What the Secret Service thought of ‘em

Published: November 16, 2012

anwer.mooraj@tribune.com.pk

In 1922, Walter Lippmann, writer, reporter and political commentator published his remarkable book Public Opinion. It is a critical assessment of functional democratic government, especially the irrational, and other self-serving, social perceptions that influence individual behaviour and prevent optimal societal cohesion. It also contains a significant observation. “Great men, even during their life time, are usually known to the public through a fictitious personality; hence, the modicum of truth in the old saying that no man is a hero to his valet.” This applies not just to millionaires and movie stars but also to US presidents, as Ronald Kessler points out in his highly readable book — In the President’s Secret Service. There are a few very interesting snippets from Impressions and Observations of the Secret Service about some past presidents and their first ladies.

The comments led me to the inescapable conclusion that by and large, the Republican presidents were moral. They did not dip their pen in company ink and were thought of highly by the chaps who guarded them day and night, probably wondering when some deranged character would take a shot at el supremo. The senior George Bush was the darling of the Secret Service. “He was extremely kind and considerate. Always respectful and correct and took great care in ensuring the agents’ comforts were taken care of … and even brought them meals … and warm clothes. He was also very prompt and ran the White House like a well-oiled machine.” His son and wife, Laura, were also greatly loved by the Secret Service. “They made sure their entire administrative and household staff understood they were to respect and be considerate of the Secret Service. Laura was … “one of the nicest First Ladies, if not the nicest … She never had a harsh word to say about anyone”.

Ronald Reagan was another darling of the elite corps. “The real deal. Moral, honest, respectful and dignified … They treated the Secret Service and everybody else with respect and honour, and thanked everyone all the time … Reagan tried to get to know each of the lads who guarded him on a personal level.” Probably his background as an actor prompted a little eccentricity, like carrying a pistol on his person. Once when one of the agents said: “Why the pistol Mr President?” He replied: “In case you boys can’t get the job done, I can help.” The Reagans shunned alcohol “and drank wine only during state dinners and special occasions … Nancy Reagan was very protective of her husband and tried hard to control what he ate, occasionally saying to the Secret Service chap on duty ‘Come on, you gotta help me out’.” In short, “The Reagans were the ones who lived life as genuinely moral people”. Gerald Ford came a close fourth. “A true gentleman who treated us with respect and dignity … He also had a great sense of humour.” His wife, however, spoiled the image. “She drank a lot.”

Richard Nixon was something of an exception. He was moral all right, “… but very odd, weird and paranoid, something of a recluse and didn’t have a good relationship with his family. His wife was quiet most of the time”. While he is referred to in the United States as Tricky Dick of Watergate, he is, however, remembered by the older generation in the Pakistan Foreign Office as the American president who saved this country from an onslaught by the Indian army in the western wing after the fall of Dhaka.

The Democrats were in a completely different league and got the wrong end of the stick from the Secret Service. John Kennedy was “a philanderer of the highest order”. And she (Jackie) ordered the kitchen help to save all the leftover wine at a state dinner, mixed it with fresh wine and served it again during the next White House occasion. Lyndon Johnson was “another philanderer of the highest order”. In addition, “LBJ was as crude as the day is long. Both JFK and LBJ kept a lot of women in the White House for extramarital affairs, and both had set up ‘early warning systems’ to alert them if or when their wives were nearby. Both … were promiscuous and oversexed men … She (Ladybird) was either naïve or just pretended to ‘not know’ about her husband’s many liaisons.”

Going back a few years there was Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn. The Secret Service found him to be “a complete phony who would portray one picture of himself to the public and was very different in private, e.g., would be shown carrying his own luggage, but the suitcases were always empty. He kept the empty ones just for photo ops. Wanted people to see him as pious and a non-drinker, but he and his family drank alcohol a lot. He had disdain for the Secret Service and was very irresponsible with the ‘football’ that has the nuclear codes. He didn’t think it was a big deal and would keep military aides at a distance. Often did not acknowledge the presence of Secret Service personnel assigned to serve him.”

For Bill Clinton, the “Presidency was one great party. Not trustworthy, he was nice mainly because he wanted everyone to like him, but to him life is just one big game and party. Everyone knows of his sexuality.” Their views about Hillary are equally unflattering: “She is another phony. Her personality would change the instant cameras were near. She hated with open disdain the military and Secret Service. She was another one who felt people were there to serve her. She was always trying to keep tabs on Bill Clinton.”

Barack Obama was “Clinton all over again — hates the military and looks down on the Secret Service. He is egotistical and cunning; looks you in the eye and appears to agree with you, but turns around and does the opposite. Untrustworthy. He has temper tantrums. She (Michelle) is a complete bitch, who basically hates anybody who is not black; hates the military: and looks at the Secret Service as servants.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Parvez
    Nov 16, 2012 - 11:00PM

    Books like this usually end up getting serialised in small time ‘women’ publications because who doesn’t like a big dollop of sleaze regularly.
    You Sir chose the most entertaining subjects. Great read this.

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  • Zalmai
    Nov 16, 2012 - 11:21PM

    What a load of undignified and uncouth crap.

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  • Nov 16, 2012 - 11:55PM

    Book indicates of the bias of the writer. Though his observations seem to be near the reality because generally the Republicans are brought up by strick parents and thus generally offsprings of such parents behave elegantly. Still bias can not be ruled out and thus should be treated as observations from one person. NOTHING MORE.

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  • Raza Khan
    Nov 17, 2012 - 1:43AM

    Nothing else except hate for Democrats! Probably written by some Red Neck.

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  • gp65
    Nov 17, 2012 - 2:48AM

    @Haroon Choudhry: Bush W. at one point was an alcoholic. McCain cheated on his wife – who had stood by him when he was in Vietnam and left her for a woman 20 yeas younger. Less said about Guiliani and Newt Gingrich the better. In the end humans are humansand the notion that people who prefer one poliical philosophy over other are likely to be more oius is simply a prejudice.

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  • kanwal
    Nov 17, 2012 - 3:03AM

    Err…what was the point of this article again?

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  • Nov 17, 2012 - 3:26AM

    I’m assuming the writer read a blog or e-mail you get spammed with from misinformed prejudiced delusional rightwing Conservative bloggers, rather than the book itself, and is quoting from there.

    The book’s author, who himself is Conservative, and so are many of the Secret Service agents, hence the more favourable bias and gossip reviews of some Republican presidents, did not summarize Bill Clinton like that, nor mention Obama hating the military in the book, and doubt such an outrageous claim against Michelle Obama like that was made in the book, except in the embellishing blogs and e-mails, which some white racial resenters and outright racists would love to believe.

    Fact checked.
    http://www.factcheck.org/2011/06/secret-service-tattletales/

    A reveiw of the book by Washington Post.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082101668.html

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  • P N Eswaran
    Nov 17, 2012 - 10:58AM

    It is an interesting article. Can a political divide coincide with the moral divide is the question. republicans and the democrats are from the same society and hence cannot have an entirely different value systems. But the facts given by the author merits further enquiry into the divergent behaviors of republican and democrat presidents of USA.

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  • Mirza
    Nov 17, 2012 - 11:03AM

    And we have a universal license to be judgmental? Most of the elections in the US are decided by a few % votes. That does not make half of the people moral (using our standards) and the other half immoral depending upon our preference. For God sake these are politicians not role models and they served their nation with distinction not acted as foreign agent or traitor. None of them committed any action against their constitution or oath of office as opposed to all our civil and military rulers.

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  • Rahid Qureshi
    Nov 17, 2012 - 1:08PM

    so, whoever increased the Defense budget was good, and whoever didnt was bad. Where have we heard that before!!

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  • FactCheck
    Nov 17, 2012 - 3:07PM

    Who cares?

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  • Foreign Leg
    Nov 17, 2012 - 6:40PM

    @bigsaf: On reading the links you have provided, it is clear that the author himself did not read the book and used a circulating spurious email as the basis for this article. Following from factcheck.org:
    .
    Contrary to the e-mail’s account, the book does not say that President Obama “hates the military and looks down on the Secret Service.” In fact, it says the opposite.

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  • qzj00
    Nov 17, 2012 - 10:17PM

    @Foreign Leg:
    I fully agree with you. And, I also believe that both ET and the author owe the readers an explanation.

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