In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect Hardcover – Aug 4 2009
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From USA TODAY, Reviewed By Don Oldenburg, Special for USA TODAY
The recent news report that corner-cutting at the U.S. Secret Service has put President Obama's life at greater risk may be the most attention-grabbing disclosure emerging from Ron Kessler's latest book. But there's a lot more in this fascinating exposé, which penetrates that federal agency's longstanding mission and tradition of sworn secrecy.
Never mind that the book's title is stiffer than the Secret Service's public persona — dour-faced agents wearing pressed suits, dark sunglasses and earphones, scouring crowds for potential threats. Inside the covers, Kessler's lively narrative is loaded with details of how the federal agents, authorized to protect the president and other national leaders, get the job done — and sometimes don't.
But what fuels this high-energy read isn't Kessler's investigation of the Secret Service's training, procedures and strategies — from guaranteeing the safety of the president's food to analyzing daily threats. Instead what turns these pages are the amusing, saucy, often disturbing anecdotes about the VIPs the Secret Service has protected and still protects. The secrets, in other words.
Some of it would border on tabloid sensationalism if it hadn't come directly from current and retired agents (most identified by name, to Kessler's credit). Of course, you'd expect the salacious stories of John Kennedy's libido, but the less-told tales of an often-drunken and philandering Lyndon Johnson caught with his pants down are shocking. Family-values champion Spiro Agnew had his hotel-room peccadilloes, it seems, and nice Jimmy Carter his animosities. Richard Nixon's peculiarities? Beyond excess.
Anecdotes of hard-to-handle members of the first families abound here as well, including Jenna and Barbara Bush's bar-hopping, Hillary Clinton's angry clashes with low-level White House employees, and Nancy Reagan's cold, controlling habits.
Balancing the sordid tales are the kinder stories of presidential humanity — like George H.W. Bush and an agent searching for hidden cookies in the middle of the night, Miss Lillian Carter delivering a six-pack to the Secret Service boys (dutifully refused), and Ronald Reagan mailing checks for thousands of dollars to needy strangers.
So why the all the blabbing from zip-lipped agents? A respected journalist and former Washington Post reporter, Kessler somehow instills trust even in wary civil servants and federal bureaucrats.
He did when researching such government-insider books as The Terrorist Watch and The CIA at War. He has done it again by persuading the Secret Service to cooperate, making this an insightful and entertaining story.
Copyright 2009, USA TODAY. All Rights Reserved.
About the Author
RONALD KESSLER is the New York Times bestselling author of The Terrorist Watch, The Bureau, Inside the White House, and The CIA at War. A former reporter for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, he has won sixteen journalism awards. Kessler lives in Potomac, Maryland, with his wife, Pamela.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The Secret Service sees their protectees behind the scenes. This perspective permits them to understand the people behind the public personae. Their insights, when they choose to reveal them, permit the public to gain a deeper understanding of those who govern them and why some things happened the way they did.
The gossip is the most entertaining part of the book. This is where we hear about the Service's favorites, the ones they like and the ones they do not, the unfaithful and the peculiar. The reader learns more about JFK's infidelities, but LBJ's are portrayed as more common than I thought and I had never heard of Spiro Agnew having that problem. The protectee the agents liked the most? Laura Bush, with George W. and his parents close behind, although their daughters created problems when they tried to lose their protectors. The least liked were the Carters, who rarely acknowledged the Agents, wanted them to carry their luggage while Jimmy carried an empty hanging bag for the cameras. Hillary Clinton was not far behind in their distain. Other categories: The weirdest- Richard Nixon; The crudest- Lyndon Johnson; The cheapest- Gerald Ford; Those who treated the agents with respect- The Fords and Ronald Reagan, although Nancy could be overly protective; The most clueless- David Eisenhower.
The other portion of the book deals with how the Service does its job: its training, its staffing, duties and its equipment.Read more ›
I was startled to begin reading this book and all it could talk about was sex. Yes, all the infidelities and affairs the presidents had over the years. The first few chapters of the book are dedicated to it and then throughout the book, the affairs are again mentioned. I didn't expect to read that in-depth about this subject manner and although it was amazing to hear some of the stories; I did not care for this information. For the rest of the book, there are moments that shine a 'secret' on this administration or the president himself, but mainly its just a bunch of very poorly organized thoughts and stories.
Poorly organized is a great description and you will find yourself reading along anf then a random story is suddenly brought up. Or a random uninteresting fact. There is also a long part of the book dedicated to the sacrifices the secret service agents make. I can't imagine living their life, but unfortunately some of this section came off negative and its never ending pages of complaining and whining.
Overall, this book seems like it would be a very interesting read but nevertheless it disappoints on many levels.
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I actually haven't read it yet, but I think it will be interesting. I JUST received this item,. as I was told there was a delay because of the East Coast storms. But it got here!Published on Nov. 26 2012 by Gail
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