Don’t Bum Rush the BushesHow not to get shot by the Secret Service and other tips for living with an ex-president.
by Trey Garrison
The question no one wants to ask out loud about the Bush family moving back to Dallas is: how much of a pain in the oval office is this going to be? How often will their movements and security requirements inconvenience me? We asked around. The generic statement from the U.S. Secret Service about having “as little impact on citizens, neighbors, and neighborhoods as possible” wasn’t very helpful. But their evasiveness is to be expected. It says it right there in the name: secret.
Rob Saliterman, communications director for George W. Bush’s office in Dallas, was likewise oblique. He was only able to say the former president will spend most weekdays in Dallas. Except when he doesn’t.
So D Magazine turned to Ronald Kessler, former writer for the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times bestselling author of Inside the White House: The Hidden Lives of the Modern Presidents and the Secrets of the World’s Most Powerful Institution; Laura Bush: An Intimate Portrait of the First Lady; A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush; and 14 other books with the word “inside” somewhere in the title. Kessler has had extraordinary access to the Bush White House, the FBI, and the CIA. We figured he’d have some insight on what it will be like to have Dubya and Laura tooling around town.
Critics won’t like hearing this, but Kessler says President Bush is well aware of the effect his presence has on people, and he doesn’t like it. “He is very thoughtful,” Kessler says. “He doesn’t like inconveniencing people.”
Here’s how to cope with that inconvenience:
Can I Get a Picture, Mr. President? If you see President Bush in public, a good way to get a cement kiss is to run up to him digging in your pocket for your cellphone camera. Even if you know him—say you were in the oil bidness together back in Midland or owned that baseball team together—you’d best ask the nearest Secret Service agent if you can approach. Look for the guy with sunglasses, earpiece, suit, and the bulge under his jacket.
I’m Late for Work. What Is This Gridlock? It’s probably not him. When the former president is being driven around town, they won’t close down roads like they do for the current president. At most, you’ll see rolling roadblocks at intersections. A lower profile means better security.
Why Is There a Chopper Hovering Over My Pool? No one in officialdom will talk much about this one, but it’s likely that President Bush will use neighbor Tom Hicks’ heli-stop to fly short distances, like to Crawford. Hey, you borrow your neighbor’s weed wacker, right? For fixed-wing flights, he’ll likely go to Love Field, just like you and me. Unlike you and me, he’ll probably use a friend or supporter’s plane.
How Does He, Um, Eat? With his mouth. But seriously, President Bush doesn’t enjoy going to restaurants for lunch or dinner, because he feels weird when people watch him eat. He’ll likely just order hamburgers delivered from somewhere near his office. (Hello, Snuffer’s.) If it’s a scheduled lunch or dinner in public, the Secret Service will run background checks on guests, restaurant employees, and anyone else involved, and the area will likely be secured. If it’s a surprise drop-in, agents will take up positions outside and inside the restaurant while the former president dines with his guests or noshes while reading a book. No lockdown. And, no, he’s not a king. He doesn’t travel with a food taster. Laura likes to dine out at the best—though not necessarily fanciest—places. Expect to see her at Herrera’s and the Porch.
Is He Going to Hog the Katy Trail? President Bush doesn’t jog much anymore, but he does bike. There are plenty of trails at his Crawford ranch, but he might take advantage of some of the trails around the Dallas area. They’ll be picked at random, and rides will be low profile. Laura is a big walker, so don’t be surprised if you see her strolling near Daria Place—with big escorts and a black SUV creeping along behind her.