Skip to comments.Former Secret Service agent opens window into private lives of presidents
Posted on 10/15/2009 7:24:49 PM PDT by hecht
Former Secret Service agent opens window into private lives of presidents October 14th, 2009
Jamie Weinstein In his In the Presidents Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents they Protect, journalist Ronald Kessler gives us a peek inside the intimate lives of our presidents. Through interviews with over 100 secret service agents from the past and presentdating all the way back to John F. KennedyKessler paints a picture of what our presidents are like when no one is looking.
They're always watching. We learn from the agents Kessler interviews that John F. Kennedy was a serial adulterer (big surprise) and that Lyndon Johnson was essentially a serial adulterer and a lunatic. If Johnson werent president, hed be in an insane asylum, said one former secret agent who sometimes was on Johnsons detail. Secret Service agents found Richard Nixon strange and unsociable. Agents described Gerald Ford as friendly but cheap, often tipping caddies at exclusive country clubs a dollar if anything at all. But the president subject to the greatest scorn is Jimmy Carter.
Carter is portrayed as a phony according to the agents interviewed by Kessler. Carter would put on a show for the public to convey himself as a common man, but it was never anymore than an act. For instance, we are told that when Carter would make a point of carrying his own luggage in front of the press, he was really carrying empty bags. He expected others to carry his real luggage. Unfriendly, Carter didnt want the police officers and agents looking at him or speaking to him when he went to the [Oval] office, explained an assistant White House usher. The only time I saw a smile on Carters face was when the cameras were going, one former agent told Kessler.
After his presidency, Kessler reports that when Carter would stay at a townhouse maintained for former presidents in D.C., he would take down pictures of other presidents and put up more pictures of himself! The Carters were the biggest liars in the world, one agent told Kessler of the Carter era.
Carter, not surprisingly, denied to Kessler through a lawyer many of the allegations in the book.
The man who sent Carter packing from the White House could not have been more different according to accounts from agents. Ronald Reagan would constantly interact with his secret service agents and other staffers who worked for him. He was apologetic when he would take secret service agents away from their families on holidays. While Carter would make secret service agents pay for any leftover food they consumed after White House parties, we are told Reagan would insist the secret service eat leftover food (without charge, of course).
George H.W. Bush also comes across as eminently decent. The Bushes, for instance, would stay home on Christmas Eve so that the agents could spend at least some time with their families. Both [President Bush] and Mrs. Bush are very thoughtful, and they think outside their own little world. They think of other people, one agent commented to Kessler.
Bushs successor President Clinton comes across fairly well if sometimes inconsiderate, while Hillary Clinton is depicted as a monster. Hillary did not speak to us, one agent told Kessler. We spent years with her. She never said thank you.
Vice President Al Gore was exceedingly obnoxious to his agents according to Kessler. When scolding his son for not doing well in school, Gore chastised him by warning that if you dont straighten up, you wont get into the right schools, and if you dont get into the right schools you could end up like these guys. The guys Gore was referring to were his secret service agents!
President George W. Bush is painted as an affable character behind the scenes. He does not look comfortable in front of a microphone, one agent explained to Kessler. With us, he doesnt talk like that, doesnt sound like that. Hes funny as hell. Bush 43 was also depicted as down to earth and caring.
While many conservatives may bristle at the domestic and foreign policies of current President Barack Obama, judged by the way he treats his secret service agents it is fair to conclude that Obama is personally a decent man. One agent who protected Obama on the campaign trail says that Obama twice invited agents to dinner at his home.
Kesslers book does raise a serious question. Should those charged with protecting the president be chatting about what they saw behind the scenes, especially when the protectee is still alive, or worse, still in office? If presidents have to worry about their secret service agents squealing about them to the press at every turn, it will make our presidents want to put as much distance as possible between them and their agents and thus ultimately compromise presidential security. This is not a desirable outcome to say the least.
On the other hand, secret service agents have a unique view of history and there is something to be learned about our presidents from the stories agents tell. It may be argued that the agents owe a duty to history to tell us what they saw on their watch so we can get a fuller understanding of those who lead us, foibles and all. This argument is especially compelling after a president has passed away, or at the very least, left office.
These are difficult issues to wrestle with, but the fact is that the book has been written. Whats done is done. Might as well take a peek inside.
I’m of a similar opinion, I guess. Would love to read the book. Don’t think it ought to have been written.
I think Secret Service agents should be encouraged to write memoirs, even if those memoirs are then sealed for a specified number of years.
Any insight into American leaders who eventually become historical figures just because they occupied the Oval Office at some point would be valuable in understanding our history at some future date.
I not sure about President Jimmy Carter
I didn’t know about Bush family everybody want work for him
LOL. What a putz.
I wonder, did he carry framed pictures of himself just for this purpose?
I hear about that about Jimmy Carter
I didn’t know about Bush family everybody want work for him
“But the president subject to the greatest scorn is Jimmy Carter.”
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Just give Zer0 another 20 years of SS time delay. He will have been considered the most scorned of all presidents, surpassing Carter like a jackrabbit racing a hamster.
Hangin’s to good for ‘em.
LOL! I bet Carter does ‘vanity Googles’. No QUESTION Zero does. That’s a given.
My observations, not related to the book, of Presidents during my lifetime:
John Kennedy: Forrest Gump with the morals of a sewer rat. First television created President. Was a transitional president. His wife was reasonably hot. ***Note: Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore were selected for the Dick Van Dyke show partly because of their resemblance to JFK and Jackie.
Lyndon Johnson: A bona fide nut; probably a murderer and one of the most dishonest people ever in the WH.
Richard Nixon: A brilliant but tragically flawed man. He was incredibly socially clumsy for a politician.
Jimmy Carter: Flim flam man. Used car salesman. Bought and paid for by the Muslims before he ever got in office. Did more damage than Lyndon Johnson.
Ronald Reagan: Best president of my lifetime, and probably the smartest. He was smart enough to make it look like he wasn’t too smart for the average person to identify with. Best line EVER in a Presidential debate: “I will not make a campaign issue of the youth and inexperience of my opponent.”
George Bush the elder: Nice guy, but a big government globalist. Would never have been elected to much of anything if he hadn’t been on Reagan’s coat tails.
Bill Clinton: Very smart. Could have been a great president, but was willing to compromise himself for petty perks.
George Bush: Very nice guy, good person. Not a great politician, and had some wrong-headed ideas, but was one of the best individuals to ever occupy the WH.
Barack Obama: Narcissist puppet with a teleprompter.
Can you spot the outcast?
Carter (sans sweater)
That is a contest with some stiff competition. But, if anyone could have pulled it off, it was Johnson, who was an absolute reprobate. I don't even think Clinton - rapes and all - comes close to approaching the magnitude of loathsomeness that Johnson easily inhabited.
BTW - how did Al Gores’s son turn out anyway?
Your post: “Carter would stay at a townhouse maintained for former presidents in D.C., he would take down pictures of other presidents and put up more pictures of himself!
LOL. What a putz.”
My post: Carter is not the only putz. Barack Obama just won this year’s Nobel Putz Prize.
I am not a big reader, but I could not put it down.
Yes, Gary Aldrich’s book is a fascinating read. If you are interested in a behind the scene account of the Clinton years I suggest “Hell to Pay”. It was written by Barbara Olson, who died in 9/ll plane crash. Thank you for the recommendation.