NOVEMBER 08, 2012
At some point, early Wednesday morning, when Gov. Mitt Romney and family were tucked into bed, a quiet call went out on the radio channel used by his Secret Service agents: "Javelin, Jockey details, all posts, discontinue."
Of all the indignities involved in losing a presidential race, none is more stark than the sudden emptiness of your entourage. The Secret Service detail guarding Governor Romney since Feb 1. stood down quickly. He had ridden in a 15-car motorcade to the Intercontinental Hotel in Boston for his concession speech. He rode in a single-car motorcade back across the Charles River to Belmont. His son, Tagg, did the driving.
There is no formal guideline for the Secret Service agents in this situation; it's up to the discretion of the detail leader, who usually consults with the local police to make sure that his protectee's home won't be overrun by protestors and supporters all of a sudden.
But the Service leaves quickly. No more motorcades. No more rope lines. No more bubbles. Familiar faces disappear, never to be seen again.
In 2008, agents offered to see John McCain back to his ranch in Sedona, but McCain insisted on saying his good byes in his suite at the Biltmore Hotel. The next morning, McCain was seen driving his own car to get groceries. Had Romney won, everything would have been different. A full counter-assault team, "Hawkeye Javelin," was on stand-by in Boston, ready to supplement his detail. A team from the White House Communications Agency, which had been consulting with his informal transition team on secure space for intelligence briefings, was on hand too.
Romney has his family. When the race was close, agents would joke about the number of "j" words they'd need to come up with in order to give every one of his children, their wives, and all of their children code names. That's 29 people who would have received, if not protection, at least a protective survey and recommendations from the Service. Quietly, plans had already been put in place to assign protective details to all of them, just in case.
The Secret Service has had a hellish year. Not only has it been the busiest ever for the small agency, but it has been their most embarrassing since the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in 1982. April's prostitution in scandal in Cartegana, Colombia threatened to demoralize the entity in charge of safeguarding the democratic process right on the eve of their active phase; two conventions, major foreign trips for the president, the presidential debates, the United Nations General Assembly, the campaign season itself (with sometimes more than a thousand agents and officers changing locations daily). An Inspector General's report has concluded that agents did not jeopardize the president's safety, but having spent time with agents over these past few months, their morale has been flagging. The public mockery takes it toll, even on silent soldiers.
And yet, for everything they were confronted with, the Service did its job. Protectees were protected 100 percent of the time. Several assassination plots were nipped in the bud. Thousands of events were secured, perfectly. Results matter, as we learned Tuesday night.
Though no one in the Service was rooting one way or the other for any particular candidate, at least not to colleagues or publicly, not having to secure the Romney family means that agents who have been working 12 hours shifts for eight weeks straight can take some time off before the inauguration. Families of many more agents will get them home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.