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McCain on Secret Service: Why Do I Need It?

Sen. John McCain in the snows of New Hampshire. (AP).

John McCain often says on the campaign trail that he wants to take on the system in Washington. Usually, he's talking about congressional spending and pork-barrel projects. But he also wants to challenge the system of protection that forces presidents to live life in a bubble.

"It's my intention, if we win this nomination, to reject Secret Service," he said during one of his many conversations with reporters on his Straight Talk Express this weekend. "Why do I need it?"

He adds: "The day that the Secret Service can assure me that if we're driving in the motorcade and there's a guy in a rooftop with a rifle, that they can stop that guy, then I'll say fine. But the day they tell me, 'well, we can't guarantee it,' then fine, I'll take my chances."

McCain rejected Secret Service protection in 2000, after winning the New Hampshire primary. But he wants to go further, rejecting the massive security apparatus should he become president.

"It's the inconvenience," McCain said. "It's the inconvenience it causes people. It's a waste of the taxpayers money. It's just everything I don't like."

McCain admitted that a modern American president can't live without Secret Service protection. But he said presidents have let the protection get out of hand.

He recalled a time during Bill Clinton's presidency, when Clinton and his wife, the first lady, both had events in New York City, each traveling with large security caravans. "The island of Manhattan was gridlocked," he recalled.

The security overkill, he said, causes presidents to work differently than they otherwise might, he said.

How should it work?

"You got a problem up on Capitol Hill? It's 12 blocks away, right?" McCain asked. "Alright. You hop in a car with tinted glass, and maybe one secret service guy with you. And you drive up. Okay? And you get out of the car, you walk into Sen. Harry Reid's office and you say, Harry..."

McCain recalled seeing pictures of Harry Truman walking, almost alone, along the streets of Washington while president.

"I will admit you can't do that," McCain said. "But you don't need 50 cars and SUV's full of people driving along, stopping traffic."

Could he really do that? Could he shrink down the security apparatus that has grown so large? Would it be a wise thing?

Probably not. Presidents always chafe under the watchful attention that the Secret Service provides. But in the end, the agency gets it way, as they did when they closed Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House after the September 11 attacks, despite protests.

And yet, one gets the sense that McCain is a stubborn man, who just might complain even more than the office's previous occupants.

--Michael D. Shear

By Post Editor  |  November 18, 2007; 11:00 AM ET
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How many vehicles were actually Secret Service motorcade vehicles? If you check it is only a few. The rest of the vehicles are his staff, his luggage, his cook, his personal aid's, his medical folks, etc, etc, etc........................

Posted by: redb96 | August 15, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Well, let's see. McCain wants to reject Secret Service Protection? What for?
In our society today Secret Service protection is essential whether he likes the idea or not.
And how can anyone give a 100% guarantee on anything? More likely, the Secret Service can minimize the risks and hazards. Noone can offer a 100% guarantee on anything.
Though, I will offer my own 100% guarantee that I won't vote for him under any circumstances.
And, that you can take to the bank!

Posted by: Ciolajr | January 10, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if he'd feel the same way sitting in DC rush hour traffic for hours as he commutes from the White House to Andrew Airforce Base. LOL!

I love the point that if he feels this way, he should reject all the commodities afforded to him as President. (i.e. White House, limo and Airforce One to name a few!)

And way to go John_D...excellent point that "the purpose of the Secret Service is not just to protect the President, but also the democratic right of the American people to choose.... and to have that choice stick!" So true!

I wonder if he'd feel the same way if he knew how many crazies show up at the White House and sites with the intent to do harm upon the President?!

Then again, who the heck is Michael D. Shear? With so many inaccuracies, did he even quote McCain right?! You have to wonder...

P.S. The U.S. Secret Service falls under the Department of Homeland Security :)

Posted by: mlw22sb | January 4, 2008 11:49 PM | Report abuse

While he does have a good point about having an extreme amount of protection, IE the 'free speech zones' that the current admin sets up, the SS is surely needed.

Kennedy thought that riding in an open motor car with SS in the car behind him was a good idea too...whoops.

Posted by: thegribbler1 | November 20, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

McCain should think things through before he makes ridiculous statements to the press.

He clearly is out of touch and this statement is a symptom of his poor common sense and lack of awareness with what the voters need. He may be trying to be macho here but he is making no sense.

The mere fact that someone is the President makes them a target for every nut and terrorist in the world.

Let's say McCain goes out to dinner as President and he has no Secret Service protection with him. You and your wife and kids are sitting in the restaurant and McCain walks in and some nut starts shooting at him because he hates the President. Your wife and kids happen to be in the line of fire and are shot and killed.

The protection that the Secret Service agents routinely provide will stop those types of attacks. They go in ahead of the president and advance all of the sites visited. They protect the office and the people around the President in the process.

Any President in this day and age has a responsibility to the people to stay alive. He also has a responsibility to protect the innocent bystanders around him from being injured or killed.

It is sad to think that McCain would risk remaining safe and protecting those around him. He clearly has made this statement as a last ditch effort to get some press because he has been declared a non entity in the Presidential race. I only wish he would say something of value at this point.

Posted by: new.voter | November 19, 2007 9:13 PM | Report abuse

I guess he knows that after the inception of the SS that no president has ever been killed unless the SS was there to protect him. The SS, which is part of the Department of the Treasury has never failed to let thoughs under their protection to get shot. If a president has been shot you can guarantee an SS agent was there. When Kennedy was killed he had said just days before he wanted to and was going to do away with the federal reserve. I guess he did not remember that the SS WORKS for the department of the TREASURY. You have to see this vid about the SS to believe the fishy use of the SS. How best to control someone than to give them "protection" which is really his "minders"

Posted by: yarply | November 19, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse

CLINTON SHUT DOWN PENN AVE...not Bush. And then right after he left office, he told Bush he should re-open it. Just another example of his and her cowardice.

Posted by: rcooper | November 19, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Sorry it was goofticket thats the sarcastic idiot...

Posted by: tenniswrestler | November 19, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I think McCain has a good point, why sould we pay taxes on something that isn't guarenteed? They can't guarentee protection, they can only provide the best they can give. If McCain thinks hes tough and doen't need it, more power to him. Thats his decision. And as for hdavis21ch: People shooting at the white house would still be crime. Think of better sarcasim next time your trying to make an idiot point. ANd if you really want to take a stand on campaign issues visit its a great site!

Posted by: tenniswrestler | November 19, 2007 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Mr macho, I don't need your stinkin protection, I'll take'em all on. I'm meaner, tougher, uglier and I been tortured. If I can take it, so can our enemies, torture them all and keep your stinkin protection. God had better love the repuglicans, nobody else does!

Posted by: racom | November 19, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

There's no fool like an old fool.

Posted by: PatrickNYC1 | November 19, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse

You guys STILL haven't fixed the error regarding when/why Pennsylvania Ave. was closed. Might be a good idea!

Posted by: gmg22 | November 19, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

The bubble's a big problem, as is the myth/reality that the president is indispensable.

So too, by the way, is the ever-present risk that any security apparatus around the president morphs over time into a Praetorian Guard -- I write this with all due respect to the people in the Department of Treasury...

More power to McCain, I hope his idea has legs.

Posted by: carringtonward | November 19, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

TMSHawaii: you meant the BUSHsh@@ Express, didn't you!

Posted by: bfcs922 | November 19, 2007 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Sadly, The Straight Talk Express has become The Bullsh@@ Express.

Posted by: TMSHawaii | November 19, 2007 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I remember in 2000 when Karl Rove spread the rumors that McCain had an illegitimate black child, his wife Cindy was an addict, and that McCain was crazy. Turns out the last one is true.

Posted by: ProfessorVP | November 19, 2007 4:43 AM | Report abuse

McCain is just a sad figure now.

He literally embraced the very people who profited by the lies their organizations spread about him.

He sold his soul for what he thought was a chance to become President, and got nothing for it.

Posted by: unitcaptain11 | November 18, 2007 9:52 PM | Report abuse

So he says he'd reject Secret Service protection...but he already said he'd kill himself if the Democrats won both the House and the Senate in 2006, and he didn't do that. I doubt he would really reject protection, he might just use people outside of Secret Service.

Posted by: mac_guru | November 18, 2007 9:35 PM | Report abuse

McCain needs to keep in mind that the purpose of the Secret Service is not just to protect the President, but also the democratic right of the American people to choose, in a free and fair election, who will govern them - and to have that choice stick.

That right is priceless.

Posted by: John_D | November 18, 2007 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Mc Cain is an idiot.
He has no choice on protection.
The nation protects the office, regardless of what loon we elect for the job. Mc Cain cannot stop secret service.

It protects our mansion at 1600 Penn. Ave, our really nice 747's, and the really big black cars we own...that, we, let them use.

In fact, , if he wans to, he can rent an apartment, buy his own car, and fly around coach on Southwest out of his own pocket.

If the moron wants to use our stuff, it comes with protection.

I don't want bullet holes all over the White House, thank you.

Posted by: goofticket | November 18, 2007 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was not closed for traffic (if that is what you mean) after 9/11. It was closed for traffic after Timothy McVeigh blew up his bomb.

Posted by: hdavis21ch | November 18, 2007 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Senator McCain needs to take into account the impact of an assassination or assassination attempt on our country. He personally may not want the bother of a security presence, but the United States has the usual percentage of crazy people and one or more of them could probably obtain a weapon. If he wants the job bad enough, he's got to be willing to live to do it. Leave martyrdom to the jihadis.

Posted by: mclean1 | November 18, 2007 5:48 PM | Report abuse

The "Free Speech Zones" make me wonder about Bush....If you don't have the guts to face us what will you have the courage to face?

Posted by: willandjansdad1 | November 18, 2007 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Let's not forget that McCain is the douchebag who put all those soldiers lives at risk and had 4 Blackhawk helicopters flying overhead so he could deceive the public into thinking that the surge was working and going to the local Iraqi market was like a walk in the park. He should have refused a security detail that day.

Posted by: jeffgeoduro | November 18, 2007 5:12 PM | Report abuse

President Clinton used to jog every morning. He went along the mall on various routes depending on what he felt he wanted to see.

He ran with 2 agents trailing right behind and with some invited friends. The friends were optional.

The communications and battle wagon vehicles were not always visible as they trailed at a discrete distance. At times, the distance was tightened up.

Communters became used to seeing the President jog by as if he was just another guy.

His distance to my car once was about 18 inches.

He wasn't at the height of his popularity at this time BTW. He took his risks when he was out.

Land of the free. Home of the brave.

Posted by: dickbarber | November 18, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

God, I used to really like McCain. He was the kind of Republican I could vote for. He got stabbed in the back by the Bushies in South Carolina in 2000 and then sucked up to the damned back-stabbers this time. If the old "straight-talk express" was still out there I would pull that lever for a true patriot and hero. He just lost me by glad-handing with Fallwell and Bob Jones. Come back John...the old John McCain could could be a real "Uniter".

Posted by: willandjansdad1 | November 18, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse


Pull a Bushie!

When Mitt Romney wins, make ME his Vice-President, let me hide in Cheney's(Disinfected) Hide-Away, and I can assure you-Romney will be as safe as in his Mother's Arms!

Do anything to Mitt, and say hello to RAT!

In the meantime, I'll be just quietly sneaking around getting into things!

LOL! Might not work.

They'll do in Mitt just so they can get to ME!

Use Cheney again!

Posted by: rat-the | November 18, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

George WMD Bush is a Tyrant. The U.S. Government are War Criminals. US Forces are a terrorist organization. The reason we need Homeland Security S.S. Agents are because we are living in the 4th Reich. The U.S. Dollar is going to collapse. We are going to be under Martial Law. And We are going to lose the Dubya Dubya Three!

Posted by: postamerican | November 18, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

If he does not want it, fine, but he should not be critical of the other candidates if they want SS protection.
McCain likely does not stir up any passion, negative or enthusiastic, on his campaign trail anyway.

Posted by: bringbackimus | November 18, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Pennsylvania Avenue was closed in Oct 1995 following the Oklahoma City bombing. Modifications were made following that, but it has remained closed since then.

Are you unable to check basic facts? Or do you just make up things you are too lazy to even 'Google'?

What a pathetic excuse for journalism.

Posted by: gth | November 18, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

What a President knows if far more valuable than the individual. As President, it would be reckless for McCain to travel without a full Secret Service detail and expose state secrets to capture.

Posted by: don4463 | November 18, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

John McCain's courage is to be admired. Please see for a non-polarization choice in candidate and to see the eDemocrats and eRepublicans we have endorsed. Please encourage the Washington Post and other media to cover the The "E" Party. The "E" is for You and Me! The Men Who Hold High Places Must be the First to Start to Mold a New Reality Closer to the Heart. The Big 6 "E's" Entrpreneurship, Exports, Education, Environment, Excellence in Govt. and Health

Posted by: hleonhardt | November 18, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Yet another area where I agree with John McCain... I hope this guy pulls it out. Wish I could move to New Hampshire...

Posted by: edmcglothlin | November 18, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

John McCain does not need protection because he is a nonfactor for this election. Ron Paul has clearly surpassed John McCain and he is now a "top tier" candidate. He dominates in Straw Polls, Debate Polls, Fund Raising, Web Traffic and Grass Roots Networking. I have gathered the evidence and created a website.

Please visit and see the evidence for yourself.

Posted by: editor | November 18, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Who needs the Secret Service when they got the Worldwide Army of don't fall under any law Blackwater.

Posted by: stan_h_zx | November 18, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

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