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 obscure. When 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).
President 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.