Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hello Mr. President!

A confounding Inauguration Day tradition is coming to an end: Handshake Man can’t make it to the celebration on January 20.

President-elect Barack Obama will miss that special greeting experienced by Bill Clinton at his second inauguration and George W. Bush at his first: An overcoated, entirely normal-looking man, whose only security clearance is his beatific smile, steps from the crowd after the swearing-in. He offers the new commander in chief a handshake, a medallion, and a message from God.

The Rev. Richard C. “Rich” Weaver—dubbed Handshake Man by followers of his exploits—has been Washington’s most famous uninvited guest.

Now in his early 60s, Weaver has reached out and touched six presidents. He represented the ultimate man-without-a-ticket, the scourge of the Secret Service and Capitol Police, a hero to gate crashers everywhere.

Now from Southern California, where he lives, he says, “I have decided to not do any more with presidents.”

It was at Bush’s second inauguration in 2005 that the Capitol Police finally got their man. Officers had been ordered to memorize Weaver’s face from pictures, and he was busted at a checkpoint near the House-side entrance to the Capitol. Weaver pleaded guilty to misdemeanor unlawful entry and was sentenced to unsupervised probation. He was barred from trying to attend presidential events or entering the Capitol and White House grounds for five years. (I've included his picture above, just in case they don't remember what he looks like from last time around.)

At his sentencing in 2005, he said Secret Service agents told him: “You’re no problem to us, but you’re making us look bad.”

No comment from the Secret Service on whether it will retire Handshake Man's picture from its inaugural security briefings. “We don’t discuss cases of a protective intelligence nature,” spokesman Malcolm Wiley said.

I’ve known a couple of Secret Service agents who worked the White House detail. Trust me. They don’t tolerate being made to look foolish. Not by anyone.

I would recommend that the Handshake Man either keep his distance, or see if Mr. Obama will give him a special pass to be there. Otherwise, he’d best stay home.


  1. Now that I know that the position has an opening....

    I'll bet you couldn't get anywhere NEAR this new president. There has already been too much talk of assassination plots.

    My older daughter got invited to the inauguration, but 1) we couldn't afford to send her this year, and 2) I felt that it wouldn't be a wise thing to do with all of the plots and ill feelings of those southern red-neck types.

    Seriously, though, this is something that I could see myself doing! (not the assassination thing, but the handshake thing)

  2. So...at some point, I should expect to see you and my dad working at WalMart, handing out the little smiley faces to all the kids and pretty women?

  3. BTW, I still know someone in the secret service...just let me know if you need me to hook you up...on the handshake thing, of course!


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