We are not talking about Joe Montana, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time (sorry, Tom). We are talking about Joe Biden, categorically the worst president of all time.
Joe’s football weighs a hefty forty-five pounds. It is not composed of pigskin and compressed air. Instead black leather and aluminum hold classified papers and a satellite radio set.
The papers provide information ranging from the relatively mundane to the apocalyptic. Stapled sheets instruct how to use the emergency broadcast system. Loose leaf papers in one binder list secure sites for continuing the government. A second binder, the “Black Book,” lists nuclear strike options. This list can run to seventy-five pages.
The football, or Presidential Emergency Satchel, has existed since the Eisenhower administration. The football is carried by a military aide and should accompany the president at all times. The football gives the president the ability to order a nuclear strike regardless of his location.
A strike order can launch a single nuclear-tipped cruise missile or a full retaliatory barrage of ICBMs. With macabre humor, a former White House official described the incineration power of an order as varying between “rare, medium, or well done.”
On his person, the president is supposed to carry a plastic card nicknamed “the biscuit.” If the president issues a nuclear strike order, alphanumeric codes on the biscuit will authenticate his identity.
In other administrations, the biscuit and the president have become separated. President Carter left his biscuit in a suit coat that was sent to the cleaners. After President Reagan was shot, his card ended up inside one of his shoes at the hospital. President Clinton, in his typically irresponsible manner, lost his card and didn’t tell the Pentagon for several months (thankfully the Cold War was over).
To foil an interloper, valid as well as invalid codes reside on the biscuit. The president must memorize the location of the valid codes. The current president could have trouble remembering the correct location. Perhaps Dr. Jill helps him with that.
Initiation and execution of a nuclear strike would generally proceed as described below (STRATCOM is the United States Strategic Command).
If the President did choose to respond with a nuclear attack, he would identify himself to military officials at the Pentagon with codes unique to him. These codes are recorded on an ID card, known as the “biscuit,” that the President carries at all times. He would then transmit the launch order to the Pentagon and STRATCOM. The Secretary of Defense would possibly contribute to the process by confirming that the order came from the President, but this role could also be filled by an officer in the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon. STRATCOM would implement the order by preparing to launch the weapons needed for the selected option. According to Bruce Blair, an expert on U.S. command and control, once the order is “transmitted to the war room, they would execute it in a minute or so.”
As General Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA noted, the system “is designed for speed and decisiveness. It’s not designed to debate the decision.”
Relay of the order is governed by the two-man rule. That is, it takes the approval of two authenticated individuals for the order to proceed down the chain of command. This ensures that no one person, deranged or not, can initiate a nuclear strike.
Well, almost. The commander-in-chief is the exception. The two-man rule does not apply to him. Quoting former Vice-President Dick Cheney:
“[The president] … doesn’t have to check with anybody. He doesn’t have to call the Congress. He doesn’t have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in.”
So we come to the crux of the matter.
The crux is not whether an increasingly addled, inept, frustrated, and callous Joe Biden would order a nuclear strike. This summer, the pressures on him have grown immensely. The months of fall and winter promise no relief. This president is likely close to the cracking point, if he has not already arrived.
The crux is whether the chain of command would follow through on a strike order issued by this president? Especially if the strike was not in response to an attack, but motivated by the need for Joe to lash out at his tormentors?
The compliance to the insane order to abandon Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan provides a nauseating clue. The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and everyone down the chain had to know the order would result in catastrophe, but they obeyed anyway. Not a single soul resigned in protest.
Joe, of course, would not order a strike against the true enemies of the United States. The heinous regimes of Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela have little to fear. Who, then, would seething Joe move against?
His domestic opponents make for the most tempting target. Has not Joe already referred to those who would take on his administration as needing F-15s and nuclear weapons? Meaning “I’ve got them and you don’t.” Opposition in the country to his authoritarian (and unworkable) policies and proposals is growing. Reaction to his six-point vaccine mandate is the latest example.
From the Supreme Court to the red states to certain Democratic senators he is meeting determined resistance. His poll numbers are nosediving. He is mocked and ridiculed as never before. Even the formerly fawning media is heaping on criticism.
Joe could escape all this by tendering his resignation.
Or he could, in his addled anger (here and here), order strikes against the red states where reside the most resolute of his opponents. Qualifying areas of purple states could also make the attack list.
Precision strikes could vaporize the deplorables (with the well done option) while sparing blue urban areas. Such gratifying action would provide the extra benefit of securing forever a Democrat lock on Congress and the Electoral College.
How would the chain of command react to such orders? Especially if the orders were framed as necessary to counter widespread insurrection and treason?
To even ask the question shows the dangerous pickle we are in. Woke warriors Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley might applaud the order. Those officers below could well obey, to save their careers and pensions, and to further demonstrate how little they now adhere to the concept of Duty, Honor, Country.
Far fetched? Perhaps.
In the recent past, the Democrats have introduced legislation requiring the president to obtain the consent of Congress before ordering a nuclear launch and also to forbid him from ordering a first strike. These proposed laws were aimed squarely at Donald Trump. Republican opposition killed them. The Republicans probably now regret that.
As a postscript, we should note the vice-president is also issued a football.
Clayton Spann | Columnist
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