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Literature / The General's President

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The General's President is a 1988 political speculative fiction novel written by John Dalmas.

When a stock market crash takes place in 1994 that makes the previous one of 1929 look like a minor market adjustment, serious riots and unrest spread across not only the United States but the entire world. In ill health and unable to deal with the current crisis, the incumbent President wants to resign but must first use far reaching emergency powers given to him by congress to appoint a Vice President to succeed him, having fired his previous Vice President weeks before in light of a Scandalgate.

He selects General Thomas M. "Jumper" Cromwell, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as his successor. However, not wanting to ascend to the presidency and concerned that a military officer taking over as President will not be accepted by the American public, Cromwell recommends the president appoint someone else on his recommendation. The person in question is millionaire entrepreneur and electrical engineer Arne Eino Haugen of Minnesota, a man who has never held public office and has a very personal and individualist idea of how the country needs to be run.

This show contains examples of:

  • The Ace: Arne Haugen can be seen as this. He is a self made millionaire and entrepreneur who came from humble beginnings, born and raised in a log cabin in rural Minnesota. He served in the military during World War II before becoming an electrical engineer and growing his company Duluth Technologies to be one of the largest companies in the country. He speaks several languages, many of them fluently, and throughout the novel is shown to be fairly humble and level headed despite the immense power bestowed upon him.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • General Thomas M. Cromwell is known as "Jumper" to his close friends and colleagues.
    • Secretary of State (later Vice President and President) Dr. Rudolpho Valenzuela is nicknamed "Val" by President Arne Haugen.
    • Paul Van Breda, President Haugen's second Secretary of Defense, is nicknamed "Dutch".
  • A Good Way to Die: At the end of the book, both Arne and Lois Haugen decide to go out on their own terms instead of letting their illnesses kill them. They spend many weeks together on holiday with their family, then wrap up warm, hire a speedboat, and sail it directly into a large storm on Lake Superior off the coast of their native Minnesota.
  • Alternate History: The book was written in 1988 but is set in 1994-5, with several "excerpts" from fictional books from 2001 and 2034 also appearing. In this timeline, many notable fictional events take place:
    • At the start of the novel, the USSR still exists in 1994 and remains a dominant superpower, with Mikhail Gorbachev having died in office and been succeeded by the fictional Premier Kulish. After increasingly tense actions with the United States throughout the novel, including the two nations using weather controlling devices to wreak havoc on eachother, a more moderate Soviet government takes over. Haugen and the new Premier General Serafim Petrovich Gurenko come to a dipolmatic agreemen at a conference in Zurich which begins the end of the Cold War. The agreement not only introduces the Scalar Resonance technology to the world, but also sets in motion the dismantling of the Soviet Empire within Eastern Europe in exchange for the United States, the UK and Canada removing their military installations from the continent.
    • Another large subplot in the book concerns the USSR launching a partially successful invasion of Iran and Iraq, much like how they invaded Afghanistan in the 1970's. This causes the Ayatollah to go into hiding in Pakistan. However, with the ongoing weather war with the US and the constant changing of the party leadership, the occupation is eventually abandoned. Furthermore, a plebiscite is planned to be introduced in Afghanistan as part of the Zurich Agreement between the US and USSR to ascertain whether the people want to remain part of the USSR or become independent again.
    • Trade and diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba were restored prior to the events of the book by the Wheeler Administration, with Fidel Castro having died and been succeeded by the more moderate and US friendly Colonel Juan Augustin Lopez.
    • The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in San Francisco was also reopened and refurbished under President Wheeler, and is used to house many of the criminals arrested during the unrest after the stock market crash in the Donnelly Administration.
    • Large civil conflict erupts in southern Africa, with the Republic of South Africa (still under apartheid) invading Namibia in retaliation for their Marxist government supporting civil unrest in the RSA, with Cuban mercenaries in Angola becoming involved in the mix as well. The war escalates to race riots destroying a number of towns in South Africa, and the RSA government bombing parts of Mozambique, which results in Pretoria being counterattacked and levelled by a neutron cluster bomb provided to Mozambique by the USSR. By the end of the book, the United Nations is trying to resolve the issue by allocating an area of land in the country to be home to the white Afrikaners, and allowing the majority black population to take control of South Africa as a whole.
    • Fighting also breaks out in The Philippines, with several majority Muslim provinces violently demanding either complete independence or the ability to secede and join Indonesia.
  • Apocalypse Cult: After the stock market collapse many of these began to pop up and gain popularity across the United States, with official statistics stating around 5 million Americans are affiliated with such organisations. A notable one is the "Stalwart in God Church of the Apocalypse", the church that the man who tries to assassinate Haugen is a member of.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Multiple fictional and speculative advancements in physics are made throughout the novel, including:
    • The development of Scalar Resonance Weaponary, which is able to control both temperature and weather. However it is stated that the origin of this technology is extraterrestrial in nature.
    • Haugens company, Duluth Technologies, invents and releases a super efficient power source called the Geogravitic Power Converter to the American and international public. It generates power by converting gravity into electricity, and was developed from expanding Nikola Teslas research.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Although carried out using borderline dictatorial powers, Haugen resigns from the presidency having enacted meaningful change and success in a country that was previously torn apart. The depression caused by the crash has subsided, with unemployment down and the economy in recovery, and the new congress moving to implement and retain several of Haugens decreed laws. The cold war is slowly coming to an end, with relations between the US and the newly moderate and shrinking USSR remaining strong. The secret and conspiratorial Archons of the Holist Council are all either dead or imprisoned, unable to secretly manipulate the American political system from the shadows. However, both Haugen and his wife's age finally catches up to them, with Haugen developing Lou Gehrigs disease and Lois an inoperable cancer. Wanting to go out on their own terms, they decide to commit suicide in their native Minnesota by sailing a small motorboat directly into a storm on Lake Superior.
  • The Chains of Commanding:
    • The stress brought on by the market collapse causes President Kevin J. Donnelly to become so ill he has to be permanently accompanied by the White House physician before he resigns in favour of Haugen. As soon as he is no longer president he is taken to hospital for medical treatment.
    • Although not as badly affected as Donnelly, Haugen also starts to notice his health deteriorating as a result of the stress of the office. His physical endurance decreases, he fails to sleep as well as he used to and begins to experience pangs of anxiety for the first time in his life.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: The CIA is not portrayed in a particular positive light in the book, with guards outside its headquarters gassing and attacking non-violent protesters. It's Director, Carlton Blackburn, is later revealed to be a member of the Holist Council and carrying out illegal psychotropic drug experiments on people. In contrast, the FBI is shown to be valiant, loyal and friendly, with President Haugen relying on FBI Director Peter Dirksma to gather intel on the treacherous Blackburn and later arrest him.
  • The Conspiracy: Another subplot within the book focuses on the machinations of the Holist Council, primarily its leader Paul Willard Randolph Massey. Calling themselves the "Archons", they are a covert shadow group of wealthy individuals who seek to control and manipulate the American legal and political situation in their own favour, with the ideal outcome being a complete rewrite of the constitution. The group has operatives within the government (such as Dr. Carlton Blackburn, the Director of the CIA who covertly works on illegal psychotropic experiments similar to MK-Ultra under the alias of Merriman) and congress. The government seems to be aware of their existence, but they are virtually untouchable due to their influence and legal manoeuvres. Threatened by the unwavering and seemingly uninfluencable nature of President Haugen, they repeatedly try and fail to have him assassinated. At the end of the novel, a retired Haugen reveals their existence to Congress, but by this time the majority are either dead or imprisoned.
  • Cunning Linguist: Haugen speaks a multitude of languages, including: Russian, Spanish, Japanese, German, French, Swedish, Tagalog, Norwegian and Finnish as well as Chinese. He is most proficient in Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish, with his parents and grandparents having spoke them as their native tongue.
  • Dawn of an Era: Haugen likes to think the fundamental changes to the legal and political system he makes whilst in power will change the country for the better. Large portions of the book are dedicated to covering the speeches he makes to various organisations where he describes not only the changes in the law but why he is changing them.
  • Defector from Commie Land: Nikita Bulavin, a former Soviet Major General and Deputy Ambassador who now works for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, advising them on matters to do with the USSR. He adopts the cover identity of Colonel Kurt Schubert, a German-American working for the Defense Intelligence Service.
  • Emergency Authority: In light of the turmoil that erupts across the country as a result of the market crash, Congress introduces and passes the Emergency Powers Act, which confers a greater amount of authority of the Executive Branch. It is how Haugen is able to become Vice President and then President without congressional approval, and how he is also able to exact signficant changes to the legal and political system of the United States whilst in office.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The sheer amount of incidents and problems that Arne Haugen has to deal with throughout the novel leads the reader to believe he remains in office as President for at least a few years. However, at the end of the book it is revealed he was only in office for five months.
  • Famous, Famous, Fictional: Often used throughout the novel, with real life historical figures being mentioned alongside the fictional ones that form part of the story.
    • In the Soviet Union, several references are made to the reigns of Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Gorbachev, as well as the fictional Kulish, Pavlenko and Gurenko.
    • Regarding the conflict in apartheid South Africa, references are made to the real life civil rights activist Rev. Desmond Tutu and also the fictional Wilfred Mpumelele.
    • In the United States several former presidents are mentioned, including Wilson, Truman, Kennedy and Reagan, as well as the fictional Wheeler, Donnelly, Haugen and later Valenzuela, with President Wheeler being said to have succeeded Ronald Reagan.
  • Feeling Their Age: Although Haugen is said to be in excellent physical shape for a man in his seventies, he slowly begins to struggle with exercise and exertion throughout his presidency.
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: Haugen cites the overly litigious nature of the current legal system in the United States as reasons for the sweeping and significant reforms he brings in. These include the ability to fine and arrest plaintiffs and what he views as Amoral Attorney's who attempt to bring such actions, and doing away completely with the award of punitive damages.
  • The Generalissimo: General Cromwell fears he will be viewed as such if he succeeds Kevin Donnelly as president. It is the primary reason he recommends that Haugen be appointed instead.
  • Good Shepherd: Father Stephen Flynn, an old friend of Haugen who is appointed as White House Chaplain when he becomes president. Although Haugen is not religious, he likes to have Flynn alongside him when making important decisions, feeling he provides an additional level of moral conscience.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: The Scalar Resonance weaponry is constructed from technology of extraterrestrial origin, although its lead scientist dismisses any theories about "little green men". The full nature of the alien presence and contact is not expanded upon.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: In light of the financial crisis and economic turmoil, the IRS is said to be conducting many illegal raids and property seizures on US citizens. When Haugen ascends to the presidency he nips this in the bud, having the IRS commissioner and his high ranking associates arrested and charged, and liaising with the FBI to prevent the new agency leadership from doing the same thing.
  • Military Coup: Happens in the Soviet Union during Haugens administration. Oleg Stepanovich Pavlenko, the former Minister of Defense has men loyal to him attack the Kremlin and oust the incumbent Kulish regime, installing himself as the new Premier Marshal and First Secretary.
  • Murder-Suicide: The leader of the Holist Council kills his secretary while the man is giving him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and then turns the gun on himself due to knowing that the government has evidence of his crimes.
  • Nuke 'em:
    • During the Haugen presidency, a group of homegrown American terrorists are able to acquire a 20 kiloton nuclear bomb and detonate it over the Chesapeake Bay in Delaware.
    • Although not a nuclear attack, the conflict in South Africa is made worse when Pretoria (the administrative capital) is bombed by Mozambique with a neutron cluster warhead (provided by the Soviets) as retaliation for South African government bombing Maputo the day before. 500,000 people are said to have died.
  • Oppressive States of America:
    • In light of the 1994 market crash and the subsequent riots and turmoil, President Donnelly suspends habeus corpus and declares martial law across the country. A new position for Continental Command in the Joint Chiefs is established, overseeing the National Guard enforcement of martial law.
    • Perpetrators arrested in the riots are sent to internment camps across the country, where they are provided with food, recreation and shelter but are forced to work in manual labour. However under Haugen the camps begin to be dismantled, with those arrested for serious offences being sent to court to either be imprisoned or set free, and low level offenders being released without trial.
    • It could be argued some of the policies introduced by the Haugen Administration fall under this trope, especially the requirement that white collar Wall Street criminals be sentenced to hard labour in prisons in Arizona. However, Haugen notes that such punishment is already given to blue collar criminals, and he is simply making the punishment equal.
  • Our Presidents Are Different:
    • Arne Haugen is an electrical engineer who ascends to the presidency having never held public office and not holding any specific partisan political affiliation. He simply does what he believes is most intelligent and best when it comes to enacting mass change in the United States, ignoring special interest groups and lobbyists entirely and only partially listening to his advisers and cabinet.
    • Rudolpho Valenzuela, Haugens eventual successor. He is an Afro-Cuban international relations professor born in Puerto Rico, also having never been elected to political office (although he did work as a Deputy Secretary and special envoy to Cuba in the Wheeler Administration).
  • Scandalgate: President Kevin J. Donnelly fired Strock, his previous Vice President, due to his involvement in the "Qaddir scandal". What the Qaddir scandal actually was is never expanded upon.
  • 25th Amendment: Mentioned but strangely played with, especially considering the nature of the novel.
    • It is acknowledged throughout that the Vice President will succeed the President either temporarily in the case of injury or incapacitation or permanently in the case of death, impeachment or resignation. This is how Kevin Donnelly became President (after Wheeler died of a heart attack) and is how Arne Haugen and later Rudolpho Valenzuela also ascend to the office.
    • However, an unnecessary amount of emphsis is placed on the need for a Vice President, with real life provisions regarding the presidential line of succession, such as the ability for the Speaker of the House or President pro tempore to take over in the absence of a Vice President (which existed since the 1960's so should be present in the novels 1990's setting) not being addressed at all. It could be argued that Haugen should have never become President, as although Donnelly lacked a Vice President when he wanted to resign, the Speaker of the House could have ascended to the presidency instead, being the next in line.
    • Nevertheless, it is also mentioned that the Speaker, Kenneth Lynch, is Irish born and thus may not be legible to hold the office, or Dalmas simply could have simply chosen to cherry pick and misrepresent the constitutional law in order to further the plot of the novel.
  • Unexpected Successor: Arne Eino Haugen, an electrical engineer and businessman who has never been involved in politics succeeds Kevin J. Donnelly, a career politician who previously served as a congressman from Colorado and Vice President, as President.
  • Vice President Who?: Haugen's processor, President Donnelly, is a former vice-president who recently assumed office after the sudden death of his predecessor. He is portrayed as a fretting, overwhelmed man who's on the verge of a nervous breakdown and has been manipulated into helping several unsavory people. That said, the amount of pressure he's under would break almost anyone else in the book.
  • Weather-Control Machine: One of the main subplots of the novel revolves around the existence and use of Scalar Resonance Weaponary, which both the United States and the USSR possess. It is said to be of extra-terrestrial origin, and is able to control both temperature and weather down to very precise levels. By the end of the book the US and Soviets come to an agreement to reveal its existence to the world, and to only use it for peaceful and humanitarian purposes instead of war, as well as give control of it to other superpowers.
  • Weather Manipulation: The main function of the Scalar Resonance Weaponary. It is used multiple times throughout the book.
    • The USSR first tests its use by triggering Mount Spurr in Alaska to erupt, which causes significant pollution but does not harm much life.
    • The USSR then uses it to trigger disruption within the ice caps, causing large amounts of the Southern United States to experience a severe winter, with incredibly low temperatures and large amounts of snow. The US responds in turn, triggering a more severe winter across large parts of the USSR.
    • The final Soviet attack using the Scalar Resonance weaponry triggers large earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault, severely damaging large parts of California and Washington. The US responds by using the weaponry to cause an instant heat extraction within the Politburo building in the Kremlin, instantly freezing the entire Soviet leadership to death.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Haugen definitely fits into this category. Although the changes he introduces whilst president are (in his view) for the best, they are extremely radical, different and very much based on his own personal beliefs and practices as an engineer. They are also not debated upon, voted on or subject to any further actions or alterations by the American public or congress, as the Emergency Powers Act that enabled him to become President essentially enables him to rule by decree.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Soviet Premier Kulish is last mentioned as on the run after a military coup (one unfortunately led by someone even worse than Kulish himself). His final fate is unrevealed even after yet another Russian leader assumes power.
  • What You Are in the Dark: General Thomas Cromwell is brought to the White House during the middle of a national emergency and told that the beleaguered president is ready to resign as soon as he appoints a new vice-president. He wants Cromwell to be that Vice-President. Cromwell is told that new legislation will allow the president swear in Cromwell as vice-president without the approval of Congress and will also give him unrestricted powers to solve the financial crisis. Cromwell has the opportunity to seize all of that power with nothing standing in his way. Instead, he emphatically refuses and sets out to find someone better qualified for the job.
    Cromwell: I'll accept if it comes to that. But don't do it to me, Charles, unless you absolutely have to. My first name is Thomas, for Christake, not Oliver.