Cover Image: Protecting the Presidential Candidates

Protecting the Presidential Candidates

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This was really interesting and I found it very informative.  There was a lot I did not know even of current events. 

I really recommend this and will be getting it for my husband for Christmas (he prefers actual books) 

I was given an advance copy by netgalley and the publishers but the review is entirely my own.
Was this review helpful?
TW: assassination and violence 

When I picked this book from NetGalley, I expected it to be a first person collection of stories from secret service agents about what it was like protecting presidential candidates - if this is what you’re looking for, you may be slightly disappointed. Though Ayton does a really great job of combining those voices and stories into one collective voice. 

The book shares very intimate details of assassination attempts on candidates, which makes for a very interesting read. It also shows how the secret service has evolved over the last more than half century to respond to increasing threats of violence. 

Ayton shares a good mix of both positive and negative accounts of all of the presidential candidates, including some light hearted stories about those candidates who wanted to invite their teams to dinner or learn about their families. One warning though, for any people who are devout fans of Hillary, you may not like the chapter dedicated to the Clintons. Well within his right, Ayton shares accounts from the secret service that don’t do a lot of justice to the former president and First Lady. 

I think Ayton does a really wonderful job sharing with the world what it’s like to be a secret service agent in charge of protecting people who experience violent threats every single day. This is definitely worth a read, if you’re interested in politics.
Was this review helpful?
The date of November 22nd 1963 was a terrible day for many people. For John McCormack, the 71-year-old Speaker of the House, it was an even more shocking time than for most. For McCormack was told initially not only that President Kennedy but also that his Vice President Lyndon Johnson had both been assassinated during their trip to Dallas. According to the line of succession this meant that he himself, as Speaker was now the US president. As the news sunk in, McCormack was overcome by a wave of vertigo and found himself momentarily unable to stand. When McCormack learnt the truth moments later: the Vice President was in fact completely unharmed, a wave of relief spread across the old man's face.
Mel Ayton's book about the protection afforded to both presidents and candidates since the Kennedy era is full of such fascinating titbits. Both JFK and his brother, Bobby who was also assassinated while seeking the presidency in 1968 both shared a fatalistic attitude to the possibility of assassination. As it turns out, Bobby's tragic assassination could have been very easily prevented. The racist presidential candidate, George Wallace, in contrast was generally very wary of the prospect of attack but was shot and paralysed during a brief moment of recklessness while on the campaign trail in 1972. Perhaps understandably, Ted Kennedy's political career was haunted by constant fears that he might become the third successive Kennedy to fall foul of an assassin's bullet. Richard Nixon used Ted Kennedy's secret service detail as a means to spy on the senator who was a potential rival. Others have abused the secret service supplied, to them. JFK and Gary Hart both used them as a means to help facilitate their own womanising. Others have been resistant or unhelpful to their detail: Nixon's tendency to plunge enthusiastically into large crowds without earning reportedly led him to be dubbed "a sniper's dream." Other candidates have treated their detail with respect or even something approaching friendship.
Ultimately, this is a full and revealing account of a fascinating subject. It is a shame that in the later chapters, Ayton's political prejudices. notably his clear hostility to the Clinton family, get in the way of an otherwise compelling and readable factual account.
Was this review helpful?
I adored plotting to kill the president so was thrilled to have my wish granted.
Protecting the Presidential Candidates is the first book of its kind to examine how presidents and presidential candidates were protected during the presidential election cycles – from JFK to Biden. It is also the first book of its kind to tell the story of the role of state troopers and private bodyguards in protecting presidential candidates.

Protection for candidates changed and evolved from the free-wheeling style of the 1950s and early 1960s, which afforded presidential candidates little or no protection, to the growth of bodyguard personnel, increased intelligence facilities and state of the art technology employed today to keep the candidates safe. Presidential candidates relish connecting with the public and it has given greater visibility to the bodyguards who are willing to place themselves between a presidential candidate and a would-be attacker.

In the milieu in which the Secret Service operates, bodyguards have witnessed the terrors of election campaigns when presidential candidates have waded into crowds to shake hands with their supporters, rode in open-top cars, and made sudden but risky changes to their schedules – oblivious to the fact that in every campaign there have been people stalking candidates with ill intent.

Many stories revealed in Protecting the Presidential Candidates have remained largely hidden from the public; some buried in newspaper archives and others in oral histories, presidential libraries or official government documents. The author draws on numerous sources, including FBI files, presidential biographies, vice presidential biographies, civilian bodyguard memoirs, Secret Service agent memoirs, White House staff memoirs and more so that these stories can now be told.

The book also allows readers to gain an insight into the personal as well as professional relationships between the candidate and the bodyguards who protected them. Some candidates were so trusting of their bodyguards they embraced them as part of an ‘inner circle’ of advisers. Bodyguards have also witnessed embarrassing moments in a candidate’s campaign and how intrusive they have been at the most delicate of moments. ‘The president’s day is your day,’ one agent said. 'Nobody sees the president the way an agent does.'
Fantastic what can I say, now downloading the JFK assassination dispelling the myths.  Mel you have a forever fan in me!
Was this review helpful?