So at some point yesterday, amidst all the cheers and music and joy there was a very sober moment. It's a totally routine event; something that happens when every incoming president is inaugurated—but nonetheless it's a little bit scary. The new president receives a briefcase that harnesses inside it the power to put it all to an end. Everything. Let's let the Atlanta Journal Constitution fill in the blanks:
A military officer carrying the most explosive information in the world will accompany President Bush to the Capitol on Tuesday. Then he or she will accompany President Obama back to the White House.As simply as that, the “nuclear football” will pass into the new president’s care —- a peaceful transfer of extraordinary power that has become routine in this country. The leather-bound attache case contains launch authentication codes; a secure phone that gives the president access to the 1,300 strategic nuclear weapons always on alert; and a listing attack of options, from one shot to Armageddon.
Heavy stuff. Supposedly it gets its name from an old early launch plan code named "drop kick" and the name stuck. Over time, The Football (it doesn't feel right to leave that word lowercase) has been used to take a series of political cheap shots: like when Bush got made fun of for having an aide carry the case in the presence of the pope, or when Clinton (and numerous other presidents) have left it behind with an aide. Most memorably to me is when Carter left the launch codes in a his suit pocket. Instead of winding up in the hands of evil doers the suit only found its way to a dry cleaners, and a possible international crisis was averted. Here's to world peace.
Image taken from Wikimedia Commons and used under a Creative Commons License