You there! Yes, you, the one in the battered Jeep Cherokee, old-ass Miata, or Toyota Corolla that you lie and say is a GT-R when you post online! Do you have a clean driving record and a pulse? Then you can drive in a van in the motorcade that protects the most important man in the free world!
The New York Times recently ran an expose on a little-known practice by the Secret Service that lets ordinary citizens with no special training volunteer to drive vans full of staff members and reporters in the presidential motorcade.
Take the case of 24-year-old Bay Area grad student Natalie Tyson, whom the Times reported piloted such a van when President Obama visited San Francisco for a fundraiser.
Her van was part of a motorcade that included the Beast limousine, police cars, an ambulance in case of a medical emergency. Also, "bulletproof black sport utility vehicles and limousines driven by Secret Service agents who had spent hundreds of hours learning how to maneuver at high speeds." Tyson? Not so much:
But Ms. Tyson said in a telephone interview several weeks after she drove in the motorcade that she had received little instruction from the Secret Service about what to do in the event of a high-speed emergency. She assumed that she should just follow the car in front of her no matter what happened.
"Whatever I am," she said, "is good enough for them."
"Good enough for them" is apparently having a driver's license and a clean criminal record, and knowing someone at the White House.
She got the gig through a childhood friend who now works at the White House. As to her experience in such situations:
Ms. Tyson said that her driving record was "pristine" and that she had "driven a pickup truck but not a van."
Oof. The White House wouldn't comment, but the Secret Service said they've been doing it since at least the 1980s, apparently because using volunteers is cheaper than paying agents or cops to shuttle reporters around. (And given the Obama administration's general regard for the press, I'm not surprised.)
Naturally, the story raised questions about the security and safety of allowing untrained civilian randos into the same motorcade as the president. What happens if they make a mistake and crash, causing a pileup that blocks one of the more essential vehicles from doing its job? What happens if, God forbid, the motorcade gets attacked? And who's liable if something goes wrong?
It's pretty concerning to be sure, enough for 21-year Secret Service veteran Dan Emmett to call it "a national security threat."
"If the motorcade ever comes under fire, it's going to be a problem," he said. "There are so many non-law-enforcement vehicles that it's going to be a goat rope. Everyone will be responding, police officers and the Secret Service, and it will be all these people running around in a panic like the last scene of the 'Blues Brothers' movie, when there's the big police chase that ends in a wreck of 50 police cars."
The Blues Brothers wouldn't be funny if it happened in real life and involved the president, people!
At any rate, it seems any of you jokers can get in on this sweet motorcade gig. Try it! Maybe they'll even let you bring your sweet Miata or whatever.
Photo credit Getty Images