Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chance Encounters of a Presidential Kind


Presidents run in high circles with world leaders, government officials, senators, financiers.

Most Americans will never meet their President. The layers of security are supposedly impenetrable with a phalanx of Secret Service agents preventing any unauthorized encounters, but the screen around Barack Obama failed at a state dinner in 2009, when two party-crashers gained access to the White House and once inside poised with the President and several VIP. The woman intruder got close enough to Joe Biden to play with his nipple.

This breech of security would have never occurred under GW Bush.

The White House was under a lock-down. Staff understood the nation was at war. The President was safe.

Bill Clinton never had his safety compromised during his two terms.

Unwillingly.

George Bush Senior was not so lucky in 1990.

The president was visiting New York for a find-raising dinner at the Sheraton on 6th Avenue. Police blocked off the area from protesters and I explained my rendezvous to the police commander at the barrier, who allowed me to pass. I was wearing a tie.

Security within the hotel was tight. Phillip Brooks was sitting at our rendezvous point. We watched executives and GOP supporters arrive for the event. After several drink we decided to go over to Times Square. It still offered sin back then.

The front entrance was packed with arriving guests, so I suggested that we exit through the parking garage.

The first line of police ignored us.

We were in suits.

The second phalanx was more alert, but we stepped through the Sheraton's revolving doors just as the presidential limousine pulled up to the curb. Secret Service surveyed the entrance. George Bush emerged from the back. He was in a tux. I had never been this close to a presidential and called out softly, "Mr. President."

Everyone's head turned my way.

"My sister-in-law says hello." She had worked for the CIA.

"Oh, really." George recognized her name. She had been his secretary while he served as director. "She's a good lady."

"I know. She married my brother."

"Well, you wish Patty and Frank my bests." George Bush shook my hand. His flesh was warm.

"I will, sir." I smiled that he could remember my brother's name. "Have a good night, sir."

"You too." The president proceeded into the hotel and a Secret Service man approached to ask who we were.

"Just private citizens that's all."

Philip and I left into the night without a backward glance, which is always best when the Secret Service are looking your way.

They know guilty and neither Philip nor I were close to innocent.

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