But Lewis Mason actually lived it.
And Mason allowed the Bradley Sunrise Rotary in on a few of the behind the scenes tidbits at a recent meeting.
Mason protected several modern U.S. presidents, including President Richard Nixon, President Gerald Ford, President Jimmy Carter and President Ronald Reagan, and he had some interesting, as well as some little-known facts, to share.
After eight years with the U.S. Army, Mason chose to join the Secret Service, although he also was accepted into the FBI and the CIA.
“I am always asked which president is the best and which is the worst,” Mason said.
Well, if he had to pick one, his favorite would have to be Reagan.
“He was the easiest man to work for,” Mason said. Mason remembers when his Secret Service detail was out on President Reagan’s ranch one day, taking a break in their trailer, a knock came to the door.
It was Reagan.
He politely asked if he could join in the card game the Secret Service officers were playing — playing in his trailer on his ranch. “But he didn’t assume he could just come in and play cards (because he was the president.) He was just a regular guy. Not a good card player, but a consummate gentleman.”
That’s just one of the reasons that Nancy Reagan loved her husband so.
Every morning on their ranch, the couple went riding, Mason said remembering. And, every morning, Reagan would help his beloved wife off of her horse and they would kiss like newlyweds. And, during this daily kiss, the First Lady would lift her leg, just like you see in the classic, old-time movies.
The way they loved each other, endeared them both to all who knew them, including the Secret Service.
“The way Nancy was with her husband, you had to like her,” Mason said.
In fact, Reagan was such a kind and gentle soul, it was almost impossible to tell, Mason said, when Reagan was angry.
“You’d have to figure it out for yourself,” he said.
But not so with Carter.
“President Carter has the reputation of being the worst president we have ever had,” Mason said.
And Mason would probably agree.
When Mason worked at the White House while Carter was president, Mason was either the first or second person Carter saw each and every morning.
In four years, Carter never once said “Good morning” to him, he said.
Mason also claimed he had heard and seen Carter be abusive to his wife, Rosalynn.
And, just for show that he was ‘one of the people,’ Carter would carry an empty suitcase with him as if he was carrying his own luggage. In reality, it was protocol that others were required to take care of the president’s luggage — all his luggage.
“This shows just how phony President Carter was,” Mason said.
“President Carter had a reputation for being a Southern Gentleman, Mason said.
“It’s a lie. He was a tyrant off camera.”
Mason said he has met Southern gentlemen, especially now that he’s been living in Tennessee.
“And President Carter is no Southern gentleman,” he said.
But, as may be a surprise to some, Nixon was not as bad a president as some people think, Mason said.
“Nixon had to resign due to his loyalty to his people,” he said. Not like today when many politicians quickly throw their friends and co-workers under the bus to save themselves. “If he had (thrown people under the bus), he probably would have finished his term.”
The audience had other questions as well.
Question: When Reagan was shot, how did John Hinckley Jr. get so close?
Answer: It was actually the fault of the media gathered there at the time. The media was allowed practically front-row access to the president at the time. But the media also allowed this stranger, Hinckley, to move up to the front of the media entourage, knowing full well that he didn’t belong, Mason revealed.
“Hinckley got so close because the media allowed him to,” Mason said. “They knew he didn’t belong.”
Another question: How did the couple get through security at one of President Obama’s parties?
The Secret Service’s job is to make sure that people don’t have anything on them that could hurt the president. When they had no identification to enter the party, the Secret Service was to ask the event planner if they were on the list to enter. She gave the Secret Service the go-ahead. She shouldn’t have done that.
“If the Secret Service were really to blame, they would have fired them,” Mason said. “They finally fired the press secretary.”
In other business:
- Lee Stewart, a member of the Sunrise Rotary Foundation board, donated $500 from the board to Reba Terry, executive director of The Caring Place ministries, at the recent Sunrise Rotary meeting.
- Sally Poston, veterinarian at the Animal Medical Center and longtime Sunrise Rotary member, received two pins from the Paul Harris Foundation in special recognition of her six special donations to the club.
- Louis Mason, former Secret Service agent retired, and Joshyua Olmstead, dentist at Olmstead Dental, were both inducted into the Sunrise Rotary organization at its last meeting.
- Some of the categories the Sunrise Rotary is still looking to fill include taxidermy, technical writing, telemarketing, textile design and toxicology.