Monday, April 23, 2012 at 5:29 AM

No Secret Service Sex Scandal…If Supervisor Were a Man

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

All of the agents and military personnel who enlisted the services of Columbian prostitutes (21 of them at last count) were relieved of duty and sent home in disgrace within hours after the hotel called local police to settle the pay dispute. The potential they created to compromise the president’s safety is beyond measure. This is why they are now facing an ignominious end to their careers.

But surely the greater worry for each of them will be trying to convince his wife that, even though the entire unit is being disciplined, he was not personally involved with any prostitute…. Yeah, good luck with that.

(“Obama’s ‘Bushism’ highlight of Summit of the Americas,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 17, 2012)

I fully intended to limit my commentary on the Secret Service agents who were caught being serviced not so secretly to the above.  But given all of the talk in Washington about the agency being rocked, if not rotten, to its core, I feel constrained to elaborate.

It’s an indication of the metastasizing nature of this scandal that the Washington Post ran a front-page story yesterday on Paula Reid, the new Secret Service supervisor for the South American region whose snap decision turned a petty argument between one prostitute and one agent into an institutional and international crisis. To say nothing of the way this scandal has completely overshadowed and undermined President Obama’s reason for being in Columbia at that Summit of the Americas, which was to reassert America’s sphere of influence in this hemisphere.

But, frankly, it’s also an indication of the reflexive, myopic and opportunistic rhetoric that passes for political opinion today that some of the most influential politicians in Washington are referring to this as the worst scandal in the history of the Secret Service: Really? What about the agency’s failure to prevent that hapless drifter Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating JFK? Hell, even the more recent scandal of the Salahis crashing a state dinner at the White House is worse.

(Incidentally, I was puzzled by the apparent concern so many Republicans were expressing for Obama’s safetyuntil I heard Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) declare on Thursday that this scandal is just another manifestation of this president’s failure of leadership; you know, just as Syria’s massacre of democratic protesters, China’s trade surplus, and even April snow in Texas all are….)

In any case, during an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation yesterday, former Secret Service director Ralph Basham insisted that:

This is an aberration. This is not the character of the men and women who serve every day in the Secret Service. And, obviously, this is a huge story. It’s a huge issue, because this sort of thing does not happen in the Secret Service…

Certainly, this incident is an extremely embarrassing incident, but it is an incident.

Got that? It’s just an “incident” folks!  It spoke volumes, however,  that when moderator Bob Schieffer asked if he was sure no agent had been fired for a scandal “like this” during his tenure (2003-06), Basham conceded that:

I can’t recall one instance where the action went to the point of removing an agent from duty. There were agents who were disciplined – you know, given time off, that sort of thing – but I can’t recall one actually being removed.

Indeed; yet the fallout from this implosion has already seen six agents (including two supervisors) removed from duty. And no less a politician than Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee that has oversight authority over the agency, has been all over TV in recent days pledging, with scoutmaster indignation, that “more heads will roll.”

Meanwhile, former director Basham only hinted at the undeniable truth that, if Reid had been one of the good ol’ boys instead of a newly appointed woman, this incident would have been handled just like all others had been (i.e., with the supervisor slapping the primary agent involved on the wrist and fellow agents ribbing him as a knucklehead and admonishing him to just pay up next time).

The corollary of course is that, considering nobody believes this was their first group assignation with prostitutes, Secret Service agents clearly know how to deal with them without compromising the president’s safety (despite the potential). And, but for Reid, the extracurricular secrets of the agents would have been kept, none of them would have lost their jobs (and possibly their marriages), and the nation would have been spared all of the sanctimonious carping about the performance of an agency whose public record and reputation are the envy of the world.

This is why, while everyone else in Washington seems to think highly of the way she “swiftly rounded up 11 agents and officers and ordered them out of the country [Columbia, where they were preparing for Obama’s visit],” I think supervisor Reid simply overreacted. This, notwithstanding all of the moralizing about their infidelity – not just to the agency’s Hooverian code of conduct, but also to their marriages.

Now, lest you think my judgment here  is clouded by bad old-fashioned male chauvinism, please bear in mind that I have written many commentaries with titles like “Women Make Better Politicians than Men,” October 14, 2010, in which I proudly extol the virtues and effectiveness of women assuming positions of power traditionally held by men.

I just don’t think there can be any gainsaying that, but for Reid’s hysterical reaction:

  1. there would be no scandal;
  2. the critical esprit de corps within the agency would still be firmly intact (reports are that the agents are now turning on each other to save their own hides and some are even threatening to sue the agency); and most important
  3. there would be no greater concern about the agency’s ability to protect the president today than there was on the day he was inaugurated.

Instead, not since a bunch of self-righteous Republicans attempted to impeach former President Bill Clinton has a little bit of harmless sex triggered such a self-inflicted institutional crisis on the one hand and a hypocritical political witch hunt on the other. Not to mention that good conscience and common sense dictate that a little more deference should be accorded these agents who take a vow to take a bullet for the president.

Finally, human nature being what it is, I’d hate to be in Reid’s position. Because even though grandstanding politicians are hailing her as a latter-day Miss Goody Two-Shoes, the “Mad Men” inside the agency undoubtedly deplore and resent her trigger-happy officiousness.  She may not see it now, but she just placed a glass ceiling over her own head as far as her career in the Secret Service is concerned. And given that she’s a 46-year-old Black spinster to boot, well, just imagine the backlash (to say nothing of the racial jokes about a Black woman swooping in to clean up the mess; never mind that she made it herself)….

NOTE: This incident went down in an area of Columbia where prostitution is legal. Of course, I’m on record declaring that prostitution should be legal everywhere.

Related commentaries:
Obama’s ‘Bushism’ highlight of Summit of the Americas
The Salahis White House gatecrashers

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