Friday, December 23, 2016

Five Presidents by Clint Hill

Image result for five president clint hillClint Hill, is a former secret service agent; whose long association with the secret service saw him protect 5 US presidents. He was on bodyguard detail of the most powerful men in the US. Mr Hill was in a unique position to witness up and close these men and their affairs. He writes a personal account of not just his own history with them but also private lives of these colossal men and their family. There is a refreshing tone of genuineness and clarity in Mr Hill's account. Unlike a politician, or a journalist or a bureaucrat Mr Hill calls a spade a spade and brings a common man's view point to these presidencies. I remember reading Sanjay Baru's "Accidental Prime Minister" and Mark Landler's "Alter Egos" and could not help but think that these books were either very biased towards one individual or in some respect paid lip service to the author's own literary or some other prowess. Don't get me wrong, Sanjay and Mark are excellent authors, and their books are great reads but their familiarity with reporting and power does not bring the same perspective as someone like Clint Hill, who brings a human angle to power.

Clint Hill is famously remembered as the Agent who when JFK was shot jumped at the back of the president's car to protect his wife Jackie Kennedy. Clint is just one of many ubiquitous secret service agents whose bravery and dedication has protected many US presidents and their families, not just in the US but also in foreign nations, except that one time...

The book is divided into 5 parts based on the 5 presidents that Clint Hill served:

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  • Dwight Eisenhower  [Old School] - US General, who became monarch. An affable old man, who was staunchly anti communist and was old school. Kept his distance from the Secret service agents but respected them for their service. He was also well liked around the world and in those days could travel in open cars. An avid golfer, he spent a lot of time on golf courses.

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  • JFK  [Camelot] - Youngest US president in history, perhaps also one of their most famous. His presidency was so well liked that he was fondly remembered as Camelot. Clint was assigned to kiddie detail, and later Jackie's. He and other agents became very fond of the president and his family. They were a warm, big family who were universally liked. JFK and his wife had Hollywood good looks and magnetic charm. They were well liked wherever they went, whether in US or abroad. JFK was not just a good looking president, he was also a crisis manager who helped tide over the Cuba Missile crisis and the Indo-China war. He pushed NASA to send the first man to moon. He was also very clairvoyant in his thought, he could foresee the disastrous effect that unmitigated automation would have on jobs. JFK also recognized the importance of protecting children.  Unfortunately for the Kennedy's and for the world JFK was assassinated. Clint Hill does not go into great details about the assassination but he is certain that this was done by a lone wolf, who was mentally unstable. Clint, US and the secret service would never be the same.
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  • Lyndon B Johnson [Doer] - VP to JFK. After JFK's assassination took over the presidency. Initially, he mistrusted Clint Hill because of his closeness the to Kennedy's but eventually grew to trust and even like him. A rustic man, with a southern accent, LBJ, felt more at home at his ranch than the white house. A large, warm man LBJ went from one crises to another. He ended segregation in the south, stabilized the country after their young president died, tried to end the Vietnam War. LBJ, had a punishing schedule which meant the Secret Service agents were also subjected to the same schedule if not more. These guys would go weeks and sometimes months before they could see their families which led a lot of them to grow isolated from their wives and children.
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  • Richard Nixon [Lord Voldermort] - Cold and calculating. The man who was not only responsible for bringing disrepute to the office and himself through corruption but also cozied with genocidal dictators like Mao and Yahya Khan. Nixon not only implicated himself but also took down with him other people in his administration. He had to resign in the middle of his presidency and Ford took over.
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  • Gerald Ford [The Footnote] - President ford does not get much space in Clint's book. He ended up shooting himself in the foot. He was VP to Nixon, Nixon was supposed to be impeached for corruption and his role in Watergate, but President Ford pardoned his former boss and kept him out of jail but in return lost all credibility with the American public
This was a brief summary of Clint Hill and his presidents. Clint Hill was later diagnosed with PTSD, because of what happened with JFK. He was treated and is living a full life with his family. Honored and awarded several times for his services, he has now authored several books based on his experience.  
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