Barbara Bush’s personal secret service agent has recalled with great emotion her one last request as they were traveling in New York after George H. W. Bush lost the presidential election to Bill Clinton. No longer was she the first lady, she was then the former first lady, and the election loss had devastated her the most. Former Secret Service Agent Jonathan Wackrow now tells us Mrs. Bush’s unusual request, which was an extremely rare and personal moment.
Barbara Bush wasn’t one for the spotlight or fanfare, and according to her personal Secret Service agents, she hated to bring undue attention to herself. That’s reflected in a story that’s emerged from sometime after her husband lost the election to Bill Clinton, as she was traveling from New York to New Jersey through the Holland Tunnel.
“I was driving her limo from New York City to an appointment in New Jersey. The motorcade was small and unassuming — traits that Mrs. Bush appreciated — consisting of a few Secret Service vehicles and one unmarked New York police vehicle,” former Secret Service Agent Jonathan Wackrow recalled via CNN. “But upon exiting the Holland Tunnel into New Jersey, we were joined by an assortment of New Jersey State Police vehicles and motorcycles operating with full lights and sirens.”
Wackrow continued, “Typically, this was not the way that the former first lady liked to travel, as it drew undue attention. However, in this instance — with her husband’s presidency behind her — she was thrilled. Taking a quick glance in the rear-view mirror, I could see an amazing smile illuminating her face as she turned to her staff in the back seat, exclaiming, ‘They remember me! We have not had this much excitement since the White House!'”
But, that’s not all. Wackrow said she then shocked him with one final request since she’d be going back to Texas, and this was like her “last hurrah.” Yet, she wasn’t thinking about herself, she was thinking about those hardworking New Jersey cops who had just lifted her spirits.
Wackrow recalled, “Mrs. Bush leaned forward and asked the head of her protective detail if we could do one stop before getting back into New York City, as she wanted to thank all the police officers who, she said, ‘so warmly welcomed me to New Jersey.'”
He added, “Peering out the limo’s back windshield, I will never forget the image of Mrs. Bush shaking hands with the officers. It was a genuine moment of sincerity and unguarded kindness delivered out of the public eye, which, to me, defined this great woman.”
You can feel Mrs. Bush’s former Secret Service agent’s genuine emotion as he relates an event which is etched into his mind forever. There is no doubt this event, which capped his years of service, of being with her day in and day out, brought tears to his eyes.
He gives us a glimpse of the heavy responsibility he felt as he described what it meant to him to be the guardian of the FLOTUS. “With the utmost seriousness, Secret Service agents assigned to the first lady take the sacred responsibility of protecting a political and cultural icon, knowing full well that any harm that comes to the first lady could impede the President’s ability to govern,” wrote Mr. Wackrow.
He also wrote about the time Mrs. Bush blew him away. What did she do? Well, she spoke to him when he was a new agent. Usually, the Secret Service is seen, but it’s rare that there is interaction with their protectees. “[W]hen I was a new agent, I was assigned to work a midnight shift at the Bush family’s summer residence in Kennebunkport, Maine. I was walking in the front yard at daybreak, preparing to end my shift, when Mrs. Bush suddenly appeared,” Wackrow recalled.
“In my world, it was better to be unseen, but in this instant, I was in the former first lady’s full view with nowhere to hide,” he wrote. “Mrs. Bush gave me the warmest smile and said, ‘Well, it is good morning for me, but it looks like you have been up all night, so I will wish you a good night’s sleep.’ Stunned, I thanked her.”
He made the point to note that Barbara Bush once said, “Nobody likes, you know, the ugly parts of politics.” It seems that, after eight years of Barack Obama, the ugliness was raised to new heights. Brilliantly, Obama and his handlers played “identity politics,” and the goal was to conquer and divide.
That’s why everything became about race, sexual identity, economic class, and the list goes on. He pitted American against American, and it worked. Barbara Bush was the last first lady before this kind of ugliness started creeping in. When Obama hit the Senate in 2006, he started to build his campaign of “identity politics.”
So, when Barbara Bush passed away, for many Americans it brought to mind a time when we didn’t hate each other. Here’s hoping we can sustain some of that peace and goodwill which wasn’t so long ago. For that reason alone, we will miss Barbara Bush. May she rest in peace.