Just coincidentally, in a tribute to the late Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes last night, there was an interview with a Secret Service agent who broke down and wept because he blamed himself for the death of John F. Kennedy. If only his reflexes had been better, the distraught former agent said in an interview with Wallace, history might have been different. Here was a man who, if anything, was willing to take too much responsibility.
This interview put the current crisis involving Secret Service agents partying and paying (or trying not to pay, which is even worse) for the services of prostitutes in Colombia in perspective. A lot has been made of how the agents allegedly involved weren't actually protecting the president. They were doing advance work. If you take comfort from that, you're a much more tolerant person than your humble blogger.
Doesn’t anything around here work anymore? This scandal is shocking not only because, if what is reported is true, the agents are scumbags but because it shows another American institution unraveling.
The Wall Street Journal notes in an editorial:
On the evidence of the prostitution scandal in Colombia that broke over the weekend, the Secret Service needs a cultural shake-up. It's a national embarrassment, with agents who were part of the advance team for President Obama showing the judgment of college freshmen on a fraternity road trip.
The Treasury men opened themselves up as blackmail targets to the hookers, their pimps, the hotel staff, and more nefarious types who might have found out. Good for the Cartagena police who sent a report on the incident to the U.S. Embassy after they were called to intervene between the working girl and her agent-client who thought he had been overcharged. That agent ought to be dismissed on lack of IQ points alone.
The Journal goes on to note that Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, praised Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan for taking quick action. Not so fast.
Ron Kessler, who has written a book on the Secret Service, says that such praise for Sullivan’s quick action is “a sickening misinterpretation of the situation.” Kessler said that the service has cut corners for years and that this has bred contempt for the rules. Some Secret Servicemen, according to Kessler, aren’t even in good physical shape.
The actions of those who just had to have prostitutes and a party while preparing a presidential trip to Colombia disqualify them for security clearance, according to Kessler. There must be immature, self-indulgent people who sign up to join the Secret Service nowadays.
Speaking of being immature and self-indulgent, here is what the president of the United States said in Colombia:
“I’m not somebody who brings to the table here a lot of baggage from the past, and I want to look at these issues in a new and fresh way,” Obama said during a Sunday news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. “I am sometimes puzzled by the degree to which countries that themselves have undergone enormous transformations, that have known the oppression of dictatorships or have found themselves on the wrong side of the ruling elite, and have suffered for it, why we would ignore that same principle here.”
He still doesn’t understand that being president isn’t about him and his biography. It’s about the United States. Or it used to be. The second sentence about "transformations" and the “ruling elite” is gobbledygook. Good news: this summit was such a disaster that there may not be another one. That will certainly spare carbon foot prints and embarrassment.