Review of Gary J. Byrne’s "Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses his Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate”

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tags: book review, Gary J Byrne, Crisis of Character



This is the third memoir written by a White House secret service officer to be reviewed by our elderly professional historian who ponders from Ashland, Oregon. He says in a note to the editor that this book is not in the same league with the one that focused on J. F. K. or the other, which was all about Jackie. The volume under review here did end up interesting this author of books on Hoover and Johnson, and labor and social welfare, however, as he quickly makes clear.

Yes, this is the book that got attention even before its June 28 publication because it was clearly designed to further damage the reputations of President Bill Clinton and Candidate Hillary—especially her, while helping the author’s solvency the way some books do. I missed the full hour Hannity TV interview of the author, and another politically minded one (thank goodness). One has to take notice when something like this gets on best seller lists right off the bat while many a beautiful book languishes.

With no index to guide me, I glanced at the weird Table of Contents, featuring two and three word meaningless slogans like “Wild Bill,” and “Mud Drag,” (I and II) and “Billary” in quotes just like this. A short publisher’s page made clear that the stable of writers of its books are highly available for speaking events. So that’s their hope, I thought.

Now I had hints on “quality”; more than that, the back jacket’s concise puff has a sentence beginning, “Now that a second Clinton administration is a possibility….” In his brief Acknowledgments, the author, a former stalwart uniformed Secret Service officer, says people used to say to him, “Damn, Gary, you should write a book.” He shouldn’t have listened to them.

As I always do, the next step was to look at the paragraph or two at the end in order to see what the author thought he was doing “with all this.” He made it easy: “My obligation today is to raise my voice, to help safeguard the presidency from Bill and Hillary Clinton—to remind readers like you of what happened back then.” To him, it’s “our fault” if we let this pair back in the White House. Clear enough.

Maybe I should have given up right then and there. I would hate to think that by reviewing this book I am helping its partisan author make money and at the same time spread his hostile attack on the Clintons all over the place. Onward.

What, then, did Mr. Byrne, who stood quietly outside the Oval Office (sometimes that of George Stephanopoulos instead) in the 1990s, intend to do with his memory of the passing scene? Line six on the very first page had the two magical words: Monica Lewinsky. A few lines later, poor Hillary was being compared to Captain Bogart in the Caine Mutiny, a person clearly out of control and obsessively concerned about tiny matters when being challenged by gigantic matters of moment.

Our federal employee decides early on that the lowest in the White House—himself and his cohorts—are being held to the highest standards; the top occupants need meet only the very lowest. Why was this reader not surprised he thought that, considering what I have already noted here?

In his Introduction, Byrne conveys openly his view that this year’s inevitable Democratic nominee for President “lacks the integrity and talent … to serve in the office.” His considered view is that the two Clintons pose a threat to the future of our nation. (He did see a lot of them, but….)

All the above comes from a one-time soldier whose vantage point after rigorous training was to stand around, watching, looking for trouble, and listening to random portions of the spoken daily lives of his superiors. At home, he made clear to his dear wife that he didn’t want to live in “their crazy world.” Finally, in writing his little undocumented book with almost no notations (and, to repeat, no Index), our communicator makes clear how important it is for us to hear (and act on?) his story.

First off, a quarter of the book treats Mr. Byrne’s life before and after contact with the hated Clintons. That part has some interest for those who cling to the last of their neutrality toward this awful election of 2016. We learn about his Secret Service job and a variety of jobs similar to yet different from it. Late in the book he speaks interestingly about a variety of ways public servants like him can make a living by risking their lives. We are shocked to read that after 9/11 the Secret Service had watched more than 300 officers depart to new service, so that at one point “three-quarters of all air marshals,” bottom to top, were formerly with his uniformed branch. His proud reaction, “Ultimately, we’re all protecting Americans from harm.” (p. 215) One hopes so.

In these pages are a variety of sentences about Bill Clinton’s women. He plotted for them to come and go. As Mrs. Clinton fumes and swears helplessly, the manly author never concedes that, even though unable to divorce, she has any right to lash out at the World.

The time comes when interrogators swarm him; there is never ending questioning by law enforcement agencies. It seems to him, and us, that there is a credible possibility that an innocent Secret Service agent of the White House (him!) may well go to jail for saying the wrong thing (or not saying something or other). The threat reads true and is very upsetting to the book’s reader.

I marked several things to quote or relate. Byrne (p. 127): “President Clinton had difficulty managing where he saw his many mistresses, whether it was at the White House or on the road. It baffled the Uniformed Division as to how he could manage all these women without any of them realizing there were so many others. We wondered how he got any work done….” (I can’t quote the rest of the sentence in its crudity.)

Next, from this man stationed outside the Oval Office door (p. 143): The president’s offenses (to Byrne) include “bribery, sexual harassment, paying a mistress, and risking national security intelligence. Then there was trying him in the court of public opinion for being a coward, a scoundrel, a womanizer, sexist, and playing political poker at the entire world’s expense for his personal pleasure.” We wonder at all this judgment, but recall his comment (on page 162), “At this point in the deposition, the Secret Service blacked out a huge chunk of my testimony. I still can’t discuss it. Honest.”

We do wish to be able to discount this author’s major, firm opinions. But he was immersed in “the Clintons.” His contempt is unending. Says he, “The president and Mrs. Clinton were purely business partners … she knew of his affairs … furious that he besmirched the brand. Politically it was unthinkable.” (p. 150) This is a totally emotional witness we have stumbled on. Page 158 offers, after intimate recollections of Monica, “I wanted to curl up and die.”

Often he gets out of a car and vomits. His water bottle was “a comfort blanket.” He refers repeatedly to his conscience, his unborn child, his wife, his turmoil—as Hillary’s violent temper and Bill’s disregard (as he sees it) of anybody’s feelings uproot his moorings. He is one whose job has been to protect that man who, unfortunately, is (was) in charge of his Country. (He can’t say enough good about the two Bushes; it is remarkable.)

There is much slurring language and many references to temporary misconduct by the present Democratic candidate for President. It would be improper, I am convinced, for this reviewer to spread abroad such sensitive material from the vindictive pages of this memoir. I will not do it.

Mr. Byrne has made clear enough that the sexual episodes centered on by President Clinton and the investigators greatly upset him. Enroute, he makes a lawyer’s case that the cuckolded Mrs. Clinton in those bad months could not control her shouted temper—she never tried to at all! Never does he see any connection between her frustrated fury, on the one hand, and her forced coexistence with Bill’s never ending sexual misconduct.

Here we have, first to last, an observer who had entirely too big a dose of being around two people who had no interest at all in Him! Husband and wife were two scared individuals! He stood there, hour after hour. We are sorry, more or less, that Byrne endured so much. But did he have to relive it with this vengeful book? How appropriate it is that the publisher of this unrestrained attack bears the name Hatchette, for it is in most of its pages exactly that category of lethal political weapon!



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