When we use the phrase “I’d take a bullet for you,” most of us are speaking metaphorically to demonstrate loyalty to someone.
Secret Service agents, specifically those who serve in the Presidential Protective Division, have sworn an oath to protect the president of the United States, with an understanding that they might have to sacrifice their own lives — to take an actual bullet — to protect the president.
It’s a reality worth remembering when discussion turns, as it has, to funding Secret Service operations.
The Secret Service can no longer pay hundreds of agents it needs to carry out an expanded protective mission — in large part due to the sheer size of President Donald Trump’s family and efforts necessary to secure their multiple residences up and down the East Coast, USA Today reported Monday.
Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles said more than 1,000 agents have already hit the federally mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances that were meant to last the entire year.
The politics of this moment — where your thoughts on the Secret Service become intertwined with your thoughts on President Trump — need to be set aside to reflect on the realities of the situation.
This president is older, with adult children, unlike President Barack Obama, whose children were minors for nearly his entire eight-year presidency. President Trump has two adult sons and two adult daughters, all of whom have their own lives and, therefore, their own Secret Service protection.
Alles said the service is grappling with an unprecedented number of White House protectees. Under Trump, 42 people have protection, a number that includes 18 members of his family. That’s up from 31 during the Obama administration.
There are more people requiring protection in this administration than the last. It’s going to vary from one administration to the next.
Another reality: This president, like many presidents before him, likes playing golf. As there is no 18-hole course on the South Lawn of the White House, if President Trump wants to play golf, he’s going to have to travel off the White House grounds to do so. Does he have to go all the way to Florida? No. But he’s still the president when he’s addressing the ball in the tee box; we believe presidents can walk and chew gum at the same time.
We didn’t begrudge previous presidents playing golf, either. We should all want all presidents to have some relaxation time, so that they’re mentally and physically refreshed for their return to the Oval Office and the life-altering decisions they may have to make.
However you may feel about the frequency of President Trump’s tee times, or the number of international flights his sons take to conduct the family business in his stead, one fact remains: His wife, sons and daughters — like Malia and Sasha Obama, or Jenna and Barbara Bush before them — are members of the president’s immediate family, which means they could be met with violence or kidnapping by those who would aim to do harm to the United States through such threats. Therefore, they must be protected.
“The president has a large family, and our responsibility is required in law,’’ Alles said. “I can’t change that. I have no flexibility.’’
Correspondingly, it’s important to remember that the Secret Service has no say on whether the president makes a trip to wherever he wants to go. He’ll have to be protected; as Director Alles points out, the protection is required by law.
When it comes to the Secret Service, those agents protect the presidency as much as the president. They risk their lives to ensure that no one, through an act of violence or terror, prevents the man or woman elected president by the citizens of the United States from serving his or her four-year term in office.
It’s going to cost more to protect President Trump and his family than it did to protect President Obama and his family, or President G.W. Bush and his family.
Congress must authorize additional funding to ensure that Secret Service agents — the ones willing to take the literal bullet — are justly compensated for their work.