Tag Archives: Secret Service

Celebrities’ comments have this way of reverberating

Johnny Depp has joined a list of celebrities with big mouths.

Depp, the movie actor, mused out loud the other day about the last time an actor assassinated a president. He seemed to suggest that’s what he wants to do, follow in the footsteps of another actor, John Wilkes Booth, who shot President Lincoln to death in April 1865.

Bad call, Johnny.

I guess what these folks need to grasp is the notion that their celebrity status not only acquires loyal followings for them, it also magnifies their idiotic statements or actions. For the record, I am not a fan of Johnny Depp.

The “comedian” Kathy Griffin? She was video recorded holding up the image of a severed head depicting that of Donald J. Trump.

The over-the-hill rocker/guitarist Ted Nugent has said a multitude of hideous things about Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Now we have Depp popping off, trying to be clever. Instead he sounds stupid.

Donald Trump’s son, Don Jr., has slammed Depp. You’d expect a son to come to the defense of his father.

Depp has apologized for his idiocy. It doesn’t erase it, sad to say.

These folks are entitled to their political opinions, just as you are entitled to yours and I am to mine. I don’t know about you, but I express my opinions freely on this blog.

The difference, though, between us and those who have some kind of celebrity status is that — in my case, at least — I can sound like a dumba** and relatively few people are going to pay attention. When someone such as Johnny Depp says something stupid, then many others’ ears perk up.

That includes the Secret Service.

A word to wise ought to go to Johnny Depp and other celebs with strongly held political opinions: be circumspect.

What? No outrage over pricey Trump outings?

Wait for it. The fiscal conservatives who were so outraged over President Barack Obama’s vacation tabs are going to go ballistic over the cost to taxpayers of Donald J. Trump’s jaunts to his posh Florida estate.

Do you think they’ll cry the blues over it?

Naw. Me neither.

It’s a fascinating case of selective outrage. The current president’s outings to Mar-a-Lago have cost taxpayers nearly as much in a month as the Obamas cost in an average year of Barack Obama’s presidency.

What was outrageous is now acceptable. Isn’t that the message?

I am having difficulty understanding any of this, much as I am having difficulty understanding why Trump’s behavior has been given a pass by those who continue to hang on his every inarticulate sentence.

I should note that Trump was among those who were critical of Obama’s golf outings, his family vacations and his assorted visits to whomever and wherever away from the White House.

Judicial Watch, a conservative think tank, estimated the annual cost of Obama’s travel expense at $12 million annually. Meanwhile, the Trumps’ three visits to Florida since he became president a month ago have cost about $10 million. It’s a rough equivalence, but it’s telling nevertheless.

Still, the silence from the right about the president’s pricey travel to his resort home in Florida is deafening in the extreme.

And, what the heck: I haven’t even mentioned — until this very moment — the cost of providing Secret Service protection for the first lady and the couple’s son, who are living in Trump Tower in New York City.

Open your eyes to threats to Obama


Michelle Malkin is one of the nation’s more fiery conservative columnists.

I don’t care for her world view, but I’ll read her essays every so often just to hyperventilate a little, oxygenate my bloodstream; it’s good for my physical health.

Today, the Amarillo Globe-News published a little ditty from Malkin that deserves a brief rejoinder. She writes about what she calls the “assassination fascination” since the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States.

Malkin talks about how all those meanies on the left keep saying they want to kill Trump. They’re echoing earlier meanies who said the same thing about President George W. Bush.

The only mention I could find in the column of President Obama came in a sentence in which Malkin asks why the president is silent on these idiotic pronouncement from aggrieved lefties.


I’ll accept that as a good point. The president ought to condemn such talk.

However, let’s take stock of something else.

Nowhere in Malkin’s screed does she mention that Barack Obama received arguably a record number of threats against his life during his eight years in the White House. There were assassination threats being leveled constantly at the president. The Secret Service has been working diligently to examine all these threats against the current president.

Therefore, this “assassination fascination” isn’t a one-party monopoly.

I agree that such threat-making is dangerous and uncalled for. The lefties who say such things need to get a grip, take stock and understand the consequences of what they’re saying.

A columnist who launches into a partisan polemic, though, needs to understand as well that there’s plenty of guilt and blame that belongs to her side of this argument.

Why didn’t she condemn the Barack Obama haters for their equally shameful pronouncements? Oh, I know. It doesn’t fit her right-wing narrative.

Trump to ‘batch it’ at the White House


Note: This blog post has been updated.

Melania Trump has declared that she and her son, Barron, will move into the White House after the youngster finishes his school year at his private school in New York City.


An interesting and somewhat puzzling development has cropped up in this transition from one president to another.

Melania Trump won’t be moving to the White House when her husband, Donald J. Trump, is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.

She and the couple’s son, Barron, will remain in New York while husband/dad tends to governing the country. Why won’t she move to the White House? Mrs. Trump said she wants her son to continue attending the private school he attends near their home.

OK, I won’t challenge her parenting skills. Mrs. Trump reportedly wants to shield 10-year-old Barron from the pressures of living in the People’s House.

I do have some advice for the new first lady. She ought to get on the phone and talk once again to Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and — oh, yeah! — Hillary Rodham Clinton. What do these women have in common? They all raised young children under the glare of the White House lights.

* The Obama girls haven’t quite left the nest, but they appeared to adjust well as Mom and Dad went about the business of being the First Couple; it helped, too, that Mrs. Obama’s mother also lives in the White House. Grandma no doubt was a steadying hand for Malia and Sasha.

* The Bush girls — twins Barbara and Jenna — also have grown into successful adults after spending most of two full terms in the White House.

* Chelsea Clinton was famously protected by her parents during her father’s two terms as president. She turned out just fine, too.

If she wants to go way back, Mrs. Trump could visit with Caroline Kennedy, who lived for a time in the White House as the daughter of a president before tragedy struck on Nov. 22, 1963.

I’ll have to think more about this news for it to sink in. My reaction to learning about Melania Trump’s decision to stay in New York City, though, is that it seems to be yet another curious turn in what’s becoming a most unusual presidential transition.

And don’t you know: The Secret Service is gnashing its teeth over the measures it will take to protect Melania and Barron Trump while they’re away from the White House.

Bernie’s out … but not entirely


Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is over.

He won’t be nominated at the party convention in Philadelphia. Hillary Rodham Clinton will get the nod and will march off to campaign against Republican nominee, who at this moment appears to be Donald J. Trump.

But …

Why does Sen. Sanders still have all those Secret Service agents shadowing him as he returns to work in the U.S. Senate?


I get that the Secret Service protection won’t break the federal bank. It does seem a bit “lavish,” though, for him to continue to have the protection.

Sure, he’s entitled to it. President Lyndon Johnson issued an executive order back in 1968 that provides this protection for presidential candidates. He acted in the wake of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s murder in Los Angeles on the night he won the California Democratic primary.

Sanders has sought to portray himself as a common man, someone who eschews big-money speaking fees.

But the presence of the Secret Service and all the bells and whistles the protection brings tells a bit of a different story.

According to the Washington Post: “There’s no denying that some of the accoutrements that come with campaigns can be intoxicating,” said Jim Manley, a longtime Democratic operative who is supporting Clinton.

Sanders won’t “suspend” his campaign because he still wants to have a say at the party convention this summer. I understand the reason for his staying in … even though his candidacy has been reduced to symbolism.

Does he still need the Secret Service protection? Really?

I think not.

It’s over, Sen. Sanders.

What a way to go, Mr. President


STONEWALL, Texas — My wife and I came to this place expecting to be moved in some fashion.

Neither of us expected precisely what we felt when we walked up to this family plot on the sprawling LBJ ranch, which the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the National Park Service have turned into a national historic site.

The cemetery lies under a grove of live oaks. It’s got a few headstones. The tallest two grave markers belong to President Lyndon Baines Johnson and first lady Lady Bird Johnson.

It was the circumstances of the president’s death that struck me the most today as we paid our respects to the late former first couple.

My wife marveled at the peace and serenity of the place. She said — only half-jokingly, I believe — that she “wouldn’t mind” being buried there. It won’t happen, obviously.

But later on our tour of the ranch, we heard from a young guide — who admitted he was born in 1991, 28 years after LBJ’s death — about how the president was able to go out “on his own terms.”

Johnson’s presidency perhaps killed him. I remember how he had aged in the more than five years he served as president. He’d had two heart attacks already, the first one coming in 1955 when he was just 47 years of age.

The Vietnam War raged throughout his presidency — which began, of course, under the enormous weight of international tragedy, the assassination of President Kennedy.

Johnson would win election in the 1964 landslide. Then he would become the target of intense national anger over the conduct of the war he inherited from his predecessor.

He left office in January 1969 and returned to the place along the Pedernales River that formed his character.

The young guide informed us how LBJ — once he settled in back at the ranch — resumed his smoking habits, dragging on Lucky Strike; he drank too much; he ate all the foods he wasn’t supposed to eat, given his history of heart trouble.

Then, just four years and two days after leaving the White House, the fatal heart attack struck him. He phoned his Secret Service garrison the moment he felt it coming on and told them, “Get in here, boys; something bad is happening.”

He died essentially in his bedroom.

President Johnson was just 64 years old when he died. But he was an old 64.

They buried him under the live oaks about 200 yards from where he came into this world in a modest home that’s been reconstructed.

My thought as we left that place today? What a way to go, Mr. President.


A bullet changed history 47 years ago today

RFK's last speech

Forty-seven years ago today, I had gone to bed. It was late on a Tuesday night.

I had just watched the news about the California Democratic Party presidential primary. Sen. Robert Kennedy had just been declared the winner. I turned in and was happy about the outcome.

Right after midnight, my mother knocked on my door. “You need to come down and see this,” she said. “Something terrible has just happened.”

I dragged myself out of the sack and went downstairs and saw for myself. Someone had shot Bobby Kennedy.

The shock was palpable. No. This isn’t happening. Oh, but it did.

I was about two months away from being inducted into the Army, although I didn’t yet know it that evening. My own life was about to change dramatically.

On that night, the nation’s life changed as well.

RFK died the next day at the age of 42. Would he have been nominated by his party? Would he have been elected president? The debate has raged for 47 years ever since that terrible event in Los Angeles, but I believe the answer is “yes” to both questions.

Maybe it’s my heart overriding my head in believing RFK would have become president. Still, I can make an analytical argument that even though then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey was ahead in convention delegates at the time of the assassination, that RFK could have peeled enough of them away by selling his own candidacy as the only one capable of defeating the Republican nominee, Richard M. Nixon.

I had a fair amount of political interest back then, even though I was just a year out of high school. It was heightened beyond its already high level the week before the shooting.

The previous week the Oregon primary took place. My home state had delivered the Kennedy its first-ever political defeat when Democrats chose Sen. Eugene McCarthy over RFK.

I was working at my job at McDonald’s the night of the Oregon primary. A motorcade pulled into the lot next door in front of a fashionable Chinese restaurant. I shot a look at the figure climbing out of an open convertible. The profile that was back-lit by a lamp belonged to Robert Kennedy. I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and ran across the lot and walked right up to the senator and  his wife, Ethel; this was before Secret Service agents surrounded presidential candidates and, indeed, it was Kennedy’s death that prompted President Johnson to issue an executive order assigning such protection to future candidates.

I told Sen. Kennedy how much I wanted him to win the presidency and that I wanted to wish him well as his campaign proceeded.

RFK signed his name to the piece of paper and then he asked me one question: “Are you old enough to vote?” I said no. With that, he turned and walked away. He didn’t say another word.

I’ll be candid. I thought at the time it was a serious insult to a young man. Perhaps if I’d anticipated the question, I would have said “yes,” even though the voting age was still 21 and I was a couple of years younger than that. Hey, what would have done, asked for ID?

I didn’t have enough snap at that moment.

Now that I’m a whole lot older, I understand better that a politician in the middle of a fight — who needs every vote he can get at the last minute — doesn’t have time to waste on someone who couldn’t help him.

Well, it all ended the next week.

Mom was right. Something “terrible” did happen that night.

And I still miss Bobby Kennedy.


Conspiracy theories are for the birds

Conspiracy theories drive me nuts.

I mean it. I think I’m going crazy listening to any and all of them.

The latest spate of conspiracy theories centers around downtown Amarillo. There’s a segment of our city population — and I’m not convinced it comprises even a significant minority of residents — who keep concocting nefarious schemes dealing with business relationships within (a) city government (b) the business community or (c) between them both.

These theories are coming from individuals — or perhaps small groups of individuals — who don’t believe the city’s master plan for reviving downtown is going to work. They won’t give it a chance. They are willing to toss it out at the front end because, by golly, they just know something underhanded is going on.

I forged a fairly decent career in daily journalism over the span of 37 years. I am wired to be skeptical of matters at a lot of levels. However, I am not such a cynic as to believe out of hand that a high-dollar business deal is simply a bad thing because it involves a fair amount of money.

And yet, that’s what I keep hearing.

Conspiracy theories have this way of growing legs and even wings. They feed on themselves. They produce conspiracy spawns, that themselves grow into full-fledged conspiracies.

Here’s one that came to me today — second-hand to be sure, but I trust the source who mentioned this tidbit to me: A young member of my family told another member of my family that “it has been proven” that a Secret Service agent killed President Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. It wasn’t Lee Harvey Oswald. It wasn’t any of the other so-called conspiracy theories: the mob; the Cubans; hell, it wasn’t even Lyndon Johnson. The killer was a member of the Secret Service, the agency charged with protecting the life of the president of the United States. And it’s been proven that the Secret Service did it.

I’m glad I didn’t hear my young family member make that idiotic assertion. I would have stroked out.

That’s the kind of thing that has infected much of the discussion surrounding the downtown Amarillo story.

How about we just keep our eyes peeled and our ears open and actually witness and listen carefully to the things being discussed?


Secret Service fails ex-president

The hits just keep on coming at the Secret Service department.

Now this: It took the agency charged with protecting presidents and former presidents more than a year to repair a faulty alarm system at the Houston home of former President George H.W. Bush.

Let’s see. We’ve had agents frolicking with hookers in South America, a man busting through security at the White House, someone crashing a small helicopter on the White House lawn — and now reports of a failure to respond in a timely manner to concerns about an alarm system at the home of the 41st president of the United States.


There’s more, too.

Vice President Joe Biden’s home in Delaware had its alarm system shut off indefinitely by the Secret Service because it, too, wasn’t working properly.

This is getting increasingly difficult to understand, let alone justify.

The Secret Service is charged with protecting the highest government officials in the land, namely the president and the vice president. It also protects former presidents and their families. The one notable recent exception to that was the late former President Richard Nixon, who resigned from office in August 1974 and who then hired private security officers to protect him in his family in his post-presidency years.

The rest of them, though, get — and deserve — protection from the Secret Service.

That the agency wouldn’t repair former President Bush’s home security immediately after its malfunction became known is unconscionable. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and new Secret Service director Joseph Clancy have declared security upgrades for those under the agency’s protection to be a top priority item.

Do you think?


Have we seen enough from Secret Service?

Isn’t the Secret Service supposed to be the elite of the elite? The cream of our national security apparatus? The individuals charged with protecting the Most Powerful Person on the Planet?

What in the name of Homeland Security is going on with these individuals?


Two more agents have been accused of driving under the influence of alcohol and taking their vehicle through an active investigation scene involving a bomb.

The Secret Service has a new director who was supposed to turn the agency around after it went through a series of shameful incidents involving disgraceful behavior and serious breaches of security at the White House.

Joseph Clancy hasn’t turned anything around.

The Secret Service used to be run by the Treasury Department. Since 9/11, it’s been handed over to the Department of Homeland Security. Did we hear of these kinds of screw-ups when Treasury was in charge? Maybe once in a while, but not with this kind of chilling regularity.

Any thoughts of returning the Secret Service to the Treasury Department? Well? Are there?