Anatomy of a Column
eggy Noonan looked quizzically at the instructions of assembly for the new bicycle she was gifting herself for Christmas, her goal being to become fit for the new year, and took a deep quaff of her libation for both strength and courage in these trying times.
“One needs a better translation from the Chinese to understand these things,” she muttered darkly as she looked for something called a Hex wrench in the piles of metal thingies scattered about the Aviary 2, her new, grand penthouse, so spacious and chic. “But at least it wasn’t translated by the strange sign-language impostor at the Mandela memorial,” she giggled to herself.
Turning to her life-sized cut out of Ronald Wilson Reagan, the greatest president of the last half of the last century, she muttered his name…
“My worries came home with a certain freshness after the Mandela memorial, where the United States Secret Service allowed the president of the United States to stand for 19 minutes next to the famous sign-language interpreter who, it was quickly revealed, was not only a fraud but a schizophrenic con man who is now said to have been involved in two deaths.”
She took a sip of refreshment and stared deep into Dutch’s eyes. He blinked back at her, or so it seemed. Her birdlike hand flew up to her ever-present pearl necklace, a gift from the great man himself.
Ronnie’s voice filled the vast spaces of the penthouse, or at least her head. “Well, Mommie, er, Peggy, you know that virtually every head of government from the world was there, so it’s not exactly that you can blame his White House for this.”
Her stare broke and she looked downward at his cordovans, and whispered:
“In fairness, the event was in another country and the Secret Service wasn’t strictly in charge.”
Noonan perked up, and took a sip of her Mai Tai and said sprightly to the cardboard cut out,
“That said, it still looks like very basic negligence, as if no one is keeping enough of an eye on the Secret Service, no one’s checking the quality of the advance or sending emails asking: “Hey, what do we know about the sign language guy — any chance he’s a mentally ill criminal?”
Noonan clambered up from the floor, steadied herself, and marched into the kitchen to replenish her refreshment, and noticed that the bacon-wrapped cocktail weenies she nuked an hour ago were still in the machine. She re-nuked them, and called out to Ronnie,
“I’m worried, finally, that lines of traditionally assumed competence are being dropped. The past few weeks I can’t shake from my head this picture: The man with the football — the military aide who carries the U.S. nuclear codes, and who travels with the president — is carrying the wrong code. He’s carrying last month’s code, or the one from December 2012.
Ronnie seemed to groan, but Noonan soldiered on. “Hear me out, Chief, she said,
“And there’s a crisis — a series of dots on a radar screen traveling toward the continental U.S. — and the president is alerted. He’s in the holding room at a fundraiser out west.”
“Fundraising is a big part of the job, Peggy,” Ronnie grinned at her.
“The man with the football is called in and he fumbles around in his briefcase and gets the code but wait, the date on the code is wrong. He scrambles, remembers there’s a file on his phone, but the phone ran out on the plane and he thought he could recharge in the holding room but there’s no electrical outlet. All eyes turn to him.
“I remember this movie!,” Reagan gleamed happily at her. “It was a rip-snorter, wasn’t it? I don’t remember my leading lady in it. Was it Nancy?”
Noonan shuddered upon hearing her idol mention her rival’s name so fondly. She continued on,
“Wait — wait. No — uh — I don’t think that’s the code we use to launch against incoming from North Korea, I think that one takes out Paris!”
“But… but, Peggy, the nuclear launch codes have been the same since Truman was in office, all zeros. Even that drunk Bush kid could remember that one…”