A long list of benefits comes with becoming president or a First Family member, including having a customized Secret Service code name. The secrets are out, and the code names of the past and present presidents, candidates, and first family members have been exposed. Behind each of these strange titles, we have interesting tales, from fitting to absolutely bizarre.
Richard Nixon: Searchlight
There are many different options for selecting presidential code names. They are often chosen for each president by the White House Communications Agency, and sometimes, based on a list of choices, the presidents can pick them themselves. No one is certain how he received the code name Searchlight in the case of President Richard Nixon. During the Watergate Scandal and the search for responses afterward, much attention was given to this seemingly ironic code name. A searchlight for him was definitely out there as the scandal played out. On the other hand, the name Starlight was given to his wife, Pat.
Bill Clinton: Eagle
While it may seem like a cliché line from a certain action movie, protecting former President Bill Clinton was really for the Secret Service agents. While many would think that the code name Eagle was given to Clinton for patriotic reasons, of course, several other variables might be at play. A few other speculate Clinton was chosen to give this specific moniker because of his backstory, beyond just being a famous American icon. Clinton, a former Boys Scout, made his way into becoming an Eagle Scout in his youth, an experience he also highlighted on the election campaign.
Jimmy Carter: Deacon
President Jimmy Carter is the longest-lived president, the longest-retired president, and the first-ever to hit 95 as a former president. But he is also one, if not the only, president to regularly teach Sunday school lessons as early as his teenage years. In reality, even after his presidency, Carter managed to keep teaching classes at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. So it’s no wonder he was given the code name Deacon by the Secret Service, based on his Baptist origins. His wife, Rosalynn, was named Dancer, while one of our favorite code names was given to his oldest daughter, Amy: Dynamo.
Ronald Reagan: Rawhide
In the Wild West, former President Ronald Reagan did not grow up, but he became synonymous with the image of his early days. After growing up in Illinois, Reagan soon relocated to California, and Reagan began his career as an actor. After appearing in some movie roles, this Midwest man quickly called himself a Western star. And we mean, literally, “made a name for himself,” according to the news. Rawhide’s code name for Reagan’s Secret Service is supposedly derived from his Western film origins and Western image, which he often referred to. He campaigned in the U.S. for the presidency.
Hillary Clinton: Evergreen
If a Secret Service code name is given to a president, it is a tradition that other members of his (or, perhaps, her) family get their own code names beginning with the same letter. In the case of Hillary Clinton, the Eagle code name of her husband meant her name also needed to start with an E and the nickname of her daughter, Chelsea. Clinton got Evergreen’s code name. Indeed, the name was so evergreen that she retained the same code name as First Lady during her tenure when Clinton ran her own presidential campaign in 2016. The nickname Energy was given to her daughter.
John F. Kennedy: Lancer
Former President John F. Kennedy’s killing, was among the most dreadful tragedies in modern American history. And after that devastating moment, a heartbreaking, now-famous interview was given to Life Magazine by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, quoting her fallen husband’s favorite line from the musical Camelot. From that moment on, the media and soon the whole nation started comparing the Kennedy Administration with the mystical romantic legend of Camelot and the Round Table Knights, with Kennedy as King Lancelot. Lancer was already Kennedy’s code name for the Secret Service.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: Lace
Over half a century after serving in the White House as former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, she continues to remain one of fashion’s greatest notable figures. Her style was popularized through fashion statements such as pillbox hats, tailor-made suit jackets, and strapless gowns. So it’s no wonder why the name of the code was taken from the costly, fashionable “Jackie O” fashion stable. Also, the Secret Service gave John F. Kennedy Jr. an L-themed code name.
Harry Truman: General
Secret Service agents may not always support presidents. It wasn’t until the 33rd U.S., Harry Truman. President, taking office as the practice of the Secret Service began. And the “General” moniker was assigned to him, becoming the first president ever to earn a code name for the Secret Service. Nobody is totally sure how and why the name was given to Truman. In World War I, he was only a captain when he was in the army and was never a general. Historian Michael Beschloss told NPR, “Maybe this is his Walter Mitty fantasy that he might’ve been a general.”
Bernie Sanders: Intrepid
It turns out that nobody has to be elected president to get their own Secret Service code name. If a candidate for president gets that far in the electoral cycle or crowds get large enough just to safeguard the Secret Service, agents are assigned once the primary election season rolls around. This is what has happened to Bernie Sanders. During his presidential run in 2020, Sanders reportedly refused protection. But during the 2016 election, a leak revealed Sanders’s code name for the Secret Service was Intrepid. Jokingly, Donald Trump said he picked ‘Humble’ when asked what his own nickname would be.
George H.W. Bush: Timberwolf
Secret Service details don’t halt until a term ends. Instead, the very same agents are typically assigned once they leave the office to protect a president. Presidents, as well as their employees, also form a wonderful relationship. For instance, a deep bond with his agents was developed by former President George H.W. Bush. So much so that, at 89, the former president, whose code name was Timberwolf, shaved his head for the 2-year-old son of a leukemia-diagnosed agent. He was so loved that Timberwolf’s specifics were tweeted out by the Secret Service and called their time serving him an “honor.”
Barbara Bush: Tranquility
Secret service members are not meant to be heard or seen. While trying to remain as invisible as possible, they work hard to protect those assigned as fixtures of First Family lives. However, as per the Secret Service agents that spoke up after First Lady Barbara Bush passed away, she was one of the few who would treat them as relatives. “Barbara Bush’s code name for the United States Secret Service was ‘Tranquility,'” agent Jonathan Wackrow wrote in an op-ed on CNN.
Joe Biden: Celtic
With the exception of former presidents, former vice presidents of the United States do not gain secret service for the longest time possible. Right after a VP steps down, the advantage comes to an end. But the Secret Service detail, former Vice President Joe Biden, returned when he wished to run for the presidency in 2020. And as his specifics came back, so did his code name for the Secret Service. In 2020, CNN announced that Biden would choose the code name “Celtic,” the same name as the vice president for this presidential campaign. An obvious nod to his Irish-American roots is the name.
Dwight Eisenhower: Providence and Scorecard
They should consider themselves lucky and successful if they have a Secret Service code name. But during his lifetime, former President Dwight Eisenhower had two different monikers. When he held the country’s highest office, Eisenhower was called “Providence” Since he does not appear to be related to the city of Rhode Island, nobody is quite sure why. And neither was Eisenhower sure of the nickname, it seemed. He changed his official name to ‘Scorecard’ when he left office, apparently based on his genuine enthusiasm for golf throughout his retirement.
Barack Obama: Renegade
Names for the Secret Service are selected instead of allocated to many of America’s most recent presidents. However, that doesn’t imply that in the dictionary, a president can choose any term. Code names for the Secret Service usually begin with a pre-selected letter, must have at least two syllables, and should be clearly pinched easily. He was provided a set of pre-approved names to choose from as his Secret Service detail was prepared for former President Barack Obama, all of which began with the letter R. In the end, Obama preferred to go by the name of “the Renegade.”
Michelle Obama: Renaissance
As the presidential tradition continues for decades, the rest of the family must fall into line if a president chooses his own Secret Service code name. And by that, we mean that starting from a pre-determined list with the same letter, they have to select a nickname. These lists typically differ from what the president presents to accommodate kids. The name ‘Renaissance,’ a name that channels her vision and creativity, was chosen by former First Lady Michelle Obama. Malia was given the name “Radiance” in that same vein, while Sasha was called “Rosebud.”
George W. Bush: Tumbler and Trailblazer
There were multiple white-house stints for President George W. Bush. He had been elected to two terms, but he was the regular White House as President George H.W. Bush’s son. Hence, Bush had two different Secret Service code names. As per Ronald Kessler, writer of In the President’s Secret Service, “Tumbler” was Bush’s initial nickname, partly for his cheerleading history and partly for his drinking, as the sitting President’s son. Through his presidency, he had earned his prestige, a powerful upgrade: Trailblazer.
Mike Pence: Hoosier
Before Mike Pence had become Vice President of the United States and therefore the single most influential man in the nation, he was Indiana’s governor. And throughout the 2016 campaign, Pence continuously asserted his Midwest roots and promised to bring some Indiana into the White House. And the Secret Service code name of Pence indicates that he did that. Before his vice presidency, during the campaign, news leaked that the Secret Service gave him the nickname ‘Hoosier’ based on the names of Indiana residents. Karen Pence was given the name ‘Hummingbird.’
Melania Trump: Muse
Melania Trump isn’t the same as any of the First Ladies before her. She is the first naturalized citizen to be the First Lady, and in her position, she is the first to not have English as a first language. The Slovenian-born First Lady had a long career as a model, first in Milan and Paris and later in New York City. So, when the Trump family was given a list of code names to choose from that began with the letter M, it’s no wonder she chose to be referred to as Muse.
Donald Trump: Mogul
The Secret Service code name “Humble” was chosen by President Donald Trump when he ran for president. But even though he may have come from these “humble” origins, as he started running for president, the name rapidly changed. In an unsurprising mood, he chose the new name ‘Mogul,’ considering his business history. The entire family, all in line with their hobbies, chose similar M names as well.
Sarah Palin: Denali
Once, former Vice President and Governor Sarah Palin joked that she was able to see Russia in Alaska from her home. But while that might not be exactly true, when it came to picking a name for Palin, the Secret Service was inspired by something that was essentially in the politician’s backyard. Palin was given a name that suited her home state after Alaska’s National Park and was called ‘Denali.’ In an ironic moment, Palin later fought with the Obama administration about renaming Mount McKinley back to its original Denali name.
Mitt Romney: Javelin
When the Secret Service provides a list of code names for presidential applicants, they are not entirely random. The list is generally tailored beyond meeting requirements to refer to specific things about the background of the candidate or political brand. And this certainly applies to former candidate Mitt Romney, who went by the name of Javelin, the code. The Romney link to the javelin is two-fold. First, in the 1960s and 1970s, American Motors Corp. built the Javelin; Romney’s father ran a business.
Paul Ryan: Bowhunter
Some code names for the Secret Service take some level of explanation to comprehend. The Secret Service code name of former Vice-Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan certainly isn’t one. Anyone who even knows the former House Speaker knows exactly why he chose the code name Bowhunter. Bowhunting is Ryan’s favorite hobby, so the name is fitting. “The man is a skilled archer, a hunter of deer, and a fan of the sport,” according to GQ Magazine, which first broke the news of Ryan’s code name. He was even a cover model for Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine in October 2015.
Eleanor Roosevelt: Rover
The first to receive the Secret Service code name was former President Harry Truman. But it turns out that she wasn’t the first member of Moniker’s First Family Secret. This honors First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt instead. During the 1942 World War II trip to England, Roosevelt received her code name, “Rover.” According to the National Park Service, she was in official state affairs, having visited American service members and speaking to girls associated in the war effort.
Dick Cheney: Angler
Others have allegedly become much more tongue-in-cheek as Secret Service code names have transformed. “They have a wry sense of humor about the way they give code names,” stated Barton Gellman, the writer of the Dick Cheney biography titled Angler after the former VP’s code name. “Obviously, Cheney is an avid fisherman,” said Geller. “I thought it was a metaphor for the way he works. He tends to approach the levers of power obliquely. He doesn’t like to…have an overt public role.” But rather, Geller notes: “He finds his way to the place where decisions are made and often doesn’t leave many signs of his presence.”
Roger Clinton: Headache
We recognize that Roger Clinton has never been a president, a vice president, or a first lady, but the opportunity to share the Secret Service code’s name couldn’t be missed. It turns out that, during the Clinton administration, the former President’s younger half-brother, Roger Clinton, was provided the code name “Headache.” Because of his antics that would cause political headaches for the administration, the New York Times reported receiving the less-than-flattering code name. That involves his context in federal jail and the headache caused by his presidential pardon in the aftermath.
Kamala Harris: Pioneer
In August 2020, Senator Harris was declared the vice-presidential candidate for the Democratic ticket. And great responsibility, the great code name of the Secret Service, comes with that great power. “Her “Pioneer.” nickname was announced soon after she appeared with presidential hopeful Joe Biden, and the name does seem to align well with her legendary nomination. Harris is the first Black woman to join the president’s big party ticket and the first female Indian American ever to participate. And if she and Biden were to win the election, she’d be the first woman ever to hold the office of vice president.
Jill Biden: Capri
When presidential or vice-presidential candidates choose their code name, it is customary for the possible future first or second lady to choose their own name with the same first letter. So when Joe Biden chose “Celtic,” Jill picked “Capri.” but why did the former Second Lady precisely pick that name? While we’re not sure, we’ll guess it has less to do with the love of her capri pants and more to do with the Capri Islands. The entire Biden family was known to have spent their vacation at the vacation spot.
Ben Carson: Eli
Remember when Ben Carson was regarded as a front runner for the Republican presidential nomination for 2016 in a short period of time? Throughout that time, in addition to Donald Trump, Carson was also the only GOP candidate to receive Secret Service protection. And a code name, of course, came along with that protection. Carson chose the code name Eli, and the name was said to have two different meanings. Initially, it was a nod to his college years, as Eli sometimes is referred to as a grad of Yale University after Elihu Yale, the founder. Second, the biblical figure of Eli.
Ted Kennedy: Sunburn
Applicants sometimes select secret service nicknames. Other times, less than flattering, a series of unintentional events end up landing someone with a Secret Service code name. Bare in the sun all day, and his pale skin gave Senator Ted Kennedy a pretty horrible red complexion and a hilarious code name. Yes, it was rumored that the Secret Service began calling Kennedy “Sunburn” after a couple of unfortunate burns. His mother, Rose Kennedy, got a nickname to make things even more fun. They called her “Coppertone,” which was another sly pun made by the Secret Service.
Karen Pence: Hummingbird
When Second Lady Karen Pence was advised she would also have to select a Secret Service code name that began with the letter H, there has been no question about what she’d choose for herself. A tremendous nature lover, Pence allegedly chose the name ‘Hummingbird’ after her all-time favorite bird. And her love for the smaller creatures in nature is not only reflected in her Secret Service code name. Since she began living at the Vice Presidential Residence in Washington, D.C., she has installed a huge beehive on the grounds.
Al Gore: Sawhorse and Sundance
On the 2000 campaign trail, Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore made jokes at his own expense. “He would say, “Al Gore is so boring; his code name for the Secret Service is Al Gore,” to a laughing crowd. But obviously, that was not true……we think. Actually, Al Gore’s Secret Service’s nickname was ‘Sawhorse’ when he was vice president, and ‘Sundance’ when he ran for the presidential seat, as reported at the time. Karenna Gore, his daughter, wasn’t as lucky. She chose her name as a child and chose ‘Smurfette,’ which accompanied her even years later.
John McCain: Phoenix
When John McCain ran for president, he was known as an inspiring army hero, and a lover and fierce representative of his home state. Thus, it made sense when his Secret Service code name was announced as Phoenix. First, a nod to Arizona’s home state was the name. But second, it was an acknowledgment of McCain’s past as a prisoner of war and how he’d start rising to be a presidential nominee from the ashes. The Secret Service honored him on Twitter when McCain died, writing, “Phoenix- May You Rest in Peace.”
Lyndon Johnson: Volunteer
For so many American history lovers, Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, is identified as “LBJ.” But those serving on his Secret Service agent staff, Johnson was known by his code name, “Volunteer,” There’s not really much data out there on why the Secret Service code name was given to Johnson. After President John F. Kennedy was heartbreakingly assassinated, Johnson became president. Some remarked on how a person who unknowingly landed a position in the country’s highest office seems oddly suitable for the name.
Tim Kaine: Daredevil
Senator Tim Kaine is one of Congress’s favorite dads. Anyone who has ever encountered a former vice presidential hopeful thinks that Kaine is not the wildest man of all. So, when Kaine’s Secret Service nickname was revealed, it was met by a few giggles from the Washington crowd. In fact, “Daredevil.” was called this gentle-manner Senator. After getting the words, the Daily Caller decided to write that Kaine’s code name was “so ill-fitting that it comes across as a deliberate self-parody.” Conversely, they called Kaine “a nice guy’s nice guy” as well as “generic.”
Gerald Ford: Passkey
While little is widely acknowledged about just how former President Gerald Ford did end up with the moniker “Passkey,” the Secret Service has spilled some other secrets about the 38th president. Ford was a dreadful tipper, apparently. Ford knew that he wasn’t carrying a lot of money on him, resulting in a bad reputation. Agents said that at an exclusive golf course, standard tips would go up to $50, and Ford would sometimes have only $1. The president occasionally did turn to his Secret Service specifics and asked whether they had any spare change to cover the tip.