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The least free people are not in any prison


Richard Shaw


With President Donald Trump’s trip to the Middle East and Europe last week, I started wondering about some things. Things that I had never thought of before, such as does the president need a passport?
Well, upon researching that I learned a whole host of things that I never knew before because that one question led to many others.
So with all those answers, I came to the conclusion that while the President, and former presidents, may be the most protected individuals on the face of the earth, that security leads to something else – a kind of imprisonment.
Now it isn’t that they are locked into the proverbial cell block, but they are really controlled in what they can and can’t do. So here are some of the things I learned they cannot do, something most of us as Americans take for granted.
As for that first question, does the president need a passport? Well yes and no. The POTUS does not need to carry one or have one carried for him or her when they are traveling. But they usually do.
If the president is traveling to any country in the world, people pretty much know who he is. The President has a person that travels with him or her that carries it but people in other places pretty much know who the President is. Now if he were the president of Ecuador he might need one. That country’s president’s name is Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado. Would you know him if you saw him?
I think that proves the point.

Not allowed to drive

Next I came up with something else I never knew. Once someone has been president they can never drive a vehicle on public roads again. The present president certainly can’t because he is always surrounded by those that protect him and part of that is that they chauffeur him around in a protected vehicle. There are rumors though that some presidents and ex-presidents have snuck off to drive around. Bill Clinton used to drive around his 1967 Mustang in Little Rock, Arkansas when he was governor of that state with political folks in it. Apparently some got scared to death as he took his hands off the wheel to describe something while going quite fast.
After he was President he did get to drive his own car once at a Mustang Club of America rally, but it was on a closed track and a Secret Service agent was right by him in the front of the vehicle. Anyway once a President, a person really pretty much loses the right to drive. And another thing, they can never ride in a convertible even with someone else driving. We can thank Lee Harvey Oswald for that.

Denied solitude

Worse than that, though, is the fact that the president or ex-presidents can never be alone again. They can’t just decide to take a walk in the woods by themselves or hike a trail in the mountains. They will always have someone with them, unless they are in a very secure area such as the White House grounds or Camp David. Personally, I sometimes treasure being able to do those things, so I can’t imagine not being able to go off and be alone.
For some people, some of the funnest things in life are activities that border on losing one’s life. A president can’t ride a motorcycle, they can’t rock climb, they can’t skydive, etc. However they can do some things like snow ski and sail a boat. But they are surrounded by people who would pretty much prevent anything that happens there from being life threatening. What a drag.

Doesn’t need cash

The president probably usually doesn’t carry cash or a wallet/purse around either. When the heck would he or she need an ID or 50 bucks in his or her pocket. Everything in a president’s life is choreographed so much that they just don’t need it on them. It’s not like they can decide one afternoon to go down the mall to shop; at any one time it seems at least 20 percent of the population of the United States would like to see the person in the White House gone and that is on a good day.
Not a great idea just to wander out to pick up a book to read or buy a pair of jeans. I am sure that all presidents now can really appreciate the internet. At least they can see what they are buying before the Fed Ex guy shows up with it. There is one thing the president does carry however, on his or her person at all times. It is a laminated code card which would be used to verify their identity to order a nuclear strike.

How about guns?

What about carrying a gun? Conservative presidents, particularly, support the Second Amendment, so can they carry a gun? Apparently they can, but the Secret Service really discourages it. After the assassination attempt on President Reagan’s life Ronnie apparently kept one in his briefcase, although for you gun aficionados, I have not been able to find out for sure what kind or type it was. He carried one around while on his ranch in California too and one time used it to shoot a rattlesnake to the astonishment of his protection detail. You have to wonder if the snake belonged to a terrorist cell.
G.W. Bush apparently always carried one too but under his coat. No six shooter for him, it was rumored to be a 1911.
So imagine if someone tried to assassinate the president and he got into a gun fight with them. The president may have the codes to the United States nuclear arsenal in their hands all the time, with the ability to destroy most of the people on earth, but I am sure Secret Service agents would hate to see that kind of an encounter between what is typically someone in their later years gunning it out with a terrorist with a sniper rifle or an AK 47.
Basically, when one is president, the duty that person has is to escape danger, not fight it off. Besides, I wonder when a president would have time to clean a firearm, much less practice shooting it? However many presidents (and those a heartbeat away) have gone hunting while in office. Remember Dick Cheney shooting that lawyer in the face with a shotgun accidentally?
They also just can’t have a party or any other kind of gathering either. A president’s life is very planned; notice on all things is required. Early in his administration President Obama wanted to put together a “pickup basketball game” with some guys, some of whom he did not know very well. The Secret Service shut that one down quickly.
Finally (well, for this column anyway, there are probably lots more they can’t do) they cannot open a window anywhere. Not in the White House on a nice spring day or in a car to let a little fresh air in. They have to live their lives behind bullet proof glass all the time. This also goes for their spouse and minor children too.
So the next time you wish that you were rich and famous, or just rich or famous, do not wish that you were the President of the United States. It’s not only lonely at the top it also sounds to be quite boring too.

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