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Edgar Rice Burroughs
In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect - Ronald Kessler Kessler offers two stories here. One is a protect-and-tell in which he lets the reader in on how many of the presidents, first ladies, and others who are protected by the Secret Service, behave in private. It is not at all graphic but reaffirms some notions we have of protectees and counters the image we might have of others. The personal unpleasantness portrayed is matched by nearly as many favorable portraits.

Kessler is a died-in-the-wool conservative, and this comes across. He clearly worships at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Reagan. He has also written admiring biographies of W and Laura Bush and, somewhat harder hitting work about Democratic presidencies. In addition, he is the chief Washington DC correspondent for Newsmax on-line and print magazine, an entity funded by, among others, that champion of liberty and fair play, Richard Mellon Scaife, so you know that there is likely to be some cushiness to the portrayal of Repugs and some harshness at the portrayal of Dems. IMHO, that was definitely there. While it was not a black and white portrayal, his affection for most of the Republicans he portrays comes across. It is interesting nonetheless.

The other story is Kessler's look at the management of the Secret Service. He portrays the Service management as constantly kowtowing to the demands of politicos by reducing protection activities. The greatest general incidence has to do with reducing or eliminating magnetic screening when there are large events. The politicians do not want to alienate their followers and the number of people who show up for such events often is greater than the screening can manage. The result is that a late-arriver with a weapon would be able to get close to a potential high level target, clearly not a good thing. Politicos who love to meet and greet are at particular risk, Reagan and Clinton being the chief risk-takers in this regard.

Kessler's description of Secret Service duties is illuminating and intriguing. It is no surprise that, as with so many agencies, they have had their responsibilities enlarged while their budget has not been correspondingly inflated. The result is that there are people protecting our leaders who are doing so on short rest and with inadequate training. I guess that does not matter as long as the wealthy get their tax breaks and vast sums of our money still goes to unwarranted foreign entanglements and boondoggle military projects. It is also clear that the Secret Service is in need of a considerable reorganization. It was surprising to learn that the service is responsible for a range of police duties beyond protecting our leaders, largely having to do with counterfeiting and other Treasury Department concerns. As the service has moved from Treasury to Homeland Security, it seems an inappropriate relic for that responsibility to remain with the service. This would leave the service to attend to its core task, and remove managerial incentive to redirect agents from protection to police duties that boost the agency's arrest numbers.

Overall, this was an interesting, at times amusing, if clearly slanted look at a service about which most of us know very little. It adds a little light to our notions of certain people and raises serious concerns about the ability of the service to do its job properly.