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Top Dog

The world’s most powerful man is the President of the United States.

When you think of the President what is the first image that comes to your mind?

Air Force One? Old Glory? The President chatting with the nation from the Rose Garden?

I liked Ronald Reagan’s homespun humor. He would not have called a reporter an ass**** as Presidential Candidate Bush did a few weeks ago. One of the things Reagan was wont to say was:  “Don’t pick a fight with a guy who buys printer’s ink by the barrel.”

Since my wife and I live in what is probably the most inexpensive tiny condo in one the most expensive areas of the world (Bel Air, California), we often see helicopters flying toward the Reagan compound a few miles away. We have friends who know Ronald and Nancy.

The poor guy has Alzheimer’s. Our friend, who makes the former chief of state’s annual birthday cake, told us that Reagan sits by his swimming pool and smiles a lot.

He is guarded (as are all former presidents) by the Secret Service. According to our friend, the main job the Secret Service has is to toss leaves into Reagan’s swimming pool and then watch the former President of the United States retrieve the leaves with a long-handled net. Gives him something to do.

When my time comes I’d just as soon not be around for that kind of activity.

On the other hand, when your mind is working, being the most powerful person in the world has its perks. Suppose the Canadians snub you. Just call the Air Force and say, “Boys, turn Ottawa into a parking lot.”

But being top dog is a dangerous job. You could compare it to tending elephants. About 24 percent of all elephant trainers are killed by their giant pets. Elephants in the wild meander dozens of miles each day. They hate being shackled and eventually get pissed off and smash up their keepers.

After John Kennedy was assassinated, someone did the math. Up to that point, 25 percent of the American Presidents had been assassinated or shot. A tad more dangerous than being an elephant trainer today. (The symbol for the Republican Party is an elephant. If you are into conspiracy theories, start your engines.)

Of course the president has bodyguards. Secret Service Agents are trained to take a bullet for the President and if someone attacks him the SS surround him and use their bodies as human shields to move the Chief Executive out of harm’s way. I have seen the SS spring into action to protect the president and it looks like a bunch of Republicans in black suits in a daisy chain as they lurch out of the room.

So what was the Secret Service doing when Fidel Castro snuck up on President Clinton and surprised him the other day?

From time to time the CIA hatched diabolical plans to off the Cuban leader who is a real embarrassment to the American Way of Life. Imagine a communist regime 90 miles off the shores of Florida. You don’t have to imagine anything, it’s there. There is also an Evil Empire a few miles off the coast of Alaska. It’s called the USSR or Russia or something.

The CIA planned to kill Castro by poisoning his cigars or some such thing. The problem was no one could get close enough to him.

How does Castro, an old man without Medicare, manage to keep alive?

I have no idea.

But the 74-year-old Commie lawyer is cunning (and agile) enough to sneak up on the President of the United States and surprise him at a gathering in New York for the UN. Castro could have sucker-punched President Clinton (also a lawyer) square in the nose.

The CIA could learn something from the Cuban Dictator about getting scary close to Heads of States. Or Noses of State.

But then again, the CIA is probably too busy watching the Secret Service who is watching Ronald Reagan who is watching leaves.

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