It’s a well-known fact that the Secret Service gives codenames to presidents, their families and other high-ranking government staff. Starting in the Truman era, when sensitive information was easy to intercept, the practice has continued out of custom and as a means for agents to quickly identify their charges. Some monikers relate directly to their subject’s character, though. For example, it’s not hard to see why business tycoon Donald Trump was given the name “Mogul.” But other codenames, over the years, have involved more creative license – resulting in some truly bizarre aliases.
20. Dick Cheney – Angler
It seems to be, on the surface, about the former vice president’s love of fishing, but Dick Cheney’s alias “Angler” in fact had a dubious double meaning. Apparently, the pseudonym was also construed to refer to his ability to spin good angles on controversial topics – like the Iraq War.
19. Ivanka Trump – Marvel
While the White House Communications Agency is responsible for assigning codenames, we imagine that Donald Trump helped in creating Ivanka’s alias. Indeed, given Trump’s often rather creepy affection for his daughter it seems all too plausible that he envisioned her moniker “Marvel.” Presumably “Terrific” was already taken.
18. Karenna Gore – Smurfette
Presumably inspired by her favorite TV show, Al Gore’s daughter Karenna hastily chose “Smurfette” as her secret signal. However, it was a decision that the former vice president’s offspring would later regret, as she reportedly admitted in 1997 to “cringing” every time she heard the name spoken.
17. Michael Reagan – Riddler
As a president who once dubbed the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” Ronald Reagan likely imagined himself as a hero. Ironically, though, his son Michael was given the moniker “Riddler” – a name shared with one of Batman’s most dastardly foes.
16. John McCain IV – Popeye
Having graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2009, John McCain IV has at least one thing in common with the seafaring Popeye the Sailor Man. However, that doesn’t seem like a strong enough link to name the former presidential candidate’s son after the cartoon character – unless he has a secret love of spinach that no one knows about?
15. Meghan McCain – Peter Sellers
Like her brother John, Meghan McCain was bizarrely named after a famous figure – legendary comedian Peter Sellers. But a less-than-fitting moniker was only the start of McCain’s problems. In fact, in a 2014 chat with TakePart Live, she described her former Secret Service guards as “cliquey” and as good as “glorified mall cops.”
14. Cindy McCain – Parasol
Rounding off the improbably named McCain clan is matriarch Cindy, who was given the astounding alias “Parasol.” Perhaps the nickname referred to her habit of throwing shade on campaign rivals – like when she allegedly labeled Michelle Obama unpatriotic in 2008.
13. Newt Gingrich – T. Rex
Certainly, being compared to a dinosaur can’t do many favors for an older politician. Perhaps that’s why former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich – who was codenamed “T. Rex” – lost his campaign to be the 2012 Republican presidential candidate to Mitt Romney. That said, maybe he was able to console himself by re-watching Jurassic Park?
12. Ron Nessen – Clam Chowder
“Clam Chowder has entered the building” are words we’d normally associate with a lunch order arriving. But during Gerald Ford’s presidency, this phrase was used to signal the arrival of press secretary Ron Nessen, who was weirdly named after the seafood dish. Maybe someone thought he stunk?
11. Josh Bolten – Fat Boy
Despite possessing a comparatively trim figure, George W. Bush’s former Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten was codenamed “Fat Boy” during his tenure in the 2000s. Though the name might have originated with the Republican’s habit of keeping a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy’s gas tank in his office, it’s nevertheless hardly a flattering nickname.
10. Prince Charles – Unicorn
With the mythical creature emblazoned on his family’s coat of arms, “Unicorn” seems a fitting moniker for Britain’s Prince Charles. But there’s something oddly fanciful about his Secret Service codename – one that somehow reduces a royal to a figure of fun.
9. Gerald Ford – Passkey
In a sense, Gerald Ford held the passkey to the entire world. Indeed, as the 38th U.S. president Ford had the power to launch a nuclear strike anytime he wanted. Of course, he also gave the disgraced President Nixon a pass just one month after coming into office, when he granted him an unconditional pardon for any crimes that he might have committed while he was in the White House.
8. Dwight Eisenhower – Scorecard
As an avid golfer, Dwight Eisenhower was regularly seen jotting down his handicap on a piece of paper. In fact, this seems to explain why the 34th president was referred to via the confusing pseudonym “Scorecard.” But for the former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and one of only nine five-star U.S. generals in history, who’s keeping count, after all?
7. Mitt Romney – Javelin
Mitt Romney undoubtedly wanted to associate his 2012 presidential campaign with strength and forward thinking. So a moniker named after a weapon certainly seemed appropriate. Unfortunately, his eventual codename, “Javelin,” didn’t sound all that impressive, however. Indeed, its effect fell flatter than Romney’s campaign eventually did.
6. Ted Kennedy – Sunburn
We have to imagine that the Secret Service had a vendetta against JFK’s younger brother, Ted Kennedy. Due to his pallid complexion, the senator would turn red in the sun, leading to the apt codename of “Sunburn.”
5. John Gardner Ford – Pack Man
Dubbed “Pack Man” by the Secret Service, Gerald Ford’s son John possessed one of the White House’s more enigmatic pseudonyms. But before you imagine him as a giant mouth, munching pills in a neon maze, keep in mind that Gerald Ford became vice president in 1973, seven years before Pac-Man was first released.
4. George H.W. Bush – Sheepskin
George H.W. Bush initially went by “Sheepskin,” which has to be one of the cuddlier Secret Service codenames. However, his former moniker took on a sinister edge when it was replaced with the codename “Timberwolf” during his presidency. What do they say about wolves in sheep’s clothing?
3. Sarah Gore – Screwdriver
Aged just 13 when her father Al became U.S. vice president, Sarah Gore was blessed with the alarmingly surreal alias “Screwdriver.” Given that she was a little young to partake in home maintenance, let alone the vodka-based cocktail, the name may refer to a teenager’s ability to drive their parents insane.
2. Kitty Dukakis – Panda
Everyone loves the adorable panda bear. So perhaps the Secret Service were hoping to shine some goodwill on presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis’ campaign by naming his wife Kitty after the cuddly mammal. Alas, the bid didn’t pay off, however, as Dukakis lost the 1988 race to George H.W. Bush.
1. Frank Sinatra – Napoleon
It’s not only politicians who are protected by the Secret Service, however. During the course of the Nixon years, Frank Sinatra was often seen at the White House, where he was dubbed “Napoleon.” Given that the crooner reportedly stood at just five foot seven, his alias might have been a taunting reference to his height. Or, based on his notorious mob connections, perhaps it was a reference to the fact that he had friends in high places…