"Secret Service Sex Scandal!" - it's like aheadline writer's dream. And Rupert Murdoch's.It's perfect for capturing the Reality TVmentality of the 24-hour news cycle. But it'shard, as some might want, to pin the sexualescapades of a pack of randy bodyguards on thepresident.
Embarassing? Yes. Potentially dangerous? Yes.Stupid? Yes. Should they be fired? Yes.
But national policy failure? No.
When 11 Secret Service agents on a mission toprotect the president go out and get roaring drunktwo days before the big guy hits the ground,that's a concern. When they get drunk and bringhome a horde of hookers, 20 or 21 in all, and bragabout how they're there preparing for thepresident's arrival, that's a gigantic securityrisk.
Let's face it, these are Secret Service agents,not a bunch of conventioneers at a gathering inCedar Rapids.
That, though, is what we're discovering happenedwhile this group of Secret Service agents wassupposed to be doing advance work for thepresident's trip. Apparently, they got a Grouponhalf-off deal, or went for the Buy One Get Onespecial. It poses an interesting math puzzle -figuring out the logistics of 20 or 21 women and11 men.
More importantly, it raises questions about theirmorals, their judgment, and, as Fox News militaryanalyst Lt. Col. Ralph Peters said on "TheO'Reilly Factor," about the leadership thatcreated an environment where that many agentswould join in to do such a thing. (As you'll see,Peters also slurred an entire continent and itspeople during his analysis, but that's anotherissue.)
"The Secret Service is a great organization thathas done tremendous work," Peters said, "but aswith the military, sometimes you get this sort ofthing. Latin America has always been regarded asthe 'party continent,' and this was obviously anincident of poor leadership. If the leader of theteam is misbehaving or tolerating misbehavior, thetroops will go bad."
Notably, though, Mitt Romney and the RepublicanParty have pretty much left the issue alone. EvenFox News, which loves bashing the president, hasbeen mostly circumspect in dealing with the secretservice's not-so-secret screw-up. For the mostpart.
Bill O'Reilly actually stepped up to defend theObama administration. This, he said, was thefailings of a group of men behaving very badly -and, possibly, of the organization they're a partof - but not of the president.
"I wouldn't blame it on the administration, Idon't think that's fair," he said. "But I do thinkthere's something wrong in the Secret Servicehierarchy because they obviously don't have anyfear in doing this. I mean come on, going to thePley Club in Cartagena?"So far only one of Fox's name stars has tried topaint the Cartagena affair (or affairs, in thiscase) as more evidence of the moral flaws of theObama administration.
"A prostitution scandal has rocked the UnitedStates secret service and has the Obamaadministration scrambling to contain this nationalembarrassment," Sean Hannity said in hisbreathless introduction Monday night. "... thePresident has said publicly he would be quote,'angry if these reports are true.' But he andother top administration officials don't seem tounderstand the gravity of this incident onSaturday night. Just hours after this bombshellstory broke; Secretary of State Hillary Clintonwas seen partying at a Colombian nightclub,drinking beer, dancing with friends. Andapparently, she is not the only one impressedwith, well, Colombia's night life."
The whole thing might have remained a secretservicing if one agent hadn't argued over payingone of the hookers. Hotel staff apparently foundher in his room, demanding her money. Eventually,other agents reportedly gave her some more cashand got her to go away. But the ruckus brought thekind of attention none of the agents - especiallythe married ones - wanted. El Cheapo probably hasfew fans among his fellow agents now.
Most of the real outrage seems to be coming fromthe president himself. And, as he put it, it's notabout the security issue. It's about men actinglike pigs, for all the world to see.
"If it turns out some of the allegations that havebeen made in the press are confirmed, then, ofcourse, I'll be angry because my attitude withrespect to Secret Service personnel is nodifferent than what I expect out of my delegationsitting here," Obama said at a press conference.
Prostitution may be legal in Colombia, but thatshouldn't matter. As the president said, it's notabout them; it's about us and how the rest of theworld perceives us.
"We represent the United States. When we travel toanother country, I expect them to observe thehighest standards because we're not justrepresenting ourselves. We're here on behalf ofour people and that means we conduct ourselveswith the utmost dignity and probity and obviouslywhat's been reported does not match up with thosestandards."