Wednesday, June 30, 2021

the last book I ever read (Seth Rogen's Yearbook, excerpt three)

from Yearbook by Seth Rogen:

There’s this episode of The Simpsons where Lisa Simpson dumps Ralph Wiggum on television and Bart is able to pinpoint the moment where Ralph’s heart breaks. I always related to this moment on a deep, deep level.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

the last book I ever read (Seth Rogen's Yearbook, excerpt two)

from Yearbook by Seth Rogen:

I divvied up the shrooms and sold one ounce to Josh Corber and three other dudes I wasn’t good friends with. When I got home, I put the second ounce under my bed, tossed my yearbook ON my bed, and took the bus to meet some friends who were smoking weed at one of their grandmas’ houses while she was on a cruise. She had one of those chairs that ran up the side of the staircase, and we would take turns riding it while we were baked.

My parents generally didn’t snoop through my shit, and flipping through your son’s first high school yearbook honestly doesn’t seem like an invasion of privacy. I also totally understand that if you were flipping through that yearbook and saw, like, a dozen and a half references to the sale and consumption of hallucinogenic mushrooms, you would then search your kid’s room. You would also probably be dumbstruck by how easily you found what you were looking for—an ounce of mushrooms sitting under the bed. Wow, my son is stupid, you would think. And you would not be wrong.

Monday, June 28, 2021

the last book I ever read (Seth Rogen's Yearbook, excerpt one)

from Yearbook by Seth Rogen:

They were simultaneously tough and eccentric. My grandmother was born while her family was in a caravan fleeing Poland as World War I was breaking out. She got to pick her own birthday when she was a little girl because her parents didn’t know her real one, which is some real Depression-era shit. How rough was Poland for Jews at that time? So rough that when they arrived in Winnipeg, a city in Manitoba that has swarms of mosquitos throughout the summer and debilitating ice storms throughout the winter, they thought, This place is fucking great! Let’s stay here. My grandfather was born in Winnipeg. One of three brothers (the others named Curly and Pinky), he played professional football in the CFL and lied about his age to go to war. When I was about six, we were on a family vacation in Palm Springs and I cracked my toenail when I stubbed it in the pool. My grandfather said he would fix it, and then ripped off the entire nail. We had to go to the hospital.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt twenty-one)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

The cart rentals cast the president as a politician on an endless holiday—on the public’s dime. Yet the Service’s biggest physical and financial drain was paying to support all the agents and officers it needed on each trip—at least seventy for even a bare-bones visit. The Service had to pay for hotels, food, transportation, and overtime for the entire team. On top of the protective and counter assault teams that shadowed the president, advance teams had to prepare a security plan for each visit. Secret Service officers had to set up checkpoints at the entrances to any clubs he visited, create vehicle screening zones with bomb-sniffing dogs for any guests, and the man magnetometers at the building entrance. Trump’s weekend visits were becoming so routine, the agents and officers were logging tens of thousands of dollars in overtime each visit. The average weekend hop to Mar-a-Lago cost the Service about $400,000 to support its staff. If the president traveled every other weekend to golf, would the Service have enough left to pay for his packed schedule of travel around the country for official duties, and the even more expensive upcoming foreign trips to Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Paris, and Asia, much less for the travel of his family and the vice president?

President Obama’s critics had excoriated him for his golfing trips and Hawaii vacations, nothing that this travel had cost taxpayers an estimated $97 million over his eight years in office. Trump’s travel, however, cost the government $13.6 million in just one month and quickly rose to $20 million in two months, according to a report by Congress’s watchdog. If the forty-fifth president continued at this rate, Trump alone was on target to cost the U.S. taxpayer more than $600 million for his travel in one term.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt twenty)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

Budget officials and Kelly tried to push off the plan; digging up and replacing the enormous vehicle gates was considered so cost-prohibitive, they hoped to delay and delay until Trump got tried of asking.

Instead, Kelly turned to reviewing the large number of security details—forty-one in all. The Secret Service was stretched so thin protecting all these people that some Trump aides getting protection occasionally had to ride in their agents’ personal cars. Senior officials were told to give the Secret Service two hours’ notice if they needed a ride, because they couldn’t take a car out for the whole day. The Secret Service simply didn’t have enough working vehicles to go around. He looked for details he could cut, and started with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. There was no credible threat against Mnuchin’s life. He was getting the detail because of tradition; Treasury had been the first home of the Secret Service, and the Treasury secretary continued to enjoy a detail even after the agency was moved into the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11. Kelly said it was time to rethink tradition. He was considering reducing or eliminating his own detail, and he suggested Mnuchin give up his. Mnuchin was aghast. He scurried to complain to Jared Kushner, and soon began urging that Trump and Kushner let him return the Secret Service to its rightful home in Treasury. “Mnuchin felt it was a God-given right,” said one national security official. “He pulled out all the stops. There weren’t even any known threats to him.”

Kelly blocked Mnuchin’s transfer idea, but he lost on the detail. Mnuchin kept it even as a female cabinet member, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, was getting a stream of death threats and had to temporarily hire her own private security. The decision left the Service scrambling to find enough bodies to staff details for forty-one people, pulling agents from other assignments and rotating them out of their field offices for two-week stints, all to shield and follow every waking move of this expanded group of presidential family members and senior advisers. It also forced the Service to pay the Trump organization more money. Mnuchin at the time was a favored cabinet secretary of Trump’s; he had moved into one of the most expensive suites in Trump’s International Hotel in Washington while his home was being renovated and lived there for six months. The Franklin Suite normally cost $8,300 a night, but Mnuchin negotiated a discount. Mnuchin’s choice of hotel generated a lot of income for Trump’s business. On top of Mnuchin’s bill, the Secret Service also had to rent a room next door to the secretary’s for six months, which meant taxpayers paid $33,000 more to Trump’s company.

Friday, June 25, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt nineteen)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

Despite the chaos, members of the Secret Service were privately cheering Trump’s political message about cracking down on criminals and immigrants. Many in the agency leaned conservative politically anyway because of their law enforcement roots, and often voted Republican. A good number had been quietly rooting against Hillary Clinton, sharing jokes about what a nightmare she would be in the Oval Office. As a First Lady and secretary of state, she had earned such a bad reputation in the agency that it was hard to separate the reality from the lore. Some agents who had been on her protective details over the years swore she had refused to speak to them, scolded them for poor route selection when driving her to an event, and called the director to lodge complaints about them. Trump, by contrast, was normally playing bro to the agents, joshing with them about the ”crazies” who showed up to boo and hiss at his rallies.

There were notable exceptions in the agency, of course. One seasoned agent working frequently on Trump campaign events found Trump’s behavior intolerable to watch up close; the man pleaded for a reassignment, never giving the real reason, so he could escape Trump’s orbit. One of the Service’s highest-ranking women supervisors, Kerry O’Grady, was aghast at Trump’s behavior on his frequent visits to the Rocky Mountain states she oversaw as the agent in charge of the Denver field office. It wasn’t his politics that made her skin crawl; it was his lack of a moral code. He cheered fascist slogans, ridiculed the weak, and incited violence at his rallies. At a rally in Greeley, Colorado, O’Grady was shocked to realize that a national reporter had hired a retired agent for protection because Trump had incited attacks against him and the press in general. After The Washington Post released a video recording on October 7 in which Trump bragged that he could grab women “by the pussy” without asking, O’Grady couldn’t contain her building feelings. She had taken her protection duties seriously, making aggressive moves to safeguard Trump’s life such as adding reinforcements at rallies and once recommending pulling him offstage at an event where massive crowds were throwing rocks and surrounding the building. But Trump represented everything she’d spent a lifetime fighting in law enforcement. His behavior branded him a predator and a bully—the kind of danger she was normally shielding the public from. That night, she wrote a private Facebook post that many agents would later call a dereliction of duty but which she considered the rational response to a dangerous candidate like none the Service had protected before.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt eighteen)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

A day later, the White House announced that Pierson had resigned, something she was forced to do that morning, and that she would be replaced by Clancy. Many in the public rightly assumed she got canned for having one too many bad things happen on her watch, but wrongly assumed she’d tried to hide something from the president.

Johnson knew better. He knew that a series of Secret Service deputies had failed Pierson and that some had actively worked against her to leak bad news. On the day of her resignation, he told his staff to take him to Secret Service headquarters and order all the assistant directors to meet him in the main conference room, where he proceeded to give them a tongue-lashing.

“Today is rock bottom and every day after this we are going up,” Johnson said. “She took the fall for all of you. But you all bear the responsibility. You better get your asses in gear or you’re out. Now one of you, go ahead and leak this, since you leak everything else.”

They hung their heads and watched Johnson walk out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt seventeen)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

Director Sullivan had survived some headline-grabbing screw-ups before. Whenever he’d found himself under the gun in the past, he’d turn on his guileless “aw shucks” charm. His manner telegraphed trustworthiness rather than cover-up. Like some previous directors, he was also pretty good at stroking politicians’ egos.

After an uninvited couple sneaked past the Secret Service into a 2009 White House dinner—and shook hands with President Obama—Sullivan made a series of supplicant visits to lawmakers’ offices to brief them personally. He shared the details of his team’s findings on how proctocol broke down at a White House entry checkpoint. Lawmakers then went on television to show how important and “in the know” they were, telling viewers of the one-on-one download they’d received from the director. Congressional staffers dubbed his rounds on Capitol Hill “the Mark Sullivan self-preservation tour.”

Though the public had no idea, Sullivan had also survived the First Lady’s anger in 2011 over the agency’s botched handling of the November shooting at the White House. Sullivan had promised Michelle Obama that nothing like that would ever happen again.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt sixteen)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

At the time of the shooting, President Obama had been sitting courtside on the USS Carl Vinson warship in Coronado Bay, watching the fourth quarter of a basketball game between the University of North Carolina and Michigan State University on the flight deck. He was getting ready to be interviewed by ESPN at 9:05 P.M.

Not long after, the Carolina Tarheels were celebrating beating the Michigan State Spartans, 67-55. The president had finished his interview. He congratulated the players on a great game and chatted briefly with the basketball legend Magic Johnson. Forty-five minutes after the shooting, Barack and Michelle Obama climbed aboard Air Force One, bound for a trade summit in Honolulu. Director Sullivan was traveling with the president. Mickey Nelson, Sullivan’s assistant director for protective operations, called the director to let him know there had been a shooting near Crown. Everything was okay, Nelson emphasized. “It doesn’t look like there’s any connection to the White House,” he said. The First Couple was still unaware that a man had taken several shots at their residence while one of their daughters was at home and another was en route.

Monday, June 21, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt fifteen)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

The gunman parked his black Honda directly south of the White House, on a closed land off Constitution Avenue. It was about ten minutes to nine on the evening of November 11, 2011. He pointed a semiautomatic rifle out the passenger window, aimed directly at the home of the president of the United States, and pulled the trigger. Then again, and again.

A bullet smashed a window on the second floor, just steps from the First Family’s formal living room. Another lodged in a window frame, and several more pinged off the roof, sending bits of debris to the ground. At least eight bullets flew seven hundred yards across the South Lawn. Seven of them struck the Obama family’s upstairs residence.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt fourteen)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

That night, a large part of the country celebrated. But for Obama, the danger had ratcheted up exponentially, literally overnight. The Intelligence Division, which assessed threats to the president, immediately felt itself struggling to triage and assess a skyrocketing number of threats. Agents estimated that in the months immediately before and for several months after he took office, Obama received four times as many death threats as his predecessors—as many as thirty a day.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt thirteen)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

This seamy culture at the top of the Secret Service was revealed thanks to an eight-year-old racial discrimination lawsuit filed by Black agents back in 200, one that the Secret Service had been trying to quash since it was filed. Led by presidential detail agent Ray Moore, the Black agents had claimed a racist culture had blocked and stalled their ability to rise in the organization. The senior leadership of the Service made promotion decisions informally and kept no official files documenting them. Moore couldn’t take another year of being passed over for white agents who rated below him and others he had trained. He and his colleagues risked career suicide when they filed suit, seeking to find out whether race played a role in supervisors’ pattern of elevating whites so much more frequently. In 2004, a judge had ordered the Service to provide supervisors’ internal emails. But by late 2007, the Service was still dragging its heels, claiming it would take years more for the overburdened agency to gather the material.

In a three-day court hearing on the case in late 2007, federal magistrate Deborah Robinson said she was out of patience and rebuked the Service for its stonewalling. She gave them a do-or-die deadline and the threat of daily fines afterward: Turn over all electronic messages among supervisors within three months, or else. The Service hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to review 20 million electronic records on promotions and race, and ended up discovering more warts than it bargained for. In their private chats on email, some of the Service’s highest supervisors had traded racist jokes about Black men’s genitalia, the illiteracy of Black adults, and the sexual prowess of different races. With the agency already being questioned about the noose found at the training center, Sullivan decided the Service had to turn over the records mentioning race to the plaintiffs.

Friday, June 18, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt twelve)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

When Scott and Cheney reached the bottom of the stairs in a tunnel leading to the bunker, called the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, Scott still had one major problem. He couldn’t enter the shelter on his own authority. The military tightly guarded access to the PEOC, and unlike top presidential detail agents, many vice presidential agents hadn’t been given the S-keys to get inside.

The Secret Service would later tell the world that Cheney and his detail had reached safety underground, a “secure location,” just a minute or so before the Pentagon crash. They reported that he got to safety by 9:37 A.M.

But the truth of what happened was kept a closely held secret for years. The suspicious hijacked plane crashed into the west side of the Pentagon at 9:38 A.M. At that moment, Cheney was standing at the base of the stairs outside the bunker, powerless and far more exposed if there had been a crash. Cheney had to wait a few more moments for someone to open the door and let him inside. If American 77 had kept heading toward the White House that morning, Vice President Cheney and his detail would more likely have been added to the long list of victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt eleven)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

Steenbergen told Garabito he had been trying to reach him at his office, to warn him of something that the Secret Service couldn’t yet see on Tigerwall.

“We have four aircraft compromised,” Steenbergen began. “Two have hit the towers. Two are headed in the direction of Washington.”

The FAA suspected that these two incommunicado planes veering off course had been hijacked too.

“One is over Cleveland, forty-five minutes out,” Steenbergen said. “Another is over Pittsburgh, thirty minutes out.”

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt ten)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

A Starr investigator asked Cockell whether, in hindsight, the Secret Service should have done something to limit Clinton’s ability to spend so many hours with a young woman in private nooks, entirely unseen by his protectors. Cockell pointed to the fact that the White House was an office, and Lewinsky had been cleared to enter. “Sir, my focus is the safety and security of the president,” Cockell said. “And if it does not threaten his safety and security … then my responsibility ends.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt nine)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

Lewinsky has been promoted from intern to permanent staffer and then ejected from the White House as a threat to the president’s reputation, all in just ten months’ time. Indeed, it wasn’t long after Lewinsky started working in the West Wing that Jennifer Palmieri, one of Panetta’s top aides, and others were already “worried that an affair between the president and Lewinsky had begun.” They’d noticed how “clutchy” Lewinsky was with the president and that she seemed “giddy” in his presence. Likewise, Clinton loitered by her tiny cubicle outside Chief of Staff Panetta’s office on so many afternoons that fall of 1995 that senior aides began to take notice, dryly joking that the president had never visited his chief of staff’s office this much before.

Monday, June 14, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt eight)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

On a pleasant Saturday afternoon in October, Francisco Duran stood on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House. He pulled a Chinese-made semiautomatic assault rifle from under his tan trench coat, pointed the barrel through the bars of the iron perimeter fence, and opened fire on the White House. Duran, a convicted felon who despised the government and Clinton, shot twenty-nine rounds at the North Façade of the White House, striking it eleven times and shattering a window in the press briefing room before three civilians on the street tackled him.

Duran’s shots never endangered President Clinton, who was in a south-facing room in the Executive Mansion at the time. But the incident shook the White House staff. Leon Panetta, Clinton’s chief of staff, asked Noble’s team to include Duran’s shooting in their review.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt seven)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

On September 12, 1994, a very different kind of threat came at the president—in the form of a stolen red-and-white propeller plane. At about 1:45 A.M., the small two-seater Cessna flew low over the office buildings along Seventeenth Street in downtown Washington, made a U-turn when it reached the Washington Monument, and then headed straight for the South Lawn of the White House. The pilot shut off the Cessna’s power as he set a glide path, but then tried to pull the nose up slightly when he spotted a sea of metal bleachers set up on the grass for an event planned for later that afternoon.

The plane clipped a massive magnolia tree, planted when Andrew Jackson was president, and then skidded fifty feet to a stop within inches of the White House’s sandstone wall, just outside the State Dining Room. The crumpled wreckage smoldered with the dead pilot inside, just two floors below the Clintons’ bedroom. Fortunately, that night, the Clintons happened to be sleeping in the nearby Blair House while their residence’s ventilation system was being repaired.

Neither the Secret Service nor anyone else did anything to protect Crown—largely because they had no idea the plane was coming. Some officers stationed on the South Portico noticed a low-flying place over the Mall, but they had only second to scramble out of the way when it turned back toward the White House. After the fact, fire trucks swarmed the South Lawn to douse the area. Bomb detection teams carefully picked through the wreckage to see if any explosives were aboard the plan. Secret Service Deputy Guy Caputo work up senior agency leaders at home to alert them to the close call. A detail agent work Clinton to inform him of the crash, and the president went back to bed.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt six)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

Bush and his wife, Barbara, treated the Secret Service agents who protected them and their large brood like part of the extended family—not like “the help.” The Bushes drew the agents closer into their unscripted lives than most First Families allowed. The warm feelings were mutual. Agents had seen the president try to calmly counsel a fuming grandchild and watched him cry recalling the death of his three-year-old daughter from leukemia. The president and First Lady often asked about the agents’ children and families. Bush and his children frequently pulled the agents into the family’s legendary sporting battles—as a fourth in a doubles match or as helpful ringers in a family football game. Barbara Bush was forever pushing extra sandwiches and appetizers left over from ceremonial events into agents’ hands and urging that aides take coffee to agents standing outside. Barbara Bush didn’t think twice about mothering—and bossing—the agents.

“Can you get the phone, dear?” she hollered to one through the family home at Kennebunkport during a summer break. And one winter, she scolded an agent to put on one of her husband’s knit caps that she held out in her hand—or else.

“You better do what Bar says,” President Bush warned.

Friday, June 11, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt five)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

Routine as it was, Secret Service agent Bill Green had nevertheless spent five days mapping out a detailed security plan prior to the outing. Green, the advance agent for the visit, had made sure protective research agents ran background checks on everyone who would meet the president or come close to him. Green’s team had inspected every part of the hotel, from the garbage bay to the basement, for hidden threats. They had mapped out every step Reagan would take: from the VIP entrance to the elevator to the holding room to the stage and back.

This “routine” visit would require the teamwork of sixty-seven agents. Together they would create rings of human, metal, and technological barriers to shield “the Man.” More than two dozen more would stake out positions in the ballroom, rooftop, hallways, entrance, and perimeter. Many more would help search for explosives with bomb-sniffing dogs, run background checks on guests and hotel workers, monitor crowds outside, and help clear streets for the motorcade. Green had visited the site during all five days of planning and done a walk-through the morning of the visit.

The White House advance man, Rick Ahearn, hoped to have the traveling press at the front of the ballroom, but the union complained that the cameras would block their own members’ view and asked to have them pushed back. Some enterprising cameramen from the three big local television stations, however, ended up finding a much closer spot to get a good close-up of the new president. They staged themselves outside the Hilton, just fifteen feet from the back of Reagan’s limousine, in a viewing area the public could reach without being screened by agents.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt four)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

A sprite of a woman—115-pound, twenty-six-year-old, auburn-haired Lynette Fromme—was standing in the throng gathered outside. With a tiny voice to match her frame, she had been nicknamed Squeaky. One of the earliest and most devoted followers of Charles Manson’s violent “family” cult, she had come that day for a different purpose than waving at the president. She stood on the park path outside the Senator Hotel with hopes of delivering a message to politicians who weren’t stopping the pollution that was killing animals and plants. She wore a ruby-red cape with the hood over her head, and a .45 caliber pistol in a holster strapped to her ankle.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt three)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

In 1969 and 1970, Nixon’s lawyer and staff had pressured the Secret Service to approve and pay for pricey purchases and renovations at Nixon’s private San Clemente and Key Biscayne homes. By having the Service label the expenses as necessary for security, Nixon was able to get taxpayers to buy new den furniture and fabrics to freshen the décor of his California estate. He also got them to pay for a new sewer line and new heating system in his home in Key Biscayne and to restore a crumbling gazebo his wife enjoyed because it overlooked the ocean. Nixon and his close friend Bebe Rebozo owned homes near each other in Key Biscayne; Nixon aides asked the Secret Service to pay for a helipad and docking equipment for Rebozo’s yacht, and a “booster transformer” to help power a sauna bath in the friend’s home, according to work orders.

One of the president’s legal assistants bragged at her success in getting a new exhaust fan for the house fireplace labeled a security expense when Nixon complained it didn’t draft properly. “Ken Iacovone informed me that SS would pay for the installation of the fireplace fan after I informed him that it definitely was placed for security purposes and how would he like it if you know who was asphyxiated ever,” she wrote.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt two)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

Nixon kept banging his desk for the facts, but what he really wanted were his “preferred facts.” As the evening wore on, he told his aides to leak some fabricated “evidence” to friendly reporters. They should claim the investigation found Wallace’s shooter had ties to the left wing and the McGovern campaign. “Put it on the left right away,” Nixon told them. “Just say he was a supporter of McGovern and Kennedy. Now just put that out. Just say that you have it on unmistakable evidence.”

Haldeman took note that Bremer had a previous arrest record, which would provide concrete clues about his mental health problems. “Screw the record,” Nixon interrupted. “Just say he was a supporter of ‘that’ and ‘that’ and put it out. Just say we have an authenticated report.”

The president was focused solely on his reelection. He worried aloud that if investigators found Bremer had ties to the right wing or a Nixon supporter, Nixon could lose the White House. Sitting with Colson later in his office in the Executive Office Building, Nixon sipped a cocktail, rare for him, and mused aloud about a way to solve the problem. “Oh, wouldn’t it be great if they had left-wing propaganda in that apartment,” Nixon said. “Too bad we couldn’t get somebody there to plant it.”

Monday, June 7, 2021

the last book I ever read (Carol Leonnig's Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, excerpt one)

from Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig:

Wallace’s campaign manager had once boasted that Cornelia’s photogenic good looks and energetic personality were going to help take her husband all the way to the White House. He pledged he would make her “the Jackie Kennedy of the Rednecks,” a nickname that tickled her. That hot Monday afternoon, on her knees in the Laurel parking lot and sprawled over her husband’s body, the resemblance was darker.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

the last book I ever read (Philip Roth: The Biography, excerpt sixteen)

from Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey:

The Philip Roth Society’s “Roth@80” conference was held at the Robert Treat Hotel, jammed with scholars from more than a dozen countries, including Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Romania, and India (whence came Gurumurthy Neelakantan, who gave a seminar on how Roth challenges “notions of purity” inherent in the Brahmin caste system). “That this scholarly organization is not necessarily an adoration society,” Steven Kellman wrote in Tablet, “was apparent in several presentations that emphasized Roth’s obsession with controlling every detail of his reputation, from cover to dust-jacket, from advertising to translation.” Indeed, Roth took pains to ensure that his own select group of luminaries would be on hand to pay homage—the great Edna O’Brien, for instance, whom he insisted on personally reimbursing ($6,735) for her plane ticket and a week’s stay at the Lotos Club on the Upper East Side. Joining O’Brien onstage at the Billy Johnson Auditorium—while the likes of Don DeLillo, Paul Auster, David Remnick, and Siri Hustvedt sat in the audience—was Jonathan Lethem, who “accepted the honor of batting lead-off in this highbrow’s lineup.” Roth’s favorite intellectuals, Alain Finkielkraut and Hermione Lee, discussed Nemesis and Shakespearean themes in Roth’s work, respectively, while Claudia Roth Pierpont put the kibosh on accusations of misogyny (“There are no generalizations to be made about Roth’s women, any more than about his men”). But O’Brien’s tender, unsparing speech was perhaps the most memorable, as much for its content as for the bardic relish of its delivery. A little reluctantly she admitted that Roth and she had never been lovers, as naturally rumored, and imparted a few revealing (versus purely flattering) anecdotes. “So, friends,” she concluded, “this is the tip of the iceberg, I can only give you a glimmer of the complexity of the man that is Philip Roth, feared and revered, plagiarized, envied, hermit and jester, love and hater, by his own admission foolish and yet fiercely formidable, too adorable for words, a true friend and undoubtedly one of Yeats’s Olympians.”

Friday, June 4, 2021

the last book I ever read (Philip Roth: The Biography, excerpt fifteen)

from Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey:

Garner also reported that Roth was “poking his head out of his shell a bit more” these days: Though he refused to go on book tours, Roth was happy to sit in a New York studio and do radio interviews, albeit a bit less happy (“you feel like a goofball”) appearing on TV; he seemed uneasy when Katie Couric of Today persisted in wondering why he wrote so many books: “I write them because I don’t know how else to spend the day,” he replied at last, sincerely enough. A Newsday journalist seemed rather surprised to find Roth “a very nice man” in person, cooperative and polite, though a certain line of inquiry would always get his hackles up. When a Guardian interviewer referred to Plot as his “great Jewish history,” Roth’s rebuke was swift: “It’s my most American book,” he said. “You would never tell Ralph Ellison that Invisible Man is his most Negro book, would you?” When the cowed man remarked that Roth was “extremely difficult” to interview, Roth laughed. “I wasn’t put on this earth to make your life easy.”

Roth’s stipulations were clear: interview questions were “to be restricted to professional life, books published, literature and other writers, background (family, education, Newark). No questions on marriages, divorces, personal finances, current politics.” With regard to that last verboten subject, Roth insisted he was “just a citizen like anybody else” and so disinclined to impose his irrevelant opinions on the public. And yet, in the wake of his American Trilogy and The Plot Against America, Roth was beginning to strike readers as a leading authority on our political life—what with his keen ear for the rhetoric demagoguery, his insight into the way the electorate is manipulated by simple messages and hoked-up threats to national security. Finally, twelve years after Plot, with the election of Donald J. Trump, Roth would seem a bona fide prophet. Both his fictional Lindbergh and the forty-fifth president, after all, had stoked nativist bigotry while expressing admiration for murderous dictators, to whom each man seemed vaguely or not so vaguely beholden via some sinister form of kompromat.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

the last book I ever read (Philip Roth: The Biography, excerpt fourteen)

from Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey:

Because of kidney damage caused by his previously occluded renal artery, Roth had low tolerance for certain drugs in high doses—including morphine, as he learned during a recovery that proved horrific for patient and caretakers alike. Roth, hallucinating, took a swing at a nurse who was trying to help him off the bed, and yelled terrible things at Susan Rogers, who’d canceled an entire week of her Bard classes prior to spring break so she could look after him (“nobody in my life knows that I’m involved [with Roth],” she remembered, “so this takes a lot of smoke and mirrors”). Finally she was so distraught that she phoned Roth’s usual minder, Ross Miller, who was himself sick at the time: an old hand by then, Miller patiently explained that Roth was coming off painkillers and would be himself again, more or less, in five or six hours. Indeed, Roth was well enough to take a short walk with Rogers a few days later, but was irritated when she abruptly abandoned him to visit her hospitalized father (pancreatitis) and tend her ailing mother (shingles), which is how she spent her spring break.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

the last book I ever read (Philip Roth: The Biography, excerpt thirteen)

from Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey:

The main model for Ira’s brother, Murray, was Roth’s freshman homeroom teacher, Dr. Robert (“Doc”) Lowenstein. During a 1955 House Un-American Activities Committee hearing in Newark, Lowenstein—then serving as executive vice president of the Newark Teachers Union—invoked the Fifth Amendment rather than discuss his former membership in the Communist party. “How can you be paid by the taxpayers’ money when you are obligated by your damnable Communist oath to teach the Soviet line?” Representative Clyde Doyle berated him. Lowenstein lost his job for six years, until he was vindicated and reinstated after two appeals to the New Jersey Supreme Court; when he was first fired, though, the Newark Evening News printed angry letter from readers demanding the resignation of four Board of Education members who’d dated to defend Lowenstein. Philip Roth, a year out of Bucknell, answered with a letter of his own, pointing out that “in Russia dissenters are asked to resign, and now in Newark dissenters are being asked to resign.”

Bob Lowenstein was an eighty-nine-year-old retiree living in West Orange when Roth sent a driver to pick him up and take him out to Connecticut so Roth could canvass his views on the way Newark was portrayed, before and after the riots, in a late draft of American Pastoral. The two cemented their friendship a year later, when Roth paid several visits to West Orange to discuss Lowenstein’s experiences as an ostracized teacher in the McCarthy era. Roth also had long talks with another old mentor, Irv Cohen, Cousin Florence’s husband—“a loudmouth Jew” who was tall and lanky like Abe Lincoln, the man Ira Ringold (as “Iron Rinn”) becomes famous for portraying. When Sandy read his brother’s novel, he immediately recognized the model for Eve Frame’s doomed, angry husband: “I could hear Irv’s voice loud and clear.”

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

the last book I ever read (Philip Roth: The Biography, excerpt twelve)

from Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey:

The wholesome hero of Roth’s present book, Seymour “Swede” Levov, had gestated in his imagination for more than twenty years. When Alan Lelchuck informed him, in 1973, that a prominent critic’s daughter had been part of the radical antiwar movement, Roth remarked on “what a novel that might make, to trace the journey of [the critic’s family] through the decade.” For Roth, it was imperative that his own novel’s radical terrorist (a word that didn’t exist in his vocabulary back then) be a daughter rather than a son. Because women protestors in those days weren’t in danger of being drafted and killed, they possessed a kind of ineffable “purity to their rage” that fascinated Roth. And while he was intrigued by the critic’s daughter, his main model for Merry Levov was Kathy Boudin, the daughter of an activist left-wing lawyer whose clients had included Fidel Castro. Roth had met Leonard Boudin at one of the Schneiders’ parties in the sixties, and on March 6, 1970, across the street from the Schneiders, four Weather Underground members had blown up a town house (at 18 West Eleventh Street) while making bombs. Kathy Boudin and a friend staggered away from the rubble and disappeared, while the decapitated torso of Diana Oughton wasn’t found until four days later.