It's a gorgeous autumn day in Georgetown. The Democratic candidates for president and vice-president of the United States are dutifully glad-handing voters and the media outside a grand estate where a national security conference has just been held, bringing together the world's greatest minds to discuss the issues that are threatening the country. Read more...
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
- Date: Oct 2006
From the book
Irene Kennedy looked out at the white landscape from her seventh-floor office. Three fresh inches of snow had fallen overnight. The capital had a majestic winter wonderland feel to it when it snowed. It tended to be the kind of wet, heavy snow that coated every branch, statue, and park bench. The city looked frozen in time, and in a sense it was. A lame-duck president occupied 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the president-elect was one week away from taking his oath of office. Traditionally, the only business that got done the week before the inauguration was the business of pardons. Lawyers, lobbyists, and big-money players lined up to ask the president to forgive someone for a crime they had committed, or been accused of committing. Politics had gotten so rough that sometimes just being a friend of the president could bring about the unwanted attention of a special prosecutor. With that attention also came a mountain of legal bills. It was quickly becoming a tradition for outgoing presidents to wave a magic wand and make these legal problems go away. Pardons could also be about bricks and mortar. A new presidential library needed to be built, and they were not cheap. With this president, however, it was mostly about setting things right.
This should have been on Kennedy's mind, but it wasn't. As director of the Central Intelligence Agency she should have been lobbying for a blanket pardon herself, but her mind was occupied with the here and now. This transition period between presidential administrations was always stressful, but even more so this time. The nation was without decisive and focused leadership until the new administration took over, and that left them vulnerable. To make matters worse, the word was out that the new administration was going to clean house. This was no surprise to Kennedy. She knew the minute the election results came in that she was out of a job. Actually, she knew several weeks earlier when the CIA's Global Ops Center called to alert her of the attack on that Saturday in late October.
The motorcade of presidential candidate Josh Alexander had been hit by a car bomb. Alexander and his running mate had narrowly escaped. Their limousine had been flipped by the blast of the bomb, but the structural integrity of the outer shell held. Alexander walked away unharmed while his running mate, Mark Ross, suffered a separated shoulder and a cut above his left eye. The second limousine did not fare as well. The front third of the vehicle collapsed under the blast and exposed Alexander's wife and three Secret Service agents to the superheated gases of the explosion. All four people were virtually incinerated. Fifteen other individuals were also killed, and another thirty-four were wounded, seven of them critically.
An al-Qaeda splinter group had released a statement the week before the attack that they were going to disrupt the American elections. In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, Kennedy had a pretty good idea how the American people would react to such foreign intervention in the democratic process. Two weeks later they proved her right. They turned out in record numbers on election day, and Josh Alexander and Mark Ross were swept into office by a landslide. Shortly after the election Ross began making statements to the press that he was going to do a top-down review of the CIA. That was code for cleaning house.
Despite twenty-three years of service, Kennedy took none of this personally. It simply wasn't worth it. The people had spoken, and in one week there would be the peaceful transfer of power from one...