Last Sunday, the Washington Post Magazine featured a long piece following a class of recruits through all 16 weeks of Secret Service training. Among them are an Iraq veteran missing three fingers on his trigger hand and a 4-foot, 11-inch social worker. It's fascinating.
For the members of Special Agent Training Class No. 283, this is finals time. They have been cramming here for months, since days after the election of Barack Obama, hoping to join the men and women charged with protecting the president.
Not all of them will make it.
If they fail, they will leave humiliated. If they pass, they'll become members of an elite, stealthy service during a period of exceptional pressures. At their annual party, Ralph Basham, the former director, greeted his replacement: "I'm the happiest guy in Washington because I'm not the director of the Secret Service anymore."
With the rise of Islamic terrorism, the agency's roster of protectees has grown. With the election of the first African American president, public scrutiny has exploded. Presidents typically receive 3,000 threats a year, says a Secret Service expert. Obama is outpacing the average.
"We understand the historic significance," says the current director, Mark Sullivan. "If we make a mistake, it's going to be devastating for the country. We're not going to let the country down."
Read the whole thing.