It happened today - September 18, 2015
Here’s one from the X Files, sort of. On September 18, 1973, future President Jimmy Carter filed a UFO report with the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. He’s the only President who ever thought he saw a flying saucer. And he would be.
Campaigning for President in 1976, he was quite open about this October 1969 incident. He was waiting outside a Lion’s Club meeting in rural Georgia in the early evening when he saw “the darndest thing I’ve ever seen”, a bright, multicoloured object hovering about the horizon, about the size of the moon. And afterward, he told a journalist, he swore never again to mock anyone who claimed to have seen a UFO.
Fortunately I’ve made no such promise. So har har har. Hoo hah. Har-de-har-har. What a chump. Of course it was the 1970s, when people were into ludicrous things like astrology and pyramid power and this kind of mushy receptivity to bogus alternative cosmologies was thought a sign of open- rather than feeble-mindedness. Remember Chariots of the Gods and all that nonsense? But being a creature of one’s times is not a get-out-of-ridicule-free card and, as a prominent public figure, Carter contributed to the Zeitgeist as well as reflecting and being shaped by it.
Indeed, during the election Carter promised if elected to push for the release of “every piece of information” the government had about UFOs. Once elected, he broke this promise (that’s politicians for you) citing national security. Which wasn’t as silly as it sounds. Carter wasn’t hiding space rays for use against invading aliens, but the fact that UFO sightings were at least sometimes people spotting classified Department of Defence tests and other times investigations used classified radar and other data.
The sighting itself was, though. It is of a piece with Carter being the only president ever attacked by a rabbit, and with being just generally a ridiculous person. I know he is now old and has health problems and I’m not going after him because of that. I’m going after him because he was a sanctimonious prat, a bad president, a bitter ex-president who badmouthed his successors abroad and at home, and a generally feeble character endowed with endless conceit but thoroughly lacking in judgement in everything from relations with the Soviet Union to things changing colour in the sky.
Incidentally NICAP went out of business the same year Carter was defeated by Reagan. Neither was missed.