Making headlines isn’t really what the Secret Service is all about. I mean, you’ve got “secret” right there in the name. When they’re doing their jobs well, you’re not going to hear much about them; So when they’re in the news, it’s usually because they screwed up.
But Trump, as we all know, is immune to the concept of business as usual. And so we have watched the relationship between the president and this federal law enforcement agency deteriorate in public view. Earlier this month, agents were forced to relocate a command post from Trump Tower to a trailer on the street because Trump was charging them too much for space in the building. More recently, Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles made the extraordinary move of confirming to the press that Trump’s constant weekend travel and large family are draining the agency’s funds and human resources. Golf cart rentals alone have set them back $60,000 — paid to Trump country clubs, naturally. Even on a basic decency level, Trump’s not exactly making friends.
It didn’t have to be this way. If movies like Dave, In the Line of Fire and White House Down have taught us anything, it’s that the Secret Service and the president are supposed to be total bros who back each other up, every step of the way. Yeah, sometimes you get a bad apple who becomes the inside man in a convoluted assassination plot (see: Air Force One), but that’s why you do a background check.
Meanwhile, here in reality, where the Secret Service is notoriously tight-lipped, it’s been established that Bill Clinton was “very friendly” to the agents, treating them quite well, while Barack Obama invited them to private family dinners, and Michelle insisted they call her by her first name. George W. Bush, in a move befitting the frat-boy commander-in-chief, personally rescued one of his favorite agents from a scuffle with a Chilean security detail in 2004.
Yet the bro bond cuts both ways. Obama may have shared a laugh with his Secret Service entourage when Bear Grylls had him eat salmon already chewed on by a bear for Running Wild, but he also teased them about how “stressed” they were by his unpredictable outings and feigned being poisoned. Gerald Ford chiseled his guardians for money to buy newspapers and blamed his farts on them. Calvin Coolidge once had them look for his missing boot. And, in a more primal display of male intimacy, LBJ famously pissed on an agent’s leg in a stiff breeze during a side-of-the-road pit stop. “That’s my prerogative,” the president explained.
How can Trump, who has had protection from the agency since a year before winning the presidency and 18 family members (out of 42 people in total) under their wing, possibly heal the rift? They’ve already rushed to shield him in several high-profile incidents — how quick will they be to come to his aid now that he’s on their bad side?
Some suggestions for our dear leader, in case he wants to serve a second term:
- Don’t make your detail carry around a bottle of ketchup everywhere “just in case.” No matter where you dine next, ketchup will be available.
- The Secret Service is not as glamorous as you think — it’s actually shift work, and it’s as exhausting and tedious as a job can be. Pretend to have the slightest idea of what that means. Okay, don’t get mad at me, it’s just a thought.
- You can’t keep firing Ivanka’s agents for following her when she goes underwear shopping. Likewise, you cannot assign an agent to “become Barron’s real dad.”
- Consider having a few off-duty agents join you in private for a beer. I know you don’t drink, but for God’s sake, we’d all feel better if you had a fucking beer.
- It is seen as bad form to wipe your boogers on agents’ jackets.
- If you’re going to charge the agency to rent golf carts so they can protect you while you’re playing the dumbest sport ever invented, you can at least quit ramming them from behind and charging them for the damages.
- I don’t know, be an entirely different person? God, you suck.
Look, I get that it’s unreasonable to expect presidents and their bodyguards to be best buds. I further accept that Hollywood has misled me: This is meant to be a professional dynamic, not the stuff of a Disney movie starring Sinbad. For its first 35 years, the Secret Service had nothing to do with guarding the chief executive — it was created to fight counterfeiters and other financial fraud, and only the assassination of President William McKinley gave them this additional duty. But is it too much to ask, as Trump destroys the nation in every other imaginable way, that he continue to prop up the flimsy fiction of an easy rapport between the president and the guys who would (theoretically) take a bullet for him? I think that would be nice. Tremendous, almost.