Ron Kessler's tell-all book about the Secret Service gives us a view of the observations and opinions from the agents whose sworn duty it is to protect the President, the First Family, the Vice President and his family, as well as some members of the White House staff.
What I found interesting was how different the various Presidents and their families were, at least in the eyes of the agents assigned to them.
A few excerpts (edited for formatting and clarity):
John & Jacqueline KennedyI find it interesting the way the occupant of the White House treated the Secret Service and the rest of the staff followed along party lines. Republicans were respectful and well liked while Democrats were not. Of course I realize these examples just go back to JFK, so we only have a sample of nine Presidents and their spouses, two Vice Presidents, and one White House staffer. But it is telling.
He: A philanderer of the highest order.
She: She ordered the kitchen help to save all the left-over wine during a State dinner, mixed it with fresh wine and served again during the next White House occasion.
Lyndon & Ladybird Johnson
He: 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/when their wives were nearby. Both Kennedy & Johnson were promiscuous and oversexed men.
She: She was either naive or just pretended to “not know” about her husband’s many liaisons.
Richard & Pat Nixon
He: A “moral” man but very odd, weird, paranoid, etc. He had horrible relationship with his family, and in a way, was almost a recluse.
She: She was quiet most of the time.
Nice, decent man. Everyone in the Secret Service was surprised by his downfall.
Gerald & Betty Ford
He: A true gentlemen who treated the Secret Service with respect and dignity. He had a great sense of humor.
She: She drank a lot!
Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter
He: A complete phony who would portray one picture of himself to public and 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 the 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” with nuclear codes. He didn’t think it was a big deal and would keep military aides at a great distance. Often did not acknowledge the presence of Secret Service personnel assigned to serve him.
She: She mostly did her own thing.
Ronald & Nancy Reagan
He: The real deal — moral, honest, respectful, and dignified. They treated Secret Service and everyone else with respect and honor. Thanked everyone all the time. He took the time to know everyone on a personal level. One “favorite” story that has circulated among the Secret Service personnel was an incident early in his Presidency, when he came out of his room with a pistol tucked on his hip. The agent in charge asked: “Why the pistol, Mr. President” He replied, “In case you boys can’t get the job done, I can help.” It was common for him to carry a pistol. When he met with Gorbachev, he had a pistol in his briefcase. Upon learning that Gary Hart was caught with Donna Rice, Reagan said, “Boys will be boys, but boys will not be Presidents.” [He obviously either did not know or forgot JFK's and LBJ's sexcapades!]
She: She was very nice but very protective of the President; and the Secret Service was often caught in the middle. She tried hard to control what the President ate, and he would say to the agent, “Come on, you gotta help me out.” The Reagans drank wine during State dinners and special occasions only; otherwise, they shunned alcohol; the Secret Service could count on one hand the times they were served wine during their “family dinner”. For all the fake bluster of the Carters, the Reagans were the ones who lived life as genuinely moral people.
George H.W. & Barbara Bush
He: Extremely kind and considerate. Always respectful. Took great care in making sure the agents’ comforts were taken care of. They even brought them meals, etc. One time Barbara Bush brought warm clothes to agents standing outside at Kennebunkport; one agent was given a warm hat, and when he tried to nicely say “no thanks” even though he was obviously freezing, President Bush said “Son, don’t argue with the First Lady, put the hat on.” He was the most prompt of the Presidents. He ran the White House like a well-oiled machine.
She: She ruled the house and spoke her mind.
Bill & Hillary Clinton
He: Presidency was one giant 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.
She: 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.
An egotistical ass, who was once overheard by his Secret Service detail lecturing his only son that he needed to do better in school or he “would end up like these guys” — pointing to the agents.
George W. & Laura Bush
He: The Secret Service loved him and Laura Bush. He was also the most physically “in shape” who had a very strict workout regimen. The Bushes made sure their entire administrative and household staff understood they were to respect and be considerate of the Secret Service.
She: She was one of the nicest First Ladies, if not the nicest; she never had any harsh word to say about anyone.
The guy who was the most caring of the Secret Service in the administration.
Barack & Michelle Obama
He: “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: She is a complete bitch, who basically hates anybody who is not black; hates the military; and looks at the Secret Service as servants.
If the Democrats treat their protective details and other staffers poorly, how will they treat the rest of us? I suspect there would be little difference...unless the cameras are on.