2nd book claims Clinton lost nuclear codes while President

posted at 9:30 am on October 21, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

We’ve all misplaced items around the house before — our keys, or a wallet.  How many of you are certain where your TV remote is at the moment?  Of course, you don’t need a TV remote to command the nuclear forces of the US, either:

When you’re President of the United States, you can lose a vote, you can lose popular support, and you can lose a round of golf. But you’re never, ever supposed to lose the biscuit.

That’s what they call the card the president is meant to keep close at hand, bearing the codes that he has to have in order to launch a nuclear attack. And for several months during the Clinton administration, a former top military officer says they lost the biscuit.

Gen. Hugh Shelton, who served under Clinton as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tells the story in his just-published memoir, “Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior.”

“At one point during the Clinton administration,” Shelton writes, “the codes were actually missing for months. […] That’s a big deal — a gargantuan deal.”

Did they look under the sofa cushions?  That’s where my remote usually winds up.

It may have happened more than once.  Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert “Buzz” Patterson carried the “football” during part of the Clinton presidency, and saw enough while on the inside to turn into a fierce critic of Clinton, writing a book about it called Dereliction of Duty.  (Patterson just published another book about Barack Obama, Conduct Unbecoming.)  In Dereliction of Duty, Patterson describes a similar incident in 1998, while Shelton’s anecdote comes from 2000.  Patterson left the White House in 1998, so either Shelton’s dating of the incident is in error, or Clinton lost the biscuit twice.

Obviously, the probability of using the biscuit was low at any time, and even less likely in the post-Soviet era.  However, hiding his loss of the biscuit for months rather than admitting his error immediately and rectifying the situation sounds like classic Bill Clinton, doesn’t it?  And in this case, he misplaced the security of the United States and either didn’t care enough to act to correct it or worried more about his own embarrassment than his ability to respond to a nuclear attack.  So much for Clinton nostalgia.

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maverick muse on October 21, 2010 at 9:59 AM

Hmmm. Never examined closely before now, and although it is hard to see, it does not look like the octave key was working during those higher notes. This would mean that he isn’t the one playing them!

IrishEyes on October 21, 2010 at 1:38 PM

I used to be directly involved with this stuff back in my Air Force days and trust me, the story is very unlikely. But even at a distance of thirty years, I am not going to talk about the Positive Control system. Even general information about it is highly classified, or was, and nobody’s told me different.

PersonFromPorlock on October 21, 2010 at 1:56 PM

I don’t see what the big deal is. Surely Hillary Rodham Clinton had a duplicate set in her official capacity as Co-President.

malclave on October 21, 2010 at 3:23 PM

Were they in a cigar box?

andycanuck on October 21, 2010 at 3:47 PM

Is this really new information? I remember hearing about it at the time.


xblade on October 21, 2010 at 4:06 PM

Were they in a cigar box?

andycanuck on October 21, 2010 at 3:47 PM

Hey Monica?

chickasaw42 on October 21, 2010 at 4:53 PM

This story does not sound credible, mostly because of the amount of detail here:


However, Clinton’s people once left the officer carrying the codes at the Capitol and the guy had to walk back up Pennsylvania Avenue to get back to the White House.

patch on October 21, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Guys, its accurate. I was Clinton’s military aide and I wrote about it in my first book, Dereliction of Duty, which came out in 2003. Gen Shelton is just confirming that. For those of you who doubt, personfromporlock for example, you quite frankly don’t know what you are talking about.

buzzpat on October 21, 2010 at 7:07 PM

buzzpat on October 21, 2010 at 7:07 PM


You’re Buzz Patterson?

Hawkdriver comes to attention and salutes you.

One question, why so long for the story to come out.

BTW, I did some Pappa 40 standby for President Bush. An honor to work with you guys up there.

hawkdriver on October 21, 2010 at 8:15 PM

Why is it that this doesn’t surprise me?

I also worked with the “codes” way back when. When Reagan was wounded, his codes were possibly compromised and we did a change out. I was the commander of the ops crew on duty the day we changed them out in an location that shall be unspecified.

Just another reason Bill Clinton should have never been elected – he just didn’t have the integrity for the job. I’d believe the rumor about Carter, but have no first-hand knowledge of it.

I know to some it doesn’t seem important, but for those of us who’ve “been there and done that”, it’s a damn big deal. Now I have to worry about our current occupant. I’d suspect he’s just as “carefree” as Slick.

Bill M on October 21, 2010 at 9:02 PM

Jimmy Carter supposedly sent them to the dry cleaner in his coat pocket.

Oldnuke on October 21, 2010 at 9:49 AM

If we have to compare one Democrat Liberal buffoon to another, Carter losing the nuclear codes is worse than Clinton doing so. And yes of course, Clinton losing the codes for months is worse than Carter losing them for a short time.

But Clinton was a draft-dodging traitor while Carter at one time was a serving US Naval officer aboard nuclear subs. We can expect Clinton to be an America-loathing lava lamp Luddite and hence not give a damn about the seriousness of being repsonsible for the codes. But Carter’s nuclear military background gives him no excuse – his actions in office and afterwards prove the contempt he has towards the office of the Presidency, the American people and America itself. Despicable.

CatchAll on October 21, 2010 at 11:02 PM