When John Kerry was running for president, his daughter Vanessa joked that if her father beat George W. Bush she wanted her Secret Service code name to be "the hot one."
Dad didn't come through for her, and the Bush twins probably got a good laugh out of it, knowing that for another four years they'd carry the awesome aliases "Twinkle" and "Turquoise."
Since the time of Harry Truman, commanders in chief and their families have been assigned security code names. Truman's was "General." Dwight Eisenhower was known as "Providence." And John F. Kennedy, perhaps suggesting a Camelot theme, was "Lancer."
The Obama family recently received its new (and alliterative) names: "Renegade" (Barack), "Renaissance" (Michelle), "Radiance" (Malia) and "Rosebud" (Sasha).
Vice President-elect Joe Biden's security name is "Celtic."
These not-so-secret names are chosen by officials at the White House Communications Agency, which was not inclined to comment on the selection process. In a previous news report, an agency spokesman said the names are assigned by "sheer whim."
Though not always perfectly fitting the individual, the White House Communications Agency does a commendable job generating names that carry a certain grace or gravitas, unlike, say, the meteorologists who name hurricanes.
Of course anything is a step up from the generic names: POTUS (President of the United States); FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States); and the barely pronounceable VPOTUS (Vice President of the United States).
And even the lesser characters in and around the White House get special names.
Then there are the fictional political characters from the long-running television show "The West Wing." First daughter Zoey Bartlet was dubbed "Bookbag," while Dee Dee Myers-like White House spokeswoman C.J. Cregg was "Flamingo." President Jed Bartlet--the greatest fake president of our time--was known at different times as "Eagle" and "Liberty."
Fictionalized or real, the very idea of code names swings open the door to comedy.
On David Letterman's show in 1993, Al Gore read a Top 10 list of good things about being vice president. No. 1: "Your Secret Service code name: 'Buttafuoco'!" And in the years since, Gore has repeatedly quipped about being so boring that his Secret Service code name is "Al Gore."
During this year's campaign, Jay Leno mocked some of Sarah Palin's foot-in-mouth moments by saying: "It's gotten so bad her Secret Service code name is now 'Joe Biden.' " (Palin's code name actually was "Denali.")
And Conan O'Brien said this about Obama: "They say that Barack Obama has been successful in politics because he's a black man who doesn't make white people feel threatened. Yeah, which explains Obama's Secret Service code name: Al Roker."