Review: In the President’s Secret Service by Ronald Kessler

So, this week, I read In the President’s Secret Service by Ronald Kessler.  In it, Kessler relays loads of information that he got through extensive interviews with past and current members of the Secret Service, with which he paints a very vivid portrait of the Presidents since Kennedy through the eyes of those who saw them when the cameras were off.  Not only does Kessler go through a rundown of which presidents were having affairs (think the Democrats, except for Jimmy Carter, and Spiro Agnew), which presidents were jerks (Johnson, Nixon, Carter) and which ones were great guys (Reagan, Bush 1 & 2, and Clinton); but he also goes through the behavior of the wives, children, and vice-presidents.  (Guess which former first-lady and presidential candidate was apparently a total bitch, or to use the agents words, “very angry and sarcastic and is very hard on her staff.  She yells at them and complains.”  If you haven’t guessed yet, maybe you should stop reading TMZ all day and go read the news).

In In the President’s Secret Service, Kessler has set out a fairly informative, pretty funny book that allows the reader to get to know how the past presidents acted in real life.  Moreover, Kessler goes through a detailed history of the Secret Service, from its humble beginnings in the nineteenth century tracking down counterfeiters to its rise as the president’s bodyguards.  Along with a list of the Service’s failures (both Kennedys, George Wallace, Reagan, et al.), Kessler also documents the frustration that many of the agents feel as a result of dealing with a management structure that has refused to adapt to the changing nature of the threats facing the president and the ever increasing demands placed on the Service, from the need to provide protection for more and more individuals to the increased interference caused by political staffers who demand that the agents do their jobs from further and further away from the protectees.

IPSS is a great page turner for anyone, from those who have no idea about just what the Secret Service does to those who only want a glimpse behind the curtain at the true nature of the most powerful man in the free world.  And now, I’ll leave you with a few anecdotes to whet your whistle:

  • President Johnson was consistently drinking or drunk and fooling around with many mistresses during his presidency (which makes sense according to what can only be described as his large “asset”).
  • President Kennedy often would use the loft above his brother’s New York office for liaisons with Marilyn Monroe.
  • President Carter refused to allow the military onto his Georgia property, even though they carried the nuclear missile launch codes in case of an attack on the country.
  • President Nixon’s son-in-law was so dumb, he once “broke down” on his way from California to the East Coast.  When the repairman got to the car, it was very easy to fix.  He just needed to fill up the gas tank.
  • Nancy Reagan was so committed to the furtherance of her husband’s career that she would even forbid their children from visiting with him, until the timing was more advantageous.
  • George H.W. and Barbara Bush were such caring individuals that Bar once forbid an agent from going on a walk with the couple on an extremely cold day until he put on a hat.  One of President Bush’s own personal hats.
  • President Clinton, though usually at least an hour late for appointments, was an extremely gregarious person who would even stop to talk to the cleaning ladies in hotels he was staying at before heading out.
  • Laura Bush was universally adored by every member of the Secret Service that had even a moment’s time with her.
  • George W. Bush is so in love with Laura that it was understood that he would drag her to whatever safe-room the agents took him into.
  • President Obama, despite claims to the contrary, HAS smoked since taking office.

So, if you happen to be looking for something a little different to read, as opposed to the usual, drawn-out, boring non-fiction or the tired, non-imaginative fiction, pick up a copy of In the President’s Secret Service.  Even if you don’t like it, at 150 or so pages, it will prove to be a useful distraction for a few hours.



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