Off to San Francisco for the weekend? Let’s see; reservations on Lombard Street for a couple of nights, done; a call ahead to see if the kids are available for a visit, check; pick a couple of joints for dinner in the Marina and the Buena Vista for eggs Benedict, easy; gas up the pickup, or the ragtop? – let’s see what the weather is the morning we leave. No sweat – we’ve done it all before; let’s not complicate our weekend.
But instead of a couple, let’s plan a trip four hundred close friends from the Beltway, this one a little further in advance. We’re off to Geneva, the one in Switzerland, and instead of the kids we’re meeting the heads of state of a half-dozen world powers so we better bring an interpreter or a half dozen. We’ll start five months in advance and make reservations for our group in five Geneva hotels – reserving rooms on a onesy-twosy basis is burdensome so we won’t mess around – let’s just book the whole Maison de Saussere, the Fleur de Eau and three more for a week or so. Better get a hundred rooms a little early ‘cause we’re sending some guys over to make sure the accommodations are up to snuff and to scope out the traffic. And, White House chefs to check out the bill of fare in the restaurants we’ll be eating at. We don’t want to get POTUS or FLOTUS heading for the Tums when they get back to their rooms. POTUS, of course, is the President of the United States; FLOTUS the First Lady O-T-U-S, but you figured that out (we’ll have a couple of American doctors with their own instruments unit and extensive medications aboard, just in case the food or a health issue gets too gnarly.)
A word about where my mind was when I strung all this together on a dismal evening: My old childhood buddy, later Sigma Nu frat brother Ty Cobb the Younger has been speaking around our village about his life and times as a National Security Council advisor to President Ronald Reagan, and writes a fine column of his own in the Gazoo every now and then. At breakfast at the Gold-n-Silver last week I told him that I abhor anything political, but getting President Reagan to a world leaders’ Summit conference, of which Ty went to four, now there would be a fine column through a Homefinder’s eyes. Ty loaned me the weighty three-volume White House planning document for a November 1985 Summit, in which his name appears liberally – T. Cobb – and I can even tell you from the documents, if asked, where he rode in Marine One helicopter from the White House to Andrews AFB (right next to C. Powell). That’s how intricate the trip planning for these sojourns was and probably remains. In one volume, the American delegation leaving a formal dinner at a Swiss mansion with other heads of state is assigned, from POTUS on down to the Official Photographer, which of the three elevators in this palace they will be riding in, and who will board and disembark the elevators first and last. Leave nothing to chance, as John Ascuaga counsels us.
Bags fly free
The planning document volumes are made available in advance to the participants of the trip – White House staff, the military branches involved, the State Department, Secret Service, press – and contain an incredibly intricate, virtually minute-by-minute itinerary of the four-day trip. A facility at Andrews AFB was clearly indicated, with an arrival time at some God-awful hour of the morning. That many folks have a lot of luggage and it appears that unless one lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue most schlepped their own bags, with instructions to leave them open – they were inspected before loading (T. Cobb always opted for carry-on). From that point their walking route to which airplane – AF One or the several support planes – was mapped. According to Ty, the most salient issue for the whole trip for most was not some vast life-changing worldwide issue being debated by the heads of state of the world powers at the Summit, but who got to get there on Air Force One. Ty flew aboard it on many occasions to several Summits, a thrill he likens only to driving the Vagabond Touring Association’s ’34 Ford school bus, uninvited, into Kezar Stadium during an East-West Shrine Game in his college days. I recall that Saturday also. Gingerly…
The limousines arrive in a C-5B
The volumes held drawings of the eleven venues and hotels for the Summit, both of their interiors floor-by-floor and topographic drawings of their exteriors and driveways, including vegetation that could block a photographer’s view or conceal an assassin. Walking routes the delegation will take within a ballroom or disembarking Air Force One at Cointrin Airport in Geneva – who leaves by the front steps or through the aft door – are clearly delineated. Where the limousines and vans (hauled in by a C-5B prior to the delegation’s arrival) will be parked by Air Force One and the support planes and who will ride in each, where the honor guard meeting the President and First Lady would stand; the locations available to photographers, and the route the motorcade would use to depart the airfield are clear, and according to Ty that’s the way it had to be, period. Some of the documents weren’t classified; it’s a pretty safe bet that other, tighter Secret Service maps showed routes to a designated hospital and other security protocol. Interestingly, one sticking point that had to be worked out was whether Secret Service agents could carry their firearms in neutral Switzerland. I don’t know the eventual outcome of that negotiation and wouldn’t ask. And, the planning volumes indicated Air Force One by its tail number 26000, the Boeing 707 in use then – parked alongside the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Cal. now is 27000, the last 707 used as Air Force One.
The event times during the four-day summit? Leave us not forget that Geneva is a bunch of time zones ahead of any of the four in the US of A. and in the final evaluation these ritualistic and formal handshakes between eight world powers weren’t being choreographed just to go on live TV in some morning between “Regis Live” and “General Hospital” – prime time is the operative word for live formal events at a Summit and some of them were some pretty strange hours of the day in Geneva.
The three volumes were a thought-provoking read of the highest level of worldwide statesmanship, and Ty’s first-hand insight brought to light some facets of such a trip one would never think about without his narration. Thanks, Tyrus…
Have a good week; summer’s right around the corner, trust me, and God bless America!
© Reno Gazette Journal Jan. 10, 2006