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Advance II

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The Secret Service Hookers-in-Columbia scandal will go on for weeks.

It will spread to the military - not so much the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) - but to the guys who handle the dogs and like that.

It will also spread to the political staff. I don't know that any civilian Federal employees or volunteers hired hookers to come to their hotel rooms, but I'm pretty sure someone on Capitol Hill will suggest the Director of White House Advance come up and discuss the matter.

The "discussion" will likely involve who was in Cartagena, when they arrived, what their responsibilities were, and whether those responsibilities were worth what it cost the taxpayers - during PAY YOUR TAXES WEEK.

The outfall from this business should be a real discussion - not a politically motivated discussion - about just how many people it takes to make sure the President of the United States knows how many steps it is between his hotel suite and the elevator.

As I mentioned the other day I have been on advance teams over the years. Not a lot of them, and never in a position of authority. I was often nothing more than a familiar face that the principal might like to see.

I never did a foreign advance, but if I had been asked to participate I certainly would have.

Domestic or foreign, being on an advance team (again, this is the same for Republican as well as Democrat Administrations) is very good duty.

It's called "advance" because you get there before the principal does. In the days before the "boss" shows up you walk through where he or she will be, how they will get from Point A to Point B, who will greet them, who will be sitting next to them, and who will accompany them from the event to the limo.

On "Game Day" everyone - EVERYONE - is on high alert. No one wants to be the one to aim the President or the Veep down a wrong hallway when a Vice-Presidential pee-pee is in the offing.

In advance of the principle's arrival there are daily events called "count-down meetings." These meetings are typically run by the senior political advance person and the senior Secret Service Agent.

As we discussed the other day, anyone who has a role in the event will be in attendance: An Air Force meteorologist will forecast the weather; the hotel manager will talk about how he will secure the appropriate number of elevators; the local police chief and or Sheriff will talk about how the roads along the route will be controlled, and so on.

In my limited experience, these count down meetings were very professional, very focused, and mercifully short. Issues raised would be dealt with and the various teams would go off to do whatever they needed (or wanted) to do.

For the political people that normally included dinner at a restaurant someone on the team had previously been to.

It was not unusual for someone, in the course of conversation with the waiter, to mention that we were the advance team for the President, Vice President (or whomever) which would lead to the restaurant owner or manager coming out to chat with us and comping (not making us pay for) the meal.

It was a Secret Service Agent to told me that the proper etiquette was to ask the waiter to estimate what the meal would have cost and to leave a tip above what would have been appropriate to that cost. The waiter worked just as hard for a free meal as he or she would have for a fully-paid-for meal.

The lead political advance person and the lead Secret Service Agent will typically be in more-or-less constant contact with one another. The Secret Service is responsible for the safety of their protectee, and the political person is responsible for making sure the trip accomplishes what it is supposed to accomplish.

Here's a real life example:

During the 1988 campaign (George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle v Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen) I was travelling with Marilyn Quayle's tour.

There came a time in California when we were asked to have her come to a hotel in Los Angeles to address a volunteer event at which Jeb Bush would be speaking.

My partner-in-crime, Mary Cochran, and I went to the Secret Service Agent in charge and told him what we wanted to do.

A short time later, he came back and said he was very uncomfortable about sending Mrs. Quayle to that event because at that same hotel, at the same time, was a meeting of California narcotics officers.

I asked what the problem was.

The Agent said, "cops with booze and guns."


We really wanted to do this event, so in the end we did it, but only after the Service had advanced a route into and out of the hotel that had the least chance of Mrs. Quayle and the California Narcs intercepting one another.

This is an election year so the Columbian trip will be in the news all the way to November, but my experience with both the Secret Service and political advance teams was nothing but positive.

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