I was sitting on the beach today in Ogunquit, Maine and watched the helicopters go by, again. Four together at a time.
Big, loud ones flying close to the shore to see if anyone suspicious was out getting a tan today. There were, in fact, several people my son Ben pointed out should NOT have been wearing bikinis and more than one who should have been wearing more than a thong.
He and I felt it was cause for serious alarm but the 'copters kept going, no SWAT team dropped down for further investigation.
I've had a house in Ogunquit, Maine long enough to have lived through George Sr.'s heavily armed trips to Perkins Cove for a lobster roll at Barnacle Billy's. It grew quiet for many years after he left office. Sure, there are still security buildings outside his compound -- barracks, actually. Clearly not turn of the century New England and only allowed because he was president -- everyone else has to ask the historic commission permission to paint their cottages antique white. Surrounded by an attractive chain link fence with cameras every few feet, it's no big deal anymore when he and Barbara run over to Cape Arundel Inn for dinner.
In fact, I've heard more than one local say it's a pain when Senior drives himself because a Secret Service detail has to follow and... well... he's a terrible driver.
When Jr. was elected, and decided to come visit his parents, there would be the flurry of helicopters, coast guard boats patrolling the coast and the hoards of media that had to get a shot of Jr. holding up a fish he caught while cruising around in his dad's cigarette boat.
Who fishes in Maine in a cigarette boat? Ever?
But nothing comes close to the drama of Putin coming to Kennebunkport yesterday.
When Senior had diplomats come, it was long before we had to take our shoes off or have to stand in large plastic enclosures that sniff our clothes for chemicals before getting on a plane. Sure, there was security in the old days but the press outnumbered them easily. Senior would come rumbling into the Cove with a couple boats behind him. Two helicopters would pass overhead. A lot of photographs were taken.
Now there are Coast Guard boats, helicopters, and as many security personnel as there are press. Maybe more.
And in Ogunquit, two towns down coast, they make a bunch of poor 20-year-old rent-a-cops trudge up and down the main beach armed with guns in the heat. And rain. It did start to pour at one point. Rumor had it Mother Nature was behind that but you never know. Al Qaeda can be so tricky.
It might have been Saddam but... he's dead.
In Kennebunkport, a sleepy little town where I go to buy the kids yellow rain slickers -- I can't help it, they look so cute in them and they are original preppy with the metal buckles -- they are "stocking up on Stolichnaya Elite vodka and caviar from the Caspian Sea at Hurricane Restaurant on Dock Square." Of course, when I called them to see if they're serving borscht, they got a little snippy.
Earlier in the week, the secretaries and clerks at the town offices were "signing up for a Putin potluck lunch, featuring such Eastern European favorites as cherry-pear compote, eggs baked in butter and sour cream, and fiery chicken paprikash."
I'm guessing the secretaries and clerks were not snippy but delighted to try something exotic.
You know, I always tell my kids, eat local. Don't order lobster in Florida. Don't get clam chowder in Iowa. Never, ever get a hot dog with mayo unless it's at Flo's and it comes with sauce. You go to Kennebunkport, Maine, you eat lobster. Fried clams. Chowder. You have a gin and tonic on the deck of the Cape Arundel Inn. Not vodka. You wear top siders and shirts with little alligators on them.
I'm betting Putin was eating lobster last night. And steamers, chowder, and some fresh tomatoes shipped in from Mexico.
The tomatoes get amnesty in Bush's immigration plan. Besides, the local ones picked by illegal immigrants aren't ready for a few more weeks.
After which Putin probably leaned over to Jr. and said, "That Libby is an embarrassment. In Russia, I would have him killed and buried in the backyard. If you are so sentimental, plant some flowers on top."
But you know, Barbara was there. What would you do with your mother in the room? He commuted the sentence instead.
Call me a cynic, but sitting on the beach today, watching the security swirling around us, I couldn't help but think the biggest thing we have to fear are the people all that security is being paid to protect.
While Jr. played footsies with a man who has run a brutal regime, and releasing a criminal, our vice-president -- in an undisclosed location, to be sure -- is continuing to try and define the vice presidency as...independent from...uh...everything.
Bloomberg should give him a call.
I'll stick to lobster, not borscht -- unless I'm in Moscow -- freedom, not secrecy -- no matter where I am, and beaches without the clutter of helicopter noise.
After all, what can you hide in a Speedo?