WASHINGTON — This is what passes for dinner table conversation in the Obama White House:
Sasha wants Scott. So does Malia. The first lady wants Beth. So does Barack.
Turns out everyone’s dickering over who gets which Secret Service agent.
Michelle Obama revealed the tongue-in-cheek family feud as she paid a visit to Secret Service headquarters on Wednesday to thank workers at the agency that, among its many duties, protects the first family.
It was another of her periodic visits to government offices around town. But this visit was more personal than most.
“You all have really made us feel at home and safe, and there is no amount of thanks that I could convey that would give you a sense of how important you all are to us,” Mrs. Obama told hundreds of Secret Service employees. She spoke to the group for about five minutes after touring classified areas of the building, including the protective intelligence division and the joint operations center.
The first lady paid tribute not just to the agents who protect the Obamas, but to all the workers behind the scenes, “whether it’s filing or looking at terrorists.”
“The work you do here is pretty scary,” she said. “All I can say, after my little tour, is ignorance is bliss. I just don’t want to know. You all can handle that. Just tell me where to run.”
The first lady said the Obamas have a special affinity for the agents assigned to protect them.
“People always ask what it is like to have Secret Service around,” Mrs. Obama said. “It’s like having family around. … We have a fight among our family over who’s getting which people.
“Sasha will come in, it’s like, ‘You took Scott!'” Mrs. Obama said. “Malia’s like, ‘You took Scott? That’s not fair!’ And then I’ll say the same thing to Barack. It’s like, ‘Why did you get Beth?’ It’s dinner table conversation.”
Mrs. Obama said a good relationship with the agents is important “when you’re trying to live a normal life and raise a couple of girls in the White House.”
The president, in an interview with ABC News this week, said it’s a challenge to give his daughters plenty of “space to make mistakes, be teenagers” while also ensuring they’re protected.
“They’re still going to the mall. And they’re still going to movies. But they’ve got this guy with a gun following them around,” Obama said. “Our Secret Service detail is terrific about it. But it’s a balance that has to be struck.”