Tuesday, May 15, 2018
The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents Hardcover by Ronald Kessler (Crown Forum)
The author writes an interesting and thoughtful book about a part of government that many people are not very familiar with: the Secret Service. He describes the vast and impressive array of procedures employed in protecting presidents ,current and previous, vice presidents, and their families, as well as cabinet secretaries and political leaders in the line of succession to become president in case of a severe emergency. During a presidential election the leading candidates are also protected.
To accomplish their mission Secret Service agents must work in close proximity to all their protectees, becoming a part of their lives on a daily basis. This gives the agents a clear window through which to observe their personalities and character. Revelations from some of the agents indicate that what transpires in their clients' private lives may not comport with the image that they desire to show to the public.
As examples, the book describes how a number of protectees were especially "nasty" to the agents and their own staffs: Bill and Hillary Clinton, Nancy Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Al Gore.
Especially friendly and respectful to agents were Ronald Reagan, Bush 41 and 43 and their wives, Dick and Lynne Cheney and Mitt and Ann Romney. The sexual proclivities of LBJ, Bill Clinton (both inside and outside of the Oval Office) and Gary Hart are portrayed as important character issues. Some revelations are surprising, such as the preference of Joe Biden to swim naked in his home pool while being closely guarded by female agents. Many other observations of family members are also related, Including some of their drinking habits. Tension with the children of protected families seems to be prevalent in many cases.
Another focus of the book is an analysis of the management of the Secret Service. The author describes and details the incompetence and corruption of senior management that has resulted in poorly trained agents with very low morale, lack of leading-edge technology and weaponry to discover and eliminate threats, and in some cases a demonstrable lack of concern about national security. Prior lapses in standard procedures have resulted in the assassination attempts on presidents Reagan and Ford, and have put more current presidents in grave danger. After a number of recent scandals involving penetration of the White House grounds by dangerous perpetrators, the author ridicules president Obama's decision not to bring in a new director from the outside to replace the one who was fired, as he believes that as a result there will not be any change in the dysfunctional culture at the top.