Finished Tim Weiner’s One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon.
The morning was cloaked with clouds. A helicopter awaited on the lawn. Nixon left the White House, said farewell to Gerald Ford, and walked to the chopper. [NSC officer David Michael Ransom] stepped out onto a balcony to watch Nixon fly away. Two other people stood beside him. One was the White House chef, wearing his white uniform. The other was Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, smoking his pipe.
“Nixon flashed his double-armed signal of departure with two fingers raised in a ‘V’ sign and then turned and entered the helicopter,” Ransom [remembered in an oral history recorded in 2003]. “It began cranking up very slowly. Finally, there was a deafening sound. The chopper lifted off, pivoted, and disappeared into the gloom of the morning. It was almost a haunted scene.”
As the helicopter faded into the fog, the three men looked at one another. Schlesinger took his pipe out of his mouth, banged it on the railing, emptying the bowl, and said, “It’s an interesting constitutional question, but I think I’m still the secretary of defense. So I am going back to my office.” He looked at the cook and said, “What are you going to do?”
The cook said, “I’m going to prepare lunch for the President.”
“I thought, ‘Of course. The king is dead. Long live the king!’” Ransom said. “The cook had it right. This wasn’t an abstruse argument over constitutional privileges. Our state was going to carry on and the president would want lunch in about an hour and a half. So, the cook went and prepared it…”