The Secret Service, fearing an assassin's bullet is around every corner, has a “grave concern” with impromptu presidential trips outside White House gates like President Obama's stroll Wednesday to the Interior Department several blocks away, according to a new book from a former presidential agent.
“At times both sitting and former presidents voluntarily engage in optional activities that could result in death or serious injury,” writes the former agent Dan Emmett in Within Arm's Length. “Certain activities can be of grave concern to the service,” he added.
Emmett, whose new book from St. Martin's Press is an expanded version of an earlier self-published autobiography, said that presidents are habitual risk-takers who also want to show the public that they still can connect with them.
“A president,” he writes, “will take risks to remind voters that they man they have elected or who wishes to be elected by them is strong and brave enough to hold the office he holds or seeks.”
A new White House video from Obama's Wednesday stroll shows tourists and D.C. residents rushing up to meet him as agents nervously look on.
But in a shooting or accident, it will be the Secret Service — not presidential bravery — that will be blamed, he added.
“If things should go wrong during these elective adventures, the president or former president would in all likelihood accept responsibility should he live,” wrote Emmett, who worked with former presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
“Officially, however, the Secret Service will take full responsibility, not POTUS. In other words, if a president should be killed or seriously injured in an incident of his own making, the first question asked would be: Why did the Secret Service allow this to happen? The director of the Secret Service would in all likelihood go to Congress and accept full responsibility for the accident. Careers would suffer accordingly,” he wrote.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.