What’s in a Moniker? : Secret Service Pins Code Names on Those It Guards

From Reuters

Come January, Rawhide will be gone and either Peso, Pontiac or Timber Wolf will roam the White House.

No, they are not family dogs. One of them will be sworn in as the 41st President.

Rawhide, Peso, Pontiac and Timber Wolf are code names used by Secret Service agents who guard the presidential aspirants around the clock.

Radio Communications


The codes are used principally in radio communications.

A Secret Service spokesman said “there is no magic to it--names are picked that are easily pronounced.” They are chosen by the White House communications office and officially are classified secret, the spokesman said.

It remained unclear exactly how certain names were picked for certain people.

Law enforcement sources say President Reagan, perhaps because of his fondness for horseback riding, carries the nickname Rawhide--the name of a once-popular television program about cowboys.


What about the current contenders--Republican Vice President George Bush and Democrats Michael S. Dukakis and the Rev. Jesse Jackson?

Party’s Nominee

Bush, certain to be selected his party’s presidential nominee at the national nominating convention starting Aug. 15 in New Orleans, is Timber Wolf.

Eight years ago, Bush was code-named Sheepskin, researchers say.


No one would stand up and take credit--or blame--for the names.

Dukakis, his party’s likely nominee at the Atlanta convention starting July 18, has been tagged Peso.

Secret Service agents refused to speculate how that name--the basic currency of Mexico and several other Latin countries--was selected.

Tight-Fisted Reputation


Literally, peso means “weight” in Spanish. Although agents would not guess why Dukakis was linked with Peso, reporters traveling with him thought it might have been because of the Massachusetts’ governor’s reputation as being tight fisted.

Currently, one peso will not buy much, if anything. One dollar can fetch about 2,000 pesos.

Or, perhaps the name was selected because Dukakis is fluent in Spanish.

His only rival, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, has been tabbed Pontiac. Reporters with him were mystified at the selection.


At one time, Jackson was known as Thunder, which those around assumed was a reference to his flamboyant style and the excitement he sparks on the campaign trail.

First Lady Is Rainbow

Although code names of the wives of the two Democratic candidates have been kept secret, communications sources said First Lady Nancy Reagan has been code-named Rainbow.

Rawhide and Rainbow Reagan.


And Barbara Bush has a name too--Tranquillity. Timber Wolf and Tranquillity Bush.

As for former presidents, Reagan succeeded Jimmy Carter, who was known at one time as Dasher, and at another as Deacon--perhaps because of his devout religious views and penchant for teaching Sunday school at church. Rosalynn Carter was named Duchess. Deacon and Duchess Carter. Their daughter Amy was Dynamo.

Some others:

Independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson was coded Stardust in 1980.


Ford Was Passkey

Former Republican President Gerald R. Ford, defeated by Carter, carried the name Passkey.

Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson was Volunteer.

And John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy were called Lancer and Lace.