A few blocks from the White House, on the busy corner of H and 9th streets, stands a 1)bland, unnamed, nine-story office building. On a wall in the lobby, large silver letters spell out the words “Worthy of Trust and Confidence.” That is the motto of the Secret Service, and the anonymous tan-brick building is the agency’s headquarters. “The phrase,” said former director Lewis C. Merletti, “is the absolute heart and soul of the 2)United States Secret Service…And it must never be compromised.” Lest they forget, all agents have the motto 3)emblazoned on their IDs. So, how would you feel if a frowning man with dark sunglasses and wires in his ears grabbed the back of your pants every time you walked into a crowd? That’s just one of many less-than-enjoyable aspects of presidential life that the Obama family—4)christened with their official Secret Service code names: 5)Renegade (Barack), 6)Renaissance (Michelle), Radiance (Malia), and Rosebud (Sasha)—have been living with.
Of course, the Obamas aren’t the only ones having to tolerate the Secret Service being around. Using 7)gadgets that would make 8)James Bond envious, agents sweep offices and hotel rooms for surveillance devices, test food for poison, and measure air quality to check for dangerous bacteria. But all the technology and planning in the world can’t protect a candidate or president if he won’t do what he’s told. Some politicians have been cooperative—9)Dwight Eisenhower, 10)George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, for example—while others have gone 11)rogue; Bill Clinton, Franklin Roosevelt, and 12)Lyndon Johnson all loved to make 13)mischief.
Acting as human surveillance cameras, Secret Service agents observe everything that goes on outside of public view. So what are the secrets behind the scenes? Revealing anecdotes from administrations past gives us a peek at the real life of both the agents and the politicians.
“On my second day on the job as an agent, they put me in the 14)rear seat of the president’s 15)limousine,” says former agent Larry D. Newman. “A supervisor on 16)the detail placed a 17)Thompson submachine gun on my lap. I had never seen a Thompson, much less used one.” Over the next several years, Newman received a total of ten weeks of training, consisting of four weeks on law enforcement procedures at the 18)Treasury Department and six weeks of Secret Service training. But he never could figure out why locked boxes of shotguns were kept in the White House for the Secret Service, yet only the White House police had the keys.
When it comes to the private life of the presidents, there are many 19)juicy details to be revealed. In the agent’s eyes, 20)Richard Nixon was “the strangest modern president,” and his successor, 21)Gerald Ford, was nice but “cheap.” Former agent Robert B. Sulliman Jr. was angry because 22)Jimmy Carter would get to the office about 6 a.m. and “do a little work for half an hour, then close the curtains and take a nap” without informing the media of his breaks.
The busy, self-important agents also disliked23)tardiness, which is one reason they couldn’t stand Bill Clinton or 24)Al Gore. Former agent Dave Saleeba waited impatiently for Vice President Gore one day, only to discover him “eating a 25)muffin at the pool.” On the other hand, the agents found President 26)Ronald Reagan “a 27)down-to-earth individual”; his successor, George H.W. Bush, “a great man, just an 28)all around nice person”; and George W. Bush “down to earth, caring.” Agents loved to “chop wood” with the younger Bush and appreciated “the fact that Bush is punctual.”
Meanwhile, presidential kids often give their protectors trouble. Tricia Nixon was called a “tough and troubled cookie” for ordering agents to29)wait on her hand and foot, then claiming that she caught them staring at her legs. Luci Johnson liked to race ahead of agents in her car, trying to lose them in traffic. One time, she slipped out the back door during a private party so that she and her fiancé could enjoy a night on the town free of surveillance. In a famous First Kid 30)escapade in 2001, Jenna and Barbara Bush used Jenna’s fake ID to order drinks at a bar in Austin, Texas. Secret Service agents 31)hustled the girls out before police officers could 32)detain them, but they were later 33)cited for underage drinking.
In the eyes of agents, it seems that many politicians lead a double life—like 34)John F. Kennedy. He was the 35)charismatic leader of the free world, but in his other life, he was the cheating husband. “He had36)liaisons with Marilyn Monroe,” a Secret Service agent says. “The Secret Service knew about it.” And, of course, this is what people are really interested in behind the scenes.