Haig. At least that is my reading of the transcript.

Haig sounded like the blowhard, while Weinberger was the voice of reason.

It is an interesting read, though, to see what happened behind the scenes. Hmmmm....that might make an interesting piece of historical fiction: Reagan dies, and in the resulting confusion, someone cries havoc and lets slip the dogs of war.

"...there is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit."
--Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address

NPR (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by wiredog on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 09:37:40 PM EST

Has an interview

Thanks to gorlim for the link!

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.

Do We Have a Football | 22 comments (11 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
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