Presidential Protection Revisited

Presidential Protection Revisited

By J.V. Houlihan, Jr.

Several years ago while working at my job at the ferry landing in Point Judith, I witnessed something that I’ll never forget. The word around the campfire, was that President Bill Clinton was going to visit Block Island the upcoming weekend. One morning, I noticed two F-16’s flying over Galilee. That same afternoon, I saw two men dressed in brand new, gaudy, Aloha shirts, new baggy ill fitting shorts, and very poorly designed sandals, (these men also wore fanny packs). They approached me while I was directing cars onto the ferry, and asked me questions regarding the type of people who rode our ferries from Providence and Point Judith. I gave them a vague answer, and they walked on, scanning the ferry terminal. I noted the exchange as rather incongruous, to the normal tourist questions that I answer, for example, “Where can we get clam cakes.”

The next day, a man approached me, and introduced himself. He gave me his card, and told me to call him if I had any questions. His card said he was so and so, and was the head of Presidential Protection for the Secret Service. I found that very strange, as I just load cars onto a ferry boat. Why would he be talking to me? The next morning, more F-16’s flew over the ferry docks. I connected the dots, and figured maybe the President was really coming to the island.

That Saturday, Matty Rooney, the Port Captain for the ferry company, told me we had a special charter for the Manitou, and to line up the vehicles in a special place. The special vehicles were: a State Police Suburban, and K-9 State Police car, a black Suburban with a several gadgets on the roof, and another official black car. Finally, another black tinted windowed Suburban pulled into the parking lot, and unloaded some very big guys in black fatigues, who carried long black bags slung over their shoulders (the sniper team), one of the guys had a very big bag, probably a weapon for a big target. These men walked onto the Manitou like they owned it.

As the ferry was being loaded, a bus pulled up along the sidewalk. I hopped aboard, and asked if the people were all going to Block Island. This was a Pu Pu Platter of people: young, middle aged and elderly folks. The all smiled at me and said “Yes we are.” As they all filed off the bus and onto the ferry, I noticed that they all carried fanny packs, like the poorly dressed tourists from earlier in the week. Yeah you guessed it; they were carrying guns in those packs. This gang of people would mix in well with the general tourist demographic on the island. The Manitou finally left for the island. I got off duty, and was going sailing up in Narragansett Bay for the afternoon.

As I sailed my boat over toward Prudence Island, I saw Air Force One landing with an F-16 escort, at Quonset State Airport. Fifteen minutes later, four helicopters, were taking off from the airport, two Chinooks, and two Marine Ones. These aircraft were heavily laden with armed Marines, and the Commander and Chief of the United States. A few minutes later as they flew out over the bay and south to Block Island, the F-16’s took off to escort them. I had to wonder, which Marine One, had the President et al. in it. All of this prior planning, and all of this expense, was so that the President could visit the island, take a walk, grab an ice cream cone, and say “Hi folks!” After his visit it was off to the Vineyard. Whattacountry!

Now the aforementioned begs this question I will pose to you. How in the name of heaven, did these two Tabloid driven, fifteen minute of shame, celebrity wannabe junkies, get in the same breathing space of our President, in the Whiterhouse!!!! The national and international implications of our leader being harmed disturbs me. The adjectives I want to use to further describe the perpetrators of this travesty, but will with hold, would make Mark Twain and Don Rickles blush. These idiots missed three important rules of party etiquette. Number one, you do not crash a party, number two, you do not crash a party, and number three, you do not, crash, a party!!!   Regarding the security breach, obviously, there’s egg on someone’s face, and there will be a reckoning for that individual or individuals. We have tighter protocols for loading our ferries for crying out load. There is no way the Whitehouse can spin this into a “learning moment.” As for the kooks who did this mindless pose, and for whatever motive they had, I hope the Networks and agents, who want to sell these antics, will refrain, and find something more newsworthy. The only winners here are the writers for SNL, who I’m sure as of this writing, are grinding out scripts for this week’s show.

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