Book review: ‘The President Is Missing’ by James Patterson and Bill Clinton

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Based on the title of the book, I expected President Jonathan Ducann to be kidnapped or otherwise taken from the scene and a crisis to ensue.

There is a crisis, or series of them, but not a kidnapping. With the Legislative branch under the control of one party and the executive under the other, and the political climate much like the present one, a very serious game of “gotcha” is taking place. The president had interfered in a raid that could have killed Suliman Cindoruk, a bin Laden-like terrorist leader, and worse yet, had engaged in a phone conversation with him. Since he wouldn’t clarify the reason for the call, such blatant behavior was seen as treasonous by the opposition party and grounds for impeachment.

As one might expect, there is a significant reason for the president putting himself in such a precarious political position. Cindoruk is responsible for a virus that was to be turned loose on the United States at a date yet undetermined, but soon. The questionable actions had been an attempt to capture Cindoruk, rather than have him killed and lose any chance of finding out about the virus. The attempted capture failed.

The code name for the impending attack is “Dark Ages.” The virus is a “wiping” computer virus. If unleashed, it will wipe clean every computer hooked to the internet in the United States. Computers will be ruined, turned to doorstops. It will cripple the military, erase all financial records and backups, destroy the electrical grid, disable cell phones and more. U.S. people are not equipped to deal with such “dark ages,” and chaos would ensue. If the threat became public knowledge too soon, chaos would ensue immediately, making it even harder to deal with the threat, thus the need for secrecy.

Two people are primarily responsible for the spread of the dormant virus. One of them developed it, and one spread it onto the internet to lay in wait for a code to set it free to begin. When the couple learned that Cindoruk’s plan entailed devastation far more than wiping clean a specific rival’s computers, they set out to trade their knowledge for a chance to be married and repatriated into their native country. They believed that the United States would certainly do this in return for their knowledge.

As a prelude, they demanded to meet the president in a neutral place, alone. Because the stakes are so high, he agrees. They will meet at a baseball game. Since the meeting is understandably kept quiet, as far as the press knows, the president is missing. A great deal of action and suspensetakes place at this point, all off the grid, so to speak. The president’s inner circle is aware, but most people are in the dark. Since the president has been cast in such a questionable light, the press has a field day.

Near the end of the book, the president makes a speech to a joint session of Congress. While the reason for the speech relates specifically to events in the book, the text, as intended, I’m sure, relates directly to today’s politics. “The American Dream works when our common humanity matters more than our interesting differences and when together they create endless possibilities.”

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