Book Review – Life inside the Bubble

I have often wondered about the lives and motivations of the Secret Service agents who guard the President, Vice-President and their families.  I recognize that they are highly motivated, intelligent people who are prepared to risk their own lives to protect the lives of our elected leaders.  In fulfilling this mission they are often guarding people they may disagree with philosophically or politically.  I suspect that may be difficult for them personally.

Cover of Life Inside The Bubble by Dan BonginoIn his book Life Inside The Bubble, former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino describes his time in the United States Secret Service in the administrations of two presidents – G.W. Bush and B.H. Obama, how he rose through the ranks and how his dissatisfaction with the direction of the country led him to resign his job and run for the United States Senate in the state of Maryland.

Mr. Bongino describes his early childhood growing up in New York City.  The child of divorced parents, he was the victim of abuse at the hands of an alcoholic stepfather.  While many people faced with the same set of circumstances end up perpetuating the cycle of violence, Mr. Bongino chose a positive path for his life with the desire to pursue a career in law enforcement.  After researching the options and realizing that entry-level positions in federal law enforcement were limited, he decided to attend police academy and become a New York City police officer.

It was while serving in a tough precinct in New York City that he was able to narrow down his choice of federal law enforcement agency to the United States Secret Service and to move his application through the process.  The two-part training process for the Secret Service is described as “fascinating” by the author and includes an overview of the classroom training, law enforcement topics including financial crimes, and physical fitness training.  Not surprisingly, the Secret Service places high importance on marksmanship and skill with firearms.  Bongino comments “Handling a firearm anywhere near the president of the United States is a solemn responsibility, and the Secret Service places a heavy premium on mastery of your firearm.”

Over the next few chapters Mr. Bongino describes the next seven years and his first assignment to a field office in New York and how he was immediately thrust into the senatorial campaign of then First Lady Hillary Clinton.  I found his inside account of Clinton’s campaign fascinating and instructive.  There is also a description of the author’s progression through various assignments including financial crimes investigation, a stint as an instructor, dignitary protection detail and finally a transfer to the coveted assignment in the Presidential Protective Division (PPD).

Picture of President George W. Bush
President Bush

After learning the ropes of the PPD the author describes being assigned to the detail for Jenna Bush, daughter of then-President Bush and a series of additional assignments in the PPD including the transportation section, lead advance agent, and finally being named to the detail protecting the president himself.  By the time of the transition from Bush to Obama, Mr. Bongino was one of the leading agents on the PPD and personally protecting President Obama. 

During the next few chapters the reader is led through a series of incidents which I believe all contributed to the author’s growing disillusionment with the PPD, President Obama, and the federal government in general.  Between the personal cost of extended times away from his family, performing advance planning for overseas trips that were cancelled due to domestic political concerns (passing Obamacare, for example) and seeing firsthand how the federal government is oversized and inefficient, the author reaches the conclusion that he can better serve his country by resigning his post and running for elective office.

Picture of former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino
Dan Bongino

The following chapters describe the candidate’s campaign for the United States Senate from the state of Maryland.  Even though Mr. Bongino ran a strong campaign, he finished a distant second in heavily Democratic Maryland.  Unlike Colorado which has roughly the same number of voters and is split fairly evenly between Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated, registered Democrats comprise 56% of registered voters.  I consider Mr. Bongino’s 26.3% of the vote to be respectable, but unfortunately not enough for him to win the election.

The book closes out with three chapters describing the prominent Obama administration scandals of “Fast and Furious”, the loss of life in Benghazi, and the Boston Marathon bombing incident that I found very interesting because they were written by a former federal law enforcement officer.  His unique insight into these debacles brings a new freshness to the negligence of our national government in allowing them to happen.

The final chapter of the book is a description of how our government has failed us.  If I could distill his arguments to three key concepts they would be lack of accountability, overlapping missions, and sheer size.  With layers of bureaucracy in each federal agency, multiple agencies having similar missions and the number of agencies involved, it is no surprise that warning signs often are missed, with results that include loss of life, law enforcement failures and infringing our liberties.  In this chapter I see a resonance with the discussion of the federal government by Mark R. Levin in his book The Liberty Amendments.

At about 170 pages, this book is easily readable in an afternoon or a long plane flight.  I appreciate the glimpse inside the world of the two presidents and first families and how federal law enforcement can be a difficult way of life for those who live it.  I appreciate Mr. Bongino’s past and future service to our country and will continue to follow his career with interest.  He is currently a candidate for Congress in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District. 

Based on this YouTube video, I see in Mr. Bongino a strong Second Amendment supporter.  For this reason, I urge Americans everywhere to support his candidacy.


By Richard D. Turnquist

January 28, 2014



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