A conservative polemic against “big government” disguised as a memoir of government service.
After serving in the Secret Service for more than 10 years, Bongino (Life Inside the Bubble: Why a Top Ranked Secret Service Agent Walked Away From It All, 2013) ran for the Senate in Maryland in 2011 and for Congress in 2014, both times unsuccessfully. As he writes, he “had resigned from the agency…to run in a deep blue state, as a Republican, against the sitting President’s policies.” The connotation is that Bongino’s inside-the-Beltway position revealed many disturbing secrets about policymaking and political access. Yet his discussion of his Secret Service career is mainly anecdotal, interspersed with assertions about his peers’ unparalleled abilities and teamwork. Otherwise, Bongino holds the federal government in contempt, particularly his former commander in chief: “President Obama and his hard-left allies will never understand ‘the code’ [of the Secret Service] because they will never understand ‘the team.’ ” This disdain for Obama drives much of the narrative. The author’s tactic is to introduce a particular buzzworthy scandal—e.g., the IRS’s targeting of conservative nonprofits, the purported Benghazi cover-up, the prisoner swap involving Bowe Bergdahl—and then follow up with overlong paragraphs that don’t move beyond insinuation. He thus insists these matters reveal “an administration where the sheer number of government scandals and abuses of power overwhelmed the institutional defense mechanisms.” In late chapters, Bongino focuses on perceived flaws of American electoral politics, with broad-canvas topics like “Why Blue States Matter.” His writing becomes more thoughtful when he looks past his obsession with Obama’s “collectivism,” but it remains studded with platitudes—e.g., “Americans never surrendered their homes and fortunes to the whims and wants of either bandits or bureaucrats.” Even the author’s more interesting political observations and anecdotes, such as advising conservatives to emulate progressive groups’ tactics while ignoring their messages, underline his fundamental cynicism.
A book that will appeal to readers convinced that Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s email habits are the most pressing concerns Americans now face.