Zero Fail Book Summary - Zero Fail Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro
00:00

Zero Fail summary

Carol Leonnig

The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service

4 (41 ratings)
26 mins

Brief summary

'Zero Fail' by Carol Leonnig is an investigative non-fiction book that explores the evolution of the Secret Service, highlighting its successes and failures, and the challenges it faces in protecting US presidents and their families.

Table of Contents

    Zero Fail
    Summary of 8 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 8

    The haphazard way in which the Secret Service was created set the tone for the years to come.

    When President William McKinley was killed at a campaign rally in 1901, he became the third US president to be assassinated in 36 years. Congress was both shocked and humiliated – shocked at how easy it had been to take down the president, and humiliated by how frequent these assassinations were becoming. Casting about for a solution, they turned to the Secret Service, an organization set up decades earlier to rein in the out-of-control counterfeiting industry. Protecting the president was now part of its remit, but the Service had no cohesive strategy for the new job.

    The key message here is: The chaos around the Kennedy assassination reflects the Secret Service’s haphazard founding.

    For more than half a century, it seemed that the Secret Service was coping just fine. And then Kennedy came to power. He was a new breed of president. He was rock-star popular; he drew massive crowds wherever he went; he was up close and personal. But not everyone was a fan. In Kennedy’s first six weeks in office, the White House received three times the average number of threats. 

    Kennedy’s divisive personality, and his constant public exposure, called for a new kind of protection – one that the Secret Service could not provide. So its officers began to cut corners. They worked double shifts, they racked up overtime, they were exhausted and on edge.

    In the fall of 1963, Kennedy was on the campaign trail. This was his busiest week since entering the White House. Of course, the Secret Service followed him everywhere he went. On November 21, in Ft. Worth, Texas, some off-duty agents decided to blow off steam at a local bar. Drinking was against regulation, but few cared. It was a late night: some agents didn’t get back to the hotel until 5:00 am. 

    The next morning, many of them were on only a few hours sleep – and almost all were nursing hangovers. As Kennedy’s motorcade crawled through Dallas, there was an explosive crack. Instead of speeding away, the driver slowed down. Agents raced toward the president’s car, and then another shot rang out. This second bullet hit Kennedy in the head. An hour later, the president was pronounced dead.

    Nothing like this had happened in America for decades. The Secret Service failed in its main responsibility, its only job. For years, guilt troubled many of its agents. They dissected that day – and the night before it – minute by minute. This was a failure of historic proportions.

    But, as we’ll learn in the next blink, the Secret Service’s troubles were only just beginning.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Zero Fail?

    Key ideas in Zero Fail

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Zero Fail about?

    Zero Fail (2021) is a no-nonsense account of the ineptitude and recklessness that have plagued the US Secret Service in recent decades. From Kennedy to Trump, the Service has continually covered up for, and even promoted, agents who made impulsive, ill-considered and simply bad decisions. 

    Zero Fail Review

    Zero Fail (2021) by Carol Leonnig is an eye-opening investigation into the U.S. Secret Service and its history of protecting the President. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Through meticulous research and exclusive interviews, it provides a rare glimpse into the inner workings and challenges of the Secret Service.
    • It explores the complexity and high stakes of protecting the leader of the free world, shedding light on the immense pressure faced by agents.
    • With its detailed accounts of security breaches, successes, and failures, the book keeps readers on the edge of their seats, defying any notion of a dull read.

    Who should read Zero Fail?

    • Popcorn-munching gossip-lovers
    • American history buffs
    • News junkies

    About the Author

    Carol Leonnig is a journalist with the Washington Post. She has won three Pulitzers, including one for her work on the Secret Service. She is also the coauthor of a book about the Trump presidency, entitled A Very Stable Genius

    Categories with Zero Fail

    Book summaries like Zero Fail

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    31 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    Zero Fail FAQs 

    What is the main message of Zero Fail?

    Zero Fail sheds light on the challenges and controversies faced by the Secret Service, highlighting the importance of their role in protecting the nation.

    How long does it take to read Zero Fail?

    The reading time for Zero Fail varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Zero Fail a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Zero Fail is worth reading for its insightful exploration of the Secret Service and its impact on American history. It offers a nuanced perspective on the challenges and successes of an essential agency.

    Who is the author of Zero Fail?

    Carol Leonnig is the author of Zero Fail.

    What to read after Zero Fail?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Zero Fail, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
    • The Art of Clear Thinking by Hasard Lee
    • Be Here Now by Ram Dass
    • Deep Work by Cal Newport
    • 13 Things Mentally Strong Couples Don't Do by Amy Morin
    • Go Like Hell by A. J. Baime
    • Million Dollar Weekend by Noah Kagan
    • Super Brain by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi
    • Adaptability by Max McKeown
    • All It Takes Is a Goal by Jon Acuff