THE LAST AMERICAN PRESIDENT

A STORY OF POLITICAL INTRIGUE, ROMANCE AND BETRAYAL SET AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF THE DISSOLUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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CHAPTER 16 - ROI-FAINEANT


"If California fails, they can always move to Texas. If Texas fails, they can move to Kansas. If America fails, where does the world go?" - Glenn Beck


Alan sat on a large, comfortable leather sofa. He and Kate had returned to the residence after a formal occasion recognizing the retirement of a large number of employees at the State Department. The room was lit only by the television screen. The television studio on the screen filled with boisterous laughter as the late night comedian performed his monologue. Presumably, the viewing audience in homes around America found his banter as humorous as the live audience did.


Except Alan didn’t find it funny. Not at all.


Kate, passing through the room behind him, came over and put her hand on his shoulder, comforting him. “Don’t worry, honey,” she suggested. “No one takes these late night monologues serious. In a few days, it will all blow over.”


Not everyone would forget, and certainly not Alan.


The jokes revolved around the policy about-face made by the Cassell administration regarding Taiwan. Cassell had opposed forcing Taiwan into re- integration with China throughout his campaign, while his opponent was the chief architect of that policy.


With Alan Cassell in office, there was a chance to reverse the policy, allowing the people of Taiwan to determine their own destiny. Unfortunately for Alan, and presumably for the Taiwanese, the matter was too far along by the time Cassell was sworn in to office. When he tried to rectify the situation, the entire National Security Council opposed his efforts.


Earlier in the day, John Halprin had tried to console the president. “Alan,” he began, “I’m sure you remember the situation with the Panama Canal as Ronald Reagan was running for President.”


“Yes,” Alan confirmed. “He promised never to give the Canal Zone back to Panama and openly opposed the treaty that was already in the works.”


“That’s right,” John acknowledged, “but Reagan was not just blowing smoke to get elected. He genuinely was opposed to the treaty and he did everything he could to stop it. Problem was, by the time he was elected, it was simply too late in the process for him to do anything about the treaty, even as president. Sometimes, there are processes set in motion that cannot be stopped; momentum is just too powerful. That’s what happened to you with Taiwan.”


“That’s probably true, John,” Alan reluctantly agreed.


John nodded and placed his hand on Alan’s shoulder. “Sometimes, we just have to accept the reality that certain events are out of our control.” Then, he suggested, “The best course of action at this point is for you to make a public statement that reiterates your original policy on Taiwan, emphasizing that you have not changed your beliefs. However, in light of events that occurred prior to your election, it is impossible for you to reverse the move toward reintegration of Taiwan.”


“I know you’re right, John, and that is what I will do ... what I must do.”


When reintegration became inevitable, opinion polls in Taiwan suddenly changed toward favoring the “Hong Kong-ification” of Taiwan. A large number of nationalist politicians, and many of the business people who had supported them, departed Taiwan for Japan, Singapore, Australia, and Hawaii.


The changes created near panic in Japan. The next elections, only months later, brought in a new government, which was conciliatory toward Beijing. Japan became a virtual satellite state of China.


The Japanese expatriate community became highly critical of the United States and its President, Alan Cassell. Most Japanese-Americans quickly joined the disenchanted chorus. Japanese-Americans involved in the Hawaii sovereignty movement pumped untold millions of dollars into it, maneuvering the concept of Hawaiian independence into a strongly anti-American effort.


When the movement took on its anti-American posture Keoki made a very public break from the movement. However, it was too late. In the preceding years, Keoki had generously given to scores of foundations, charities, and organizations that favored sovereignty for Hawaii. The movement had far too much momentum to be stopped, short of military action. With the strength of the Japanese-Americans behind the advance in force, the time for Hawaiian independence was at hand.


The Hawaii National Congress (HNC) met publically for the very first time. Originally formed in Keoki’s home, where they were no longer welcome, the group met in a convention center in Honolulu for the televised event. The meeting was orchestrated purely for the press. Proclamations condemning the American takeover were well-written for an American audience.


A proclamation, which was passed despite significant opposition, called for full citizenship for all residents of Hawaii. The document excluded those who were in the employ of the United States Government and their households. Federal government employees were required to resign or risk deportation. The HNC members who supported allowing the US military bases to remain on the islands were not successful in their effort to pass a resolution. They did, however, succeeded in preventing a contrary resolution. On that matter, indecisiveness reigned.


Another reign began on that day. Members of the Hawaiian Congress interrupted their business for the coronation of the new Queen of Hawaii, which was being televised on the mainland. She addressed the crowd in the Hawaiian language, and no immediate translation was offered; the act was an intentional snub. Her intent was to speak to “her people” and not to continue the propaganda activities of “her” Congress.


The most notable public relations development of the event was the absence of a declaration of independence. The Hawaiians intended to put pressure on the United States to take action. The Hawaiians wished to respond to an aggressive or oppressive United States, rather than appear as the aggressor.


Every resolution of the HNC quickly found an equal act in the state legislature, though the legislative acts were highly lawyered versions thereof. The state legislature also funded the HNC as a “cultural organization,” and it formally celebrated the coronation. Opposition members of the legislature were shut down at every turn and debate was strictly limited.


Fearful federal government employees began mass resignations. The postal service gave bonuses to mainland employees willing to take temporary duty in Hawaii to deliver the mail.


A suit was filed in federal court calling for the US Government to fulfill its constitutional obligations under Article Four, Section Four, which stated, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government.” The legal premise being that a “queen” was a violation of the requirement for a republican form of government.


The state of Hawaii responded that it was simply recognizing a cultural icon; the Queen had no formal office in the state, nor did she have any authority in its government. The court was eager to sidestep the issue and dismissed the case.


The American press got caught up in speculation regarding when, rather than if, a declaration of independence would be made by Hawaii. Members of the US Congress made long speeches alternately supporting, or opposing, independence. Considering the seriousness of the situation, President Cassell was also expected to make a statement.


Alan brought together his G-Group for advice. Prior to the meeting, Kate told Alan everything Keoki had said to her about Hawaii. Of course, nothing was said of the pass he had made toward her..


At the meeting, Keoki refused to advise the group on the situation. He attended the gathering, and expressed his disputes with the movement, as well as his views about the illegality of American rule on the islands. However, he resisted expressing any opinion on what the president should do.


John Halprin, the expert on international affairs in the group, admitted other nations were ready to recognize Hawaii as a kingdom. He told President Cassell that Hawaii was an “exceptional situation.”


“Mr. President, I advise you to tell the American people that ‘if’ the people of Hawaii choose to become independent from the United States, your administration will not oppose them. You could refer to your longstanding support of ‘self-determination.’”


“What about our bases there?” asked Alan.


“Perhaps it’s time to pack up and leave, letting Hawaii fend for itself,” John stated with conviction. “The move would save us a lot of money in the long run, and I believe they can afford to defend themselves.”


Archer spoke of the immorality of American actions in the takeover of Hawaii. He warned the group, “Two wrongs, any number of wrongs, never make something right. Whatever you do, sir, it must be the right thing, independent of any previous action by other people in our history. It may be wrong to forcibly keep Hawaii in the union, but it would also be wrong to abandon American citizens who wish to stay American.”


Phil Stanek could hold his peace no longer, and commented, “Mr. President, I’m very surprised by the counsel thus far. I think you should carefully consider the implications, both historic and electoral. A terrible civil war was fought over the secession of the southern states. Another war began, for us, in Hawaii. The corporate memory of the American voter may be short, but failure to keep the union together will be seen as a weakness when the next election comes around—a severe weakness! I can’t help thinking there is a question which will haunt us all. That question is, ‘Is Alan Cassell the last president of a fifty state union?’”


Alan calmly answered, “Perhaps I will be; that can’t be the most important concern. Phil, you spoke of weakness. Well, tell me, how strong am I as a leader if I can’t do what’s right? Isn’t the real test of strength—personal, political, and moral strength—about doing what’s right despite the consequences?”


“Is it right?” Mary Ann Force questioned. “Are you convinced? Is it the right thing for Hawaii to be independent?”


“I don’t think that is the right angle to focus on. I am convinced, however, that keeping them in the union by force would absolutely be wrong. I’m sure there are plenty of American families ready to send their sons and daughters to war to protect America, but how many of them are ready to see their beloved progeny die to keep those islands?” Alan paused, and then continued. “There is no doubt at all we’d win a military action, but at what cost? I don’t know how many Americans would be willing to have us establish martial law over the islands, and for our armed forces to kill Hawaiians, to kill Americans, to retain our governance over the islands.


“It’s like divorce; it’s never good. When someone gets a divorce, usually one of the partners did something wrong. Divorce is bad, but often necessary. If divorce was outlawed, then what motivation would there be for couples to be faithful to their vows? If a marriage can’t be held together out of affection, then perhaps a divorce is better. The same principle should be applied to our nation. If the union can’t be preserved out of our affinity for each other, our common values, our heritage as one nation, then perhaps it shouldn’t be preserved at all.


“I will not do to Hawaii what I could not prevent being done to Taiwan,” Alan concluded with sincerity in his voice.


Jim Cherry shouted out, “That was a completely different situation!”


Alan looked warmly at his oldest friend and mentor, and responded, “I’m sorry Jim, but it only seems different from your, perhaps from our, perspective.” Vice President Benton wiped tears from her eyes. “I can’t believe we’re even talking about this! Isn’t there anything we can do to keep Hawaii? Can’t we appease them? If you won’t use force, then what can we do? I just hate the idea of losing a state!”


“Helen, I know. We all understand the gravity of the situation. I just don’t think that we can bribe them to stay. If we do bribe them, then will Alaska, or Utah, or Texas do the same thing? Perhaps Massachusetts will threaten secession next, or New York, or Florida, just to get money or favorable legislation. It would change the nature of the republic; the outcome would be even worse.”


Lenore stated, “It seems you’ve made your decision, Mr. President.”


“I have made some decisions, but we have the opportunity to negotiate. I’m looking for your advice on priorities. I’ll be meeting with the Speaker and the Majority Leader as well.”


“America won’t forgive giving up all the bases,” Phil pointed out. “I think we must retain Pearl Harbor. I want you reelected, and I want to keep the House. With two fewer Democrats in the Senate, that puts us pretty close.”


Phil continued, “Politics aside, we should secure the property rights of American citizens, which is everyone on the islands. We should see how much of the national debt we can convince their new government to absorb.” Up till that point, no one had brought up the impact of spreading the national debt over a shrinking country. Brainstorming, John suggested, “The debt could be a thorny issue. Anything short of a proportional share based on population could be used as precedent, encouraging other states to secede. If we negotiate the matter too far, then we risk negotiating to a position we can’t, or shouldn’t, accept.”


Pausing a moment in thought, he continued, “What if we agree to sell government properties for debt absorption? If they don’t agree, then we insist on selling the property to the highest bidder or keeping it; they’ll have no choice. They won’t allow us to sell a national park, the medical facilities, the post offices, or other federally owned properties. I can just imagine the reaction if we threaten to sell a navy base to China; bet they would want to buy then! No, not if they can have all federal government properties for the price of accepting a portion of the national debt.


“I don’t know how the numbers would come out, but the bases alone should bring us close to population proportionate debt reallocation. We might actually come out financially better. Obviously, we would make certain the numbers work that way. If they try to take the properties by force, then we have the moral right to prevent them from doing so by force. This way, we don’t compel them to accept our will; we just give them a perfectly reasonable set of options.”


Everyone grunted, or mumbled, their agreement as heads nodded about the room. Alan commented, “Sounds like a plan, unless anyone has a problem with that model?” None mentioned anything. Years later, some members of the group suggested they foresaw other problems with the idea, and perhaps they did, but none said a word on that day.


As a final concern, Alan posited, “I know we’re in uncharted legal territory. I’m also going to meet with the attorney general and White House counsel on the matter. If any of you have any thoughts about legal implications, then I need to hear from you so I can run the issues by them. The Constitution doesn’t seem to have a process to unmake a state. We have to figure out if the process can be done by treaty, or if an act of Congress can withdraw the admission. Maybe we don’t take any action at all.” Alan stood up, implying the meeting was adjourned.


When President Cassell met with Attorney General Richard Dake, he asked him to serve as his personal negotiator with the Hawaiian sovereignty leadership. The attorney general insisted that dissolving statehood was not a legal possibility, but he agreed to serve the president in getting the best possible settlement. Dake’s antagonism against the premise of sovereignty inspired Alan to choose him for the assignment. Always better to work from a position of strength, Alan thought.


A few days later, Alan accepted a call in the residence from the man who had run his California campaign. Thomas Houston was a staff attorney for a state agency in Sacramento. He was not known around the state for his day job, which was working for the state government. Thomas was best known as president of the historically powerful California Republican Assembly, or CRA. The CRA was founded in the 1930s by moderate Republicans. By the 1964 presidential season, however, the group had been overrun by conservatives. The conservatives revised the structure of the organization and retained it as a conservative powerhouse in California politics thereafter. It was CRA leaders who recruited the actor Ronald Reagan to run for governor.


“Tom, did I ever get around to thanking you for all you did for me in California?” Alan asked.


“Yes, Mr. President. You did express gratitude for my work, even though we were not successful in winning the state. I have an idea that might change that next time, though.”


“I’m not ready to campaign yet.”


“I understand, but I wanted to run an idea by you, if I might?”


“What do you have in mind, Tom?”


“Well, this Hawaii thing got me thinking. A lot of people in California could be convinced to make sure we stay a fifty state nation. That is if ... if Hawaii goes independent, and if they’re really permitted to.”


“I’m not going to put troops in Hawaii to prevent the secession, if that’s what you’re asking.”


“Yes, Mr. President, it was. I’m glad to hear your answer. If we divide California into northern and southern states, then we don’t change the US flag. Even better than that, we can win in Southern California, depending on how it’s divided. If the division includes the Central Valley in Southern California, we can promise you a win with another twenty-five or so Presidential Electoral Votes!”


“That has been suggested before, but it didn’t ever take hold. Do you have any reason to believe this time is different?”


“Yes, sir. We have some preliminary polling that suggests Californians are inclined to divide to keep the US at fifty states.”


“Sounds good to me, but do you need me to do something?”


“We need to raise money to get the issue on the ballot. If you would, please, speak to the California State Party Chair and let him know you like the idea of division. Then, he’ll help us raise money to get the petitions signed, and we’ll get the question on the ballot.”


“You’re not asking for a public endorsement, are you?”


“No, Mr. President. I just need the party to know you’re on board.”


“You’ve got a deal. I’ll place the call tomorrow. Keep me posted.”


“Thank you, Mr. President.”


Funds to pay people who gathered signatures on petitions, and the other costs related to initiatives, were raised in short order; the issue was scheduled for the ballot.


In Oklahoma, efforts to put an initiative on a public ballot had the opposite effect. In the Sooner State, signatures were being gathered to amend the state constitution, calling for secession to occur automatically “if and when such other state or states secede as are contiguous with Oklahoma and an oceanic coastline.” The petition was an obvious suggestion that Oklahoma would join Texas in secession. Alan called his closest friend from Oklahoma.


Archer answered his cell, hearing, “Please hold for the president.”


“Archer, what the hell are they doing down there?”


“Mr. President? Down where?”


“Oklahoma! I’m told they’re trying to get Oklahoma to secede, and encouraging Texas to do the same?”


“Oh, that. I don’t think they’re encouraging Texas to secede. It’s not even a sure thing it’ll get on the ballot.”


“I can tell you, they have the signatures, and it’s gonna be on the ballot. You live there; don’t you know what’s going on?”


“I only know what I read in the papers.” Archer’s thinly-veiled reference to Will Rogers was missed by the president, who was in a poor mood. “Seriously, Mr. President, I’m not tied into politics. I’m just tied into you.”


“You’re not behind this, or in with the folks working on it?”


“No sir, and I expect I’ll be voting against it, if it means that much to you.” “God, man! Do you think I want the whole country to fall apart? What we’re doing with Hawaii is unique. I can’t let the whole country go to hell in a hand basket! We could still send troops to Hawaii, if we have to. I just don’t know what to do.”


“Mr. President. Alan? If I may?”


“Don’t worry about that, go ahead.”


Archer collected his thoughts and said, “I honestly don’t know what you should do either, but I know someone who does, and I suspect you do too.” Alan had forgotten that he was speaking to a minister and felt embarrassed by his language. Archer didn’t act like a typical preacher and never tried to get people to alter their language in his presence.


“Archer, I’m sorry. I’m just so frustrated.”


“I didn’t say that to get you to apologize to me. I’m not offended. You didn’t say anything I don’t hear every day. I just want to actually help you.”


Alan calmed himself down. “So ... you want me to pray?”


“I think you want to pray. I know you need to ... I also think you’re a little afraid of what the results of praying might be.” “Afraid!”


“Yes, sir! You can’t tell me you’re not afraid of what is happening. I know you’re trying to do what’s right with Hawaii, but I also know you feel guilty about Taiwan. And I think you’re afraid of what’ll happen to you.”


“Me! I can’t believe you think I’ve given a thought for myself in this. If Texas were to secede, then we couldn’t sustain the country. One small state that’s out in the middle of the Pacific is one thing, but Texas! And after all we did to the islands to force them into the union. But Texas is another matter! I don’t want to be remembered as the Gorbachev of America.”


“Your words are very telling, sir.”


“What? You’re gonna work your ‘magic’ on me?” Alan spoke dismissively of Archer’s charismatic religious beliefs.


“Alan, I know you’re upset, but please think about your own words.” “Okay buddy, what did I say?”


“Well, you said ‘we’ when you were talking about forcing Hawaii ‘in.’ You didn’t have anything to do with Hawaiian history, and I would suggest your feelings are stemming from residual guilt regarding Taiwan again. Then you said you hadn’t given a thought for yourself, but mentioned you didn’t want be like Gorbachev.”


“Bullshit! That’s just bullshit! When I said ‘we’ I meant the US, not me. You brought up my reputation, so I thought about the implications and mentioned Gorby. So there, smart ass. I’ve heard enough. You aren’t involved and don’t know anything about Oklahoma; that’s good enough for me.”


Alan slammed down the phone. Archer felt that his relationship with Alan was damaged, perhaps irreparably so; he was hurt. He also felt, however, that Alan was in danger of doing something he would regret. There was nothing to do but to pray for him. Archer sent out a few emails asking for prayer for the president, but gave no hint as to the cause for the request. Then, he spent some time in personal prayer.


During his personal prayer time, Archer sensed the emails soliciting prayer for the president were a mistake. He regretted taking any action prior to entering into prayer himself, but he didn’t understand why asking a few friends to pray would be a problem.


A pastor of a large church in San Antonio was among those whom Archer had asked to pray. The email was sent by the pastor to a few members of his congregation, in efforts to solicit their prayerfulness as well. Among the members who received the email was a politically active Republican.


The member made a personal assumption that the prayer need was based on secession talk in Hawaii, as well as Oklahoma. He also supposed similar talk in Texas, Alaska and Wyoming was weighing on President Cassell. He made his comments regarding his assumptions, and passed the email on. With each generation the email from Archer was altered. No harm was intended, but the political activist forwarded the edited email to a large political email list. Several news organizations received the final version of the “prayer request.”


Within a couple of hours, Archer received the first interview request concerning the email. Archer was often interviewed on numerous subjects and the radio show producer said nothing about an email, so he accepted. Archer was asked about requesting prayer for the president. He responded innocently and affirmatively, having only seen his own original and non-specific request.


Archer was curious about the level of interest a radio show would have in such a small issue.


The reporter, however, took his response as an admission, suggesting the president was weak and worried about secession of the several states. Archer protested, but to no avail. After the interview, he saw the final email as it had evolved and was aghast. He accepted every interview request, denying the email was his and showing his original document to reporters. Archer also created a press release with the correct information.


One reporter asked, “Are you also denying that you spoke with President Cassell about secession in Hawaii, or any other state?”


Archer seemed taken aback by the words “any other state” and responded, “My conversations with the president are always private. The request for prayer was based on the scriptural exhortation that we all pray for those in leadership over us.”


The reporter, in an understanding voice, then asked, “So you’re using the clergy-penitent privilege regarding your conversation with the president.”


“Yes, I treat every conversation with him, and every conversation someone asks to be private, that way.”


The next day the press put together an amalgamation of the interviews and made it look like Archer had admitted to the email in its final version, then backtracked under pressure from the White House. Some suggested that the Secret Service created the so-called “original” email in order to give Archer the cover story of an amended email. They then built a case that Archer had admitted that the president had confessed to him some illegality regarding Hawaii and the other states.


Talk radio made Archer the topic of the day. Some hosts were critical of him, saying he was being disloyal to the President; others pushed that he was disloyal to the nation. Even more commentators, however, stressed that he was part of a cover-up of nefarious activities by President Cassell. None accepted Archer’s very truthful story about his original, and very innocent, email.


Still upset with Archer, Alan was furious when he heard of the email the next day. The effect of the story was to weaken the president, spur secession talk in numerous states, and irretrievably damage the relationship between Alan and Archer.


The story damaged Archer in every imaginable way.


The student churches, nine campus groups in six states, all cut off their relationship with Archer’s ministry. They didn’t pay him or his ministry; in fact, Archer’s ministry gave financial support to them.


The many churches which supported Archer as a missionary dropped their support. They did this because he no longer had any campus ministries to support. Not having campus churches to work with, or local churches to fund his efforts, he found he could no longer sell his books and DVDs.


Archer was too old to find a different ministry to work in. He did not want to establish himself as a pastor at a new church at his age either. He couldn’t retire, since he hadn’t built up adequate savings. The negative publicity made him radioactive in any ministry. Mercifully, a social conservative group in St. Louis offered Archer a job, which he accepted. The group had a history of success in various family values issues and had been founded by a devout Catholic lady, who had passed away many years earlier.


Archer adapted and accepted his new surroundings. The job opportunity provided him with a home near a major airport where he could easily fly to anywhere in the country. The location was also a bit closer to his only daughter, who had married that Purcell boy from Chicago.


Archer’s wife, however, was a small-town girl who had lived most of her life in central Oklahoma; the move was extremely difficult for her. She didn’t like the comparatively cold and wet St. Louis, or the big industrial city itself. Archer found he didn’t need to travel as much as he had before the story. At first, his wife welcomed his daily presence; yet, over time, the stress of the new city and caring for him became too much for her.


She suffered a stroke. The doctors said the illness had been building up for years, but Archer was sure the stroke was his fault, due to the move and newfound financial stress.


Her sister, Lenore, took a leave of absence to take care of her and Archer. Lenore’s calming tone was sorely missed when the president’s calls were made or received. Heads of state, ambassadors, members of Congress, corporate leaders, and many other well-known people asked about her. Upon finding out about her sister’s health, many decided to send flowers, gifts, and even catered food.


As the expressions of concern and gifts came in, Archer was grateful. Only later did he learn their concern was for Lenore’s sister, rather than for his wife. A phone call came to the hospital from Mary Ann Force, who was surprised to hear Archer’s voice. “Archer! How very kind of you to be there for Lenore, and her sister, of course! You are such a darling to do that.” Bewildered, Archer just set the phone on the receiver and sat down next to his wife, starring at the blank wall of the hospital room.


Mary Ann Force assumed the worst and called right back, but no one answered. She then dialed the hospital, but could get no information. Finally, in desperation, she called Jim Cherry.


“Jim! Has something happened with Lenore’s sister?”


“Yes, Mary Ann, I thought you knew she had a stroke.”


“Oh, I knew that; I meant just now. I called the room and talked to Archer Adams, who was there, and all of a sudden the phone went dead. I’m just worried something happened at that moment.”


Jim took it in and said, “I don’t know, but I’ll let you know as soon as I find out anything. It sure would be a hit for Archer if things went badly.”


Mary Ann was confused. “Archer? Why would it be a hit for him? He was sweet to be there for Lenore ...”


Jim was flabbergasted. “Mary Ann! His wife had a stroke. If she passes, it’ll be very hard on him.”


“Oh dear, her too! Could it be something environmental?”


“You’re telling me you didn’t know! Lenore’s sister is Archer’s wife!”


“Oh God, really? I never knew that.”


“Yes! Even if you were never told, didn’t you read any of the articles about the G-Group?”


“I read parts, of some of them, but ...”


Jim put the situation together at that point, “Mary Ann, did you say some- thing to Archer? It’s been a very bad year for him. His ministry was destroyed by that email/prayer story. He had to take a job in St. Louis, and now this.”


“I think I did; I feel awful. I better do something about it now.”


Jim tried to stop her from ending the call, but his efforts were to no avail; he was concerned she would make matters worse. She didn’t. She called and called the room until someone answered. Convincing Archer to take the phone through the nurse who answered, she apologized profusely and explained that she didn’t know the relationship between him and Lenore. Archer regained enough composure to accept the apology and responded graciously to her.


Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, Attorney General Richard Dake returned from his negotiating trip to Hawaii. He was ready to report to the president.


“The islands are a mess, and I don’t think there’s any way to retain the state without bloodshed, Mr. President,” he reported. “I also had time to research, and I now feel a treaty to recognize Hawaii’s independence would be constitutional. Treaties trump acts of legislation, so to speak. Admission to the union is legislative, so ...”


“Okay, very well. What kind of deal do you have?” President Cassell inquired.


“I would say you got everything you wanted. American citizens’ property rights will continue to be recognized. US Government property will transfer for a share of the national debt equal to the value; the transfer gives them a line of credit. They’ll let us keep Pearl Harbor open on a no cost lease option. They want to continue talks on the other matters.


“They insist that military base leases must be annually renewed. If the bases are turned over to Hawaii, then they accept more debt at the property value when they renew. If the US Government doesn’t accept the appraisal, then we’re free to keep the property or sell to whomever! Of course, they must be able to limit any military activities of the buyer. They’re willing to take all of the bases; they want to buy ships and other military equipment on the same deal, if we’re willing. They’ll need to defend themselves.


“US citizens in Hawaii are to be offered citizenship without exception. Americans who refuse Hawaiian citizenship will be automatically given a twelve month visa from the date the treaty is ratified by both parties.


“They really want to move forward quickly.” Dake paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts. “I must admit, I agree. The mood is chaotic over there; no one knows exactly what’s going on. The governor and the state legislature are not the leaders and are beholden to the independence group, the HNC. The sooner we secure a deal, the sooner they can have elections and get things up and running again. Hawaii needs the tourist trade in order to continue with their plans and succeed.


“They want to negotiate a treaty with a date certainly established. They asked that the team who helped transition Puerto Rico, um ... Borinquen would be assembled to work on this transition. They’re working on their constitution to cover all of the areas the US Government previously had control over. They have questions, ranging from Hawaiians incarcerated in federal prisons on the mainland, to post offices, communications, medical, and so on. The situation is infinitely complex.


“My legal advice is for us to move forward with acceptance and retain a positive relationship with the islands. If you’ll allow me, I also advise that you communicate with the American people how very unique the Hawaii situation is. I don’t believe you want this to get out of hand and lose any other states.” President Cassell thoughtfully considered the information. “Thank you, Richard. You’ve done well. I’m curious; how is it that you changed your mind and came to believe they could go independent?”


“On the way over, and again on the way back, Senator Halprin and I had conversations. He challenged my legal premises, and after hours of talking, I had to admit he was right, and I was wrong.”


Alan smiled. “He’s not even a lawyer!”


“But he is persuasive, sir.”


“Well, it seems I owe him one, again. I want you to lead the transition team.


You have my full support. Get us a treaty as quickly as possible, and let me know of any developments that differ in spirit from what we just discussed.” Alan stood and offered his hand.


Richard replied, “Thank you, sir. Have a good evening.”


As negotiations moved forward on Hawaii, and the fact of the negotiations became public, so did the initiative efforts in California and Oklahoma. The Delaware legislature began to revise their statutes to create a legal framework for the state to stand alone if the union unraveled. Their laws became the model for other states as an “emergency preparedness” concept.


Tom Houston requested the opportunity to speak with the president on a political matter, and Alan placed a call to him late one evening. “Tom, how are things going with your efforts in California?”


“Sir, we have the signatures we need, and the matter is in court for ballot determination.”


“So what’s your prediction, right now?”


“It’ll be on the ballot, but the polls are showing a weakness we didn’t have before. It still looks good, but not the ‘slam dunk’ we were anticipating. It seems the Democrats have figured out our plan makes part of California into a GOP battleground. They are opposing our initiative.”


“Do you have a campaign plan drawn up?”


“Yes, Mr. President, but we have another option. In the complex ‘direct democracy’ that California has become in recent years, we can amend the issue before the voters. That’s why I’m calling. You see, a couple of years ago, the courts ruled that anyone challenging an initiative may request an additional option be added to the ballot. If the ‘third’ option is accepted by the original petitioner, then the ballot must include the ‘third’ option. This has happened where a state question has had as many as six options. Whichever one gets the most votes wins. A plurality, rather than a majority, is all we need.”


“So you’re telling me that you want to support a third option to either being one state or two? What, divide into three states?”


“No, sir. A member of La Raza has opposed our initiative, insisting his option be included on the ballots.”


Alan angrily responded, “If they want California to go back to Mexico, then the answer is an unequivocal ‘NO!’”


“Many members of La Raza favor that idea, but this guy wants to have California as an independent nation!”


“Tom, you’ve got to be kidding me! This is out of hand. Can we just stop the whole thing right now?”


Tom collected his thoughts and proceeded carefully, “Mr. President, it’s in the hands of the court; we can’t cancel the vote, but this could actually work to our benefit. Only two percent of Californians support independence, and a few more support La Raza. The pro-independence vote will undoubtedly come from among people who would otherwise vote for California to remain a single state. If I approve the separation option being on the ballot, then we can be fairly confident of a win. Even if their numbers grow, they’ll all come from the unified state side. And, even if I don’t approve, the court may grant their request giving them the additional option.”


The president responded emphatically, “I need you to disapprove. If the court puts it on the ballot anyway, then we live with what we get, and hopefully you’re right about the outcome. If you approve it, then the Democrats will figure out your strategy and find another way to beat you. Besides, I find the idea of permitting the third option disingenuous when you don’t support it.”


Tom shot back a crisp, “Yes, sir, that’s what I’ll do.”


Tom complied with President Cassell’s instructions, but the plan didn’t work. The court granted the request, and the third option was placed on the ballot.


The next day was among the most momentous in the Cassell presidency. A delegation from Hawaii was presented with a draft treaty drawn up by the attorney general. The president made a statement where he commended the ongoing friendship expected between the United States and the restored Kingdom of Hawaii.


The Hawaiian Prime Minister spoke in glowing terms of “Her Royal Highness the Queen” and her government’s approval of the terms of the treaty. He expected a signing ceremony would be scheduled shortly after the treaty could be translated into Hawaiian. Several nations around the world, China and the European Union included, recognized the Kingdom of Hawaii as an independent nation, and the process began for their admission to the United Nations.


Even though the treaty signing was still two months off, the United States Government began the transition immediately. The Hawaiian Government created stipulations on citizenship, which prevented tourists from being considered residents eligible for citizenship. By allowing vacation residences of more than 2000 square feet, wealthy Americans staying in luxurious accommodations qualified for dual citizenship, while excluding the ordinary middle-class vacationer.


George Keoki, dissatisfied with the changes in citizenship laws in his native Hawaii, moved to the San Francisco Bay area in order to secure his American citizenship and business connections.


Nearly unnoticed by anyone outside the immediate family, Archer Adams’ wife passed away. Her funeral was not publicized, since Archer was no longer considered famous and his wife lacked his former notoriety. The larger events of the time dominated public attention.


The Oklahoma Secession Contingency Initiative passed easily. Polls began to show the idea of secession in California was growing in popularity.


Alan called a meeting of his G-Group, scheduled to occur after Lenore’s return to Washington, D.C. Archer was excluded out of respect for his loss. Alan called to express his condolences on the day of Lenore’s return. The conversation was warm, but it didn’t completely heal the relational wounds.


Alan wanted the group to discuss the possibility that California would vote for secession, and his options on the subject. Keoki spent the previous night in the Lincoln bedroom and was invited to join the first couple for dinner.


Alan was delayed for dinner. The press of other events kept him in the Oval Office until late into the evening.


Kate and Keoki spent the evening together, eating alone and chatting. Through the course of the dinner, Kate became emotional. Perhaps she was influenced by the alcohol she consumed. She complained Alan was always proud of her and pleased to hold her hand, hug, or even kiss in public, but had been ignoring her at the residence.


Keoki gave her his undivided attention.


Her complaints transitioned to a few tears. Keoki moved to the seat beside her to wipe the tears with his napkin. His gentle touch was welcome, but the action worried her. When dinner was over, she stood and showed him into an adjoining sitting room where they could sit and talk more. She sat on the sofa at the end near a comfortable chair. Her hand motioned for him to sit on the chair. Her eyes, however, suggested he sit on the sofa.


Sitting beside her, he asked her a question about Alan. She didn’t even know what he asked. The range of emotions she was experiencing overwhelmed her; tears streamed uncontrollably. Kate knew she was least attractive when she cried, but she cried anyway. Keoki put his arm around her shoulder and held her as she sobbed. She buried her head in his chest and his other arm encircled her.


She wanted to stay in his arms and allowed the tears to flow beyond the point of her need. She didn’t consciously think of it at the time, but his embrace was very much like her father’s when he had held her close as a child when she mourned the loss of her dog.


Kate, calmed after minutes of crying, relished his embrace. She turned her head to the side and pressed it against Keoki’s chest. Looking up, she saw his dark eyes gaze into her deep blue eyes, which were encircled by red from her tears. Her makeup stained his shirt and was smeared on her face.


He didn’t see a less-than-attractive aging beauty queen struggling to retain her youthful looks. He didn’t see an emotionally weak woman. He didn’t see the First Lady of the United States.


All he saw was the face of a woman he had secretly loved from the moment he met her; he saw her then as he had always seen her. To him, she was completely unchanged by the years. She was the same girl he had seen from the pool as she stood on the lanai of his suburban Honolulu guest house. She was the gracious, albeit reluctant, hostess of a fundraiser for deaf Hawaiian children. She was his email pen-pal. She was that indescribable beauty standing beside him at the waterfall outside his bedroom, as America’s rich and famous milled about at a political fundraiser for her husband.


He wanted that moment to continue forever; it didn’t.


She moved her head up and away from his embrace, then again toward his face. She let her lips reach his. His arms had fallen to his side; he could not hold her. He should not kiss her, but he did.


He was a man who had completely devoted himself to pleasure and all the finer things in life that money could buy. He had kissed so many girls that he couldn’t begin to count. This kiss should not have been any different, but it was. Her lips were as sweet as anything he had ever known, and sweeter still. Keoki was immediately convinced Kate was somehow his destiny. He had never kissed a married woman before. He had never felt he had truly loved a woman before, at least as far as he knew. He wanted to make her his own. He wanted to carry her away, spending his every waking moment showering her with loving kindness.


He could take her away; he had the wealth. She could run away with him. There was sure to be someplace they could go. He didn’t say a word. They just kissed. They were like teenagers, learning to make out; it was wonderful exploration. He knew at that moment he was ready to commit everything to his love for Kate.


Kate was amazed by the sensuality of his touch, his lips, his muscles, as she explored them with her hands.


His hands slowly touched her. She tingled with every movement. He gently grasped her arms as his lips moved to kiss her eyelids, her nose, her cheeks, and her lips again. She lifted her arms to hold his head intensely against her own, giving passage to his hands to touch her breasts.


He tenderly touched them, on the sides, one with each hand, and she shivered with excitement. The trembling caused him to take a more cautious tack, misinterpreting her quaking. He moved both hands down her side below her rib cage. His left hand touched a spot still sensitive on her right side; he didn’t notice the scar through her clothing. The spot was small, which no one would notice by touch, but she felt him there.


Kate pulled back, putting her hands on his brawny chest and pushing away. She wanted him in every way she knew, but his touch on the scar from the accident that took sweet Katie from her told her to back off.


Kate jumped up from the couch; she desperately wanted to jump right back down onto it. Instead, she simply put her hand on the side of his face and looked at him. “I can’t,” was all she said.


Keoki was left in the sitting room as the love of his life walked to another room. He was confused. His love for her told him to respect her statement. Her eyes, however, had told him something else. He followed.


She had closed the door behind her. He boldly opened it, not knowing the room was her bed chamber. She exited her bathroom, having just rinsed her face, as he entered.


She was startled that he would follow her. She backed away from him, only to be stopped by her large elevated bed.


Keoki moved up to her. He reached out to her face and cradled it in his large hand. Upon his touch, she melted into his arms. Again they kissed, but being of equal height and standing this time, their bodies were pressed together. She was aroused as their bodies were pressed, although fully clothed, against each other. He began to move her dress off and she began to pull at his shirt. She felt guilt at being unfaithful to Alan, but she felt like she was getting back at him for his inattentiveness.


He lifted her to a sitting position on her bed. Her legs found their way around him, pulling him close. Again, his hand, inadvertently, touched her right side at the point of her imperceptible scar. Again, she was brought to her senses. She pushed him away and pulled her dress back into position. “I just can’t, I want to, but I just can’t,” she apologized.


Keoki complied. He began to pull his shirt back together and noticed a button had been pulled off. He mentioned the loss and she frantically looked until she found the button on the floor. They both adjusted their disheveled hair, and she went into the bathroom to “fix her face.” Moments later, they determined to find a needle and thread to repair the shirt.


Earlier in the afternoon, Jim Cherry had been told that the president would be dining with George Keoki. He went to the residence to visit with them after completing his work for the day. The guards permitted him into the private quarters. Jim walked into the sitting room just as Keoki and Kate exited her bedroom. Jim’s stunned face called for an explanation. Keoki quickly explained how his shirt lost a button during dinner, and Kate was trying to find a needle and thread to “fix it.”


Kate confirmed the deception. Jim didn’t buy it. The explanation was reasonable enough, but the presentation lacked credibility; the stains from Kate’s cosmetics were obvious on Keoki’s shirt. Jim made his excuses and left without saying anything more.


The Last American President - Now Available from The Book About Us





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Meet Richard Engle

Richard Engle

Richard Engle is a Past President of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies which is the nation's largest and oldest Republican support organization.

Richard was twice elected to his local city council and twice elected to the Oklahoma delegation to the Republican National Convention including serving on the National Rules Committee in 2000 where he successfully placed a minority report on the floor of the convention - the first, and most recent since Ronald Reagan did the same in 1976.

Richard is President of BellWest America. Richard and Denise, his wife of nearly 30 years, live in Oklahoma City. Denise Engle serves as Workers' Compensation Commissioner for the State of Oklahoma. Richard speaks and writes often on matters of public policy.


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