You may have seen James Patterson and Bill Clinton making the rounds on the talk show circuit to promote their book, “The President Is Missing.” The news centering around the interviews has mainly involved the former president having to defend his sexual misbehavior in the #MeToo era. The message of the book has largely escaped media notice on both the right and the left.
I didn’t intend to read the book. Normally anything that involves the Clintons pegs low on my interest meter and despite being a lifelong bookworm I had never read anything by James Patterson. I picked up the book out of curiosity when my son pointed it out at our local library. After perusing it for a few minutes, it piqued my interest enough to check it out.
To those who would argue that my conservative credentials are suspect because I read a book coauthored by Bill Clinton, I say that it isn’t healthy to wall yourself off from all opposing viewpoints. The insular echo chambers of social media in which we hear only a distorted view of the other side’s beliefs are a major problem of modern American life. Besides, I checked the book out from a library so no Clintons were enriched by my reading of the novel.
To my surprise, “The President Is Missing” is a very good book. It is a fast-paced and very believable thriller that is difficult to put down. Despite fears to the contrary, the book does not preach about the liberal point of view any more than average Hollywood movie and probably less so. There are references to traditional Democratic talking points, but that is to be expected from a book that centers around a president who assumed to be a Democrat.
The central character of the book is the president, who tells the story from his point of view. Although a Democrat, the president seems to be a moderate and the character is likable. Like a few modern Democrats from the real world, he is a veteran of Desert Storm. Unlike many from both sides of the aisle, the fictional president puts partisanship aside to act in the best interests of the country at great personal risk to himself.
The plot involves the reliance of modern America on electricity and the internet, a threat that I have been concerned about for years. For a long time, I was concerned that a rogue state such as North Korea or Iran could launch an electromagnetic pulse attack. In such a scenario, a nuclear weapon would be detonated high over the central US and the resulting EMP would fry the electrical grids and devices for most of the country. Such an attack could lead to mass starvation and the collapse of the economy.
More recently, I’ve realized that it would be much easier for cyber attackers to simply switch off the electrical grids and lock out the “white hat” hackers defending them. Given the ubiquitous nature of the internet in modern life, malware and viruses could infest everything from household appliances to defense computers and cause havoc.
If you think it can’t happen, it already has… at least on a smaller scale. Russia has launched cyber-attacks on Ukrainian power plants that caused extensive blackouts as far back as 2015. In 2014, a botnet hijacked 100,000 internet-connected devices including a smart refrigerator and used it send 750,000 spam emails. In October 2016, a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack crashed the sites of such internet giants as Twitter, CNN and Netflix. At about the same time, Russian hackers were attacking numerous state and local election administration sites.
The possibilities for nefarious internet schemes with catastrophic outcomes are limited only by the imaginations of cyber terrorists, but there are many defensive strategies as well. One of the most obvious is limiting exposure. Just because something can be connected to the internet doesn’t mean it should be. Is it really in our best interests to have our refrigerators and toasters online? When it comes to voting, paper ballots, even with all their problems, seem immeasurably more secure than a computer-based voting system.
“The President Is Missing” was a quick and enjoyable read. If you like political thrillers and want to escape the crazy news of the day to a world where problems can be wrapped up in 500 pages, don’t be put off by the former president’s name on the cover. Check it out at your local library and you won’t even have to feel guilty.
Originally published on The Resurgent