A 40 year old man jumps the fence outside the White House and rushes the front door, and makes it too close for comfort. A reality TV star crashes a state dinner. Strippers brought back to hotel rooms in Colombia before a Presidential visit. What is going on with our Secret Service agents? Ronald Kessler, author of The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents, joined Glenn to discuss the issue on radio this morning.
Below is a rush transcript of this interview
GLENN: What has happened to our secret service?
RONALD KESSLER: You know, as you -- see, the agents themselves are brave and dedicated, but the management has this culture of laxness and corner cutting.
GLENN: Corner cutting for what reason? I never heard an American say we spend too much money on the president's security keeping him safe in the White House, maybe having these lavish trips and everything, but not his security.
RONALD KESSLER: No, it makes no sense. It's like any scandal. You can't figure it out. You can't believe it could be so bad. When you have a culture of covering up and this attitude that they have of, we make do with less, that's what happens.
Now, we've seen a lot of public indications of this, the fact that the Salahis were allowed to crash the state dinner at the White House.
GLENN: How did that happen? How did the Salahis get in? What happened?
RONALD KESSLER: The uniformed officers at the White House gate simply ignored the fact they were not on the guest list and let them in. Why would they do that? I'll tell you one act that suggests a reason, and that is, when Mary Cheney, Dick Cheney's daughter was in the protection, she tried to get her agents to take her friends to restaurants, and they refused as they should. They're not taxi drivers.
So she threw a fit and got her detailees removed over this. So what message does that send the uniformed officers at the White House gate? It tells them, gee, if we turn away this glamorous couple and it turns out they were supposed to be on the guest list and it was an error, our own management may not support us. So let's just let them in. That's the kind of spineless attitude that the management has, which contributes to all these problems.
GLENN: So let me put you on the spot with that very thing, historically, Abraham Lincoln is giving a speech and Frederick Douglass is turned back by the security and the White House staff. There was no secret service staff at the time, but they won't let him because you're not a friend of Abraham Lincoln. How could you possibly be a friend of Abraham Lincoln, you're black. So what happens, he actually climbs through a window, and I think it's in the -- what is that dining room called the west room or east room or whatever it is, he climbs through a window and Abraham Lincoln is giving a speech. And there's a clamor and they start to grab him and take him out. And he said, whoa, whoa, Frederick, how are you? And he said, they didn't believe me, that I was your friend. I had to come to through the window.
So it's kind of the same thing. I mean, would we have let Frederick Douglass come into the White House? What rules do you have that make sure that, you know, the president is protected, but also the right people are getting around the president?
RONALD KESSLER: I don't think it's a problem. I don't think there's any conflict. If a person has an appointment and is approved, there's a background check, and they find out he's a terrorist or there's a warrant out for his arrest, they don't let him. But otherwise they let him in and everything is fine. It's like airline security. Yet the secret service cuts corners there. They will under pressure from White House staffs or campaign staffs let people into events without metal detection screening when there's a line outside. They haven't been screened. The secret service hasn't provided enough scanners and the pressure is applied. And sure enough, the management says, let them in.
And, you know, any individual or -- if you come in with grenades and take out the president that alone is unthinkable and yet the secret service has this bossy attitude and this statement that officers are used for strength just tells you how arrogant the secret service is. They're going to fall for that.
GLENN: I have to tell you I'm wildly concerned because of the state department and the secret service. They are -- the management is arrogant. The culture is going, you know, to -- to, you know, prostitutes and to booze, and it's no way to run a credible organization.
Tell me, Hillary Clinton you say is the worst. That is the dog assignment. Why?
RONALD KESSLER: Yeah. This is considered a form of punishment to be assigned to her secret service detail because she is so nasty to agents, and yet here's this woman who professes to be compassionate and care about the little people and she's a champion of the middle class, but behind the scenes on a daily basis she treats those people with contempt.
GLENN: And is it the same with the Obamas? Is it President Obama or is it Michelle Obama that is --
RONALD KESSLER: Actually, they both treat their agents well. My book tells it like it is. On the other hand agents are made to overhear Michelle try to urge her husband to be more aggressive in attacking Republicans and in siding with blacks and racial controversies which, of course, we've seen him doing over and over again.
GLENN: But they've treated your agents with respect. I'm really glad to do that. Ron, thank you so much.