Thursday, March 03, 2005

New Column: Secret Service with a Smile

The Secret Service. It’s not secret, and it’s only a service to a handful of people. Despite its ironic name, however, the Secret Service serves as a model of personal safety and security. Its thoroughness is not to be believed. As the following true stories attest, the Secret Service really is looking out for you. And for me.

In 1996, I was a junior staff writer for my high-school paper. We received news that then-Vice Presidential candidate Jack Kemp was coming to visit our school, an event we considered somewhat important. The Secret Service called our newspaper staff about a week before the campaign stop and inquired as to our coverage. They told us that any photographers would have to submit their cameras and all other equipment for extensive scrutiny. Their rationale: certain chemicals within camera film can conceivably be used to make a toxic chemical bomb.

With our staff at the time, they should not have worried about anyone expressing any less than serious love for the man. Still, we were ultimately denied permission to shoot (sorry, photograph) Kemp in our gymnasium. In the end, our paper made no mention whatsoever of the event, mainly because our next issue came about at about the same time as Clinton’s second inauguration.

More recently, the Secret Service swept the Lafayette area in October 2002 when Dick Cheney dropped by to campaign for future Senatorial loser Suzanne Haik Terrell. As part of its apparently comprehensive sweep, agents stopped by The Vermilion office to inquire about a certain liberal writer (as if there was any chance that I would be at a $1000-a-plate Republican photo-op, even out of morbid curiosity). Supposedly, the Secret Service interrogated the then-editorship about my beliefs, my disposition and even my whereabouts. I found out about this after the fact, so I assume the editors said nice things about me.

It’s almost a shame I didn’t get a visit from the agents, because I never got to thank them for possibly saving my life back in 1992. On Oct. 27 of that year, then-Gov. Bill Clinton came to Lafayette. In stark contrast to “Man of the Rich People” Cheney, Clinton held his campaign bash at a wide-open Girard Park, for free, with live music and dancing.

After his speech, Clinton rushed to the section where I stood and greeted us. Because of his rapid approach, the crowd swarmed and enveloped us. Being a skinny 12-year-old boy in a crowd of hardcore adult Democrats, I could barely breathe. As the CNN camera panned straight on me, I imagined how my internal organs were going to look to the world and to Wolf Blitzer. The Secret Service stepped in quickly, however, and I lived to shake Clinton’s massive hand just after he hugged my mother (insert your joke here).

My father worked diligently for the local Clinton campaign and collaborated with the Secret Service for the event. Afterwards, as Dad tells it, he and an agent were talking over beers. Several drinks later, the agent still maintained a straight face and showed no emotion whatsoever. I don’t know where they get such dedicated professionals, though I was once told by a rejected applicant that one prerequisite is having never smoked pot more than 15 times. I can definitely see the danger of getting too mellow on that job.

Even if I don’t always admire the president or other American political leaders, I will always be in awe of the competence of their protectors, the Secret Service. After all, these are the people who are protecting the people who are supposed to protect us. And that’s no small feat in any era.


Flamingo Jones said...

Your mom got hugged/groped by Bill Clinton? I'm so jealous!

And thank Jebus for the secret service dudes. For various reasons (cheif one being morbid curiosity) I've attended a couple of President Bush events/hoe-downs in the past 5 years. Each time, the secret service men were literally the only attractive males in the entire building. I'm a big fan of those fellas.

Flamingo Jones said...

Goddamn it! I meant "chief." Obviously. This is what I get for posting while tipsy.

Ian McGibboney said...

They let YOU into a Bush hoedown? Now I'M jealous!

GIBB said...

part of my job working with the secret service the day of our hometown event, was to help frisk folks as they entered the area where candidate clinton was to speak. the ss crew removed more than one person carrying concealed weapons, including a deputy sheriff from another parish("county" to foreigners)...they missed his speech.
uncle pete's, a local sport's bar/restaurant, was the scene of celebration following the event, and it was there that i tried my damnedest (is that a word?) to get the secret service guys to laugh. i had already worked closely with them for over a week, and with (at that time) over twenty years in the entertainment field, (and over a few brewskis), i thought i MIGHT be able to loosen-up the men in black. i started with some friendly banter about the seriousness of g-men...nothing...i turned it up a notch with some great jokes i had recently heard...nothing...then, i found myself doing an entire routine i had developed for stage in los angeles...nothing...i mean, quite frankly, i was laughing my ass off, but the buzz-cuts were just staring at me. so, finally i said, "i give up, you guys are the masters, i've done my best. i'm not worthy, i can't make you laugh". the leader-of-the-pack, still staring at me, said, "we ARE laughing".
i am very proud to have worked on that '92 presidential campaign. for lack of finding someone better for the job, i wound up running the downtown office, and all of US wound up traveling the entire state helping set up campaign offices, explaining the clinton platform to eager democrats, marching in parades, know...just like in the movies. (it should be noted here, that i am now, and always have been, a registered INDEPENDENT...the demos were desperate for help i suppose). apparently we were successful as, clinton carried the tradionally conservative-voting state and i and two others were rewarded with an invite to the private celebration at national headquarters in little rock. actually, a country club NEAR the campaign wouldn't want to grope in a public place...someone might find out.---Ian's Dad

The Manning Report said...

here are some requirements:
U.S. citizenship.
Must be at least 21 years of age and younger than 37 at time of appointment.
(1) Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university; or (2) three years of work experience in the criminal investigative or law enforcement fields that require knowledge and application of laws relating to criminal violations; or (3) and equivalent combination of education and related experience.
According to the Office of Personnel Management regulations, nonqualifying law enforcement experience is as follows: Experience as a uniformed law enforcement officer where the principal duties consisted of investigations and arrests involving traffic violations, minor felonies, misdemeanors, and comparable offenses; or in which the major duties involved guarding and protecting property, preventing crimes, and/or legal research without the application of investigative techniques.
Uncorrected vision no worse than 20/60 binocular; correctable to 20/20 in each eye.
(NOTE: Lasik, ALK, RK and PRK corrective eye surgeries are acceptable eye surgeries for special agent applicants provided specific visual tests are passed one year after surgery. Applicants who have undergone Lasik surgery may have visual tests three months after the surgery.)
Excellent health and physical condition.
Must pass the Treasury Enforcement Agent.
Complete background investigation to include in-depth interviews, drug screening, medical examination, and polygraph examination.

ive also read that the pay is pretty crappy, but the benefits are hanging out with big politicians.

Ian McGibboney said...

Thanks, Manning. I guess when it comes to protecting Bush, you really do need "the vision thing" (rim-shot please)

All right, I'll leave the jokes to my dad. If he can make Secret Service agents laugh inside, he's got me beat.

Zachary said...

I'm gonna kinda place myself with this comment, but I live very near where the plane went down in Pennsylvania on 9/11. When the President came to the area and to the crash-site, the woman in charge of the festivities (so to speak) ask my dad to be one of the drivers of the vans that transport all the officials to the crash-site. He didn't get near the President, but he did transport the Treasury Secretary. That's about as close to the Secret Service anyone in my family has gotten to. That's probably a good thing.

RightMakesRight said...

Great post, props to you for talking up the Service. I had a small run-in with them at my doctoral graduation, where Dubya was speaking - I was told to go to the podium for a mike check (I was singing the national anthem) before the event, and the moment I hit the podium, they all went nutso (and understandably so). They were so shooken up that I decided not to try to shake the prez's hand after singing for fear of being shot by the two cool customers to either side of him dressed as really in shape faculty! Anyway, the Secret Service does a great deal to protect publid officials and visiting dignitaries, and to protect us from counterfeiting. They deserve all of our respect.

Check that out - we agree on something! I'll let the Cheney slam slide because I liked the rest of it.