How presidents, presidential candidates, and White House officials are given their
Secret Service code names is an often amusing science. In a world of wonks, it could
be a hit board game. On the one hand, it is somewhat straightforward. For example,
they called President
Ronald Reagan, a man of the West who acted in Westerns, Rawhide. On the other hand, it can be wildly
Rick Santorum was a GOP presidential candidate, he got the code name Petrus, which translates to
Peter, the name of his father. We think of it as a sensationally delicious but unaffordable
Bordeaux wine, and can’t help but wonder which connection Santorum would prefer (though
perhaps he welcomes any opportunity for a break from that
other association with his name).
Richard Nixon was Searchlight. Vice President
Al Gore was Sundance.
Rahm Emanuel, when he was White House chief of staff, was Black Hawk (kinda fitting).
Josh Bolten, when he was chief of staff in the Bush White House, was Fatboy (kinda harsh). Speaking
of size references, Richard Nixon’s press secretary,
Ron Ziegler, was Whale Boat. Not flattering at all.
The names actually are not decided by the Secret Service but by an agency of the White
House Military Office, and they never tell anybody anything. Take our quiz to see
if you can figure out the correct code names for the current presidential and vice-presidential
picks and their spouses.