President Barack Obama wasn’t in Colombia when two dozen Secret Service agents and U.S. military personnel got liquored-up and sexed-up with some of Cartagena’s the ladies of the evening, but he surely had a hand in it, to hear some Republicans and conservatives tell it.
A bunch of grown men with guns, those cool walkie-talkies with the ear pieces, and badges romping through a hotel like a bunch of frat boys on spring break is just the latest sign of Obama’s lack of leadership was the mantra last week of some Republicans from presidential candidate Mitt Romney to Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama to all the way down to former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Bad news comes in threes and some Obama haters think they’ve scored a hat trick by linking federal men behaving badly in Colombia with the controversy over the General Services Administration’s spending frenzy at a Las Vegas conference, and the “Fast and Furious” gun tracking program that may have allowed weapons reach members of Mexico’s drug cartel.
“I don’t sense that this president has shown that kind of managerial leadership,” Sessions offered last week.
Romney weighed in, too, telling conservative talk radio show host Laura Ingraham what he would do about all these controversies, including the Secret Service mess.
“I’d clean house,” he said. “The right thing to do is to remove people who have violated the public trust and have put their play time and their personal interests ahead of the interests of the nation. You’ve got to make an assessment of those individuals and where people have failed or where they have not got the level of care and caution that’s necessary, why, you replace them.
But sensing that he put his foot in his mouth – or maybe realizing that he just verbally tarred and feathered an agency whose officers are sworn to take a bullet for the president (and presidential candidates like himself) – Romney backtracked from his remarks in another radio interview later in the day.
“We are a nation, after all, under law and the president has confidence in the head of the Secret Service, as do I,” Romney said. “I believe that the right corrective action will be taken there and obviously everyone is very, very disappointed in these stories, very uncharacteristic of the service and it will be…I think it will be dealt with as aggressive a way as is possible given the requirements of law.”
While Romney shifted into reverse, Palin drove full speed ahead in calling the Secret Service’s bad behavior in Colombia a symptom of a bad presidency.
“If you consider what is going on in the state of our government, look who’s running the show, these boys are considering there are ramifications for their actions, whether it comes to a budget out of Congress and the White House to GSA overspends to the Secret Service scandals,” Palin said from her paid perch at Fox News. “I’ve had enough of these men being dogs!”
But bashing Obama over the Secret Service wasn’t just business as usual for Palin. This time, as they say in the movie trailers, it’s personal. One of the ousted agents, David Chaney, was assigned to Palin’s security detail in 2008 and posted a picture on his Facebook page of him standing behind her and “checking her out.”
“Well check this out, bodyguard, you’re fired,” Palin said on Fox. “I hope his wife … sends him to the doghouse — as long as he’s not eating the dog, along with his former boss.”
Palin went on to call the agents Facebook post an indication of a “government run amok,” ignoring the fact that the picture was snapped in 2008 – when George W. Bush was president.
All the Obama/Secret Service-bashing, and Palin’s veiled jab at Obama for eating dog meat as a child, was enough for the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. He returned critic’s fire on Friday.
“What they’re doing is trying to turn these incidents — one that’s still under investigation — to political advantage,” Carney said. “On the face of it, it’s a ridiculous assertion that trivializes both the very serious nature of the endeavor that our military is engaged in in Afghanistan and the very serious nature both of the work that the Secret Service does, the apolitical nature of the institution, and the seriousness of the investigation under way.”
Republicans have never been shy about using the Secret Service for political gain. When wannabe reality TV show contestants Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed Obama’s first state dinner in 2009, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives held hearing that the administration was trying to throw the Secret Service under the bus for the security breach in order to protect then-White House social secretary Desiree Rogers.
But trying to link Obama to the Secret Service’s sexcapades was even too over the top for some Republicans. Rep. Darrell Isa (R-Ca.), the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee chairman who would like nothing more than to stick it to the administration, took a pass on the Secret Service stuff last week.
“I think ‘Fast and Furious’ shows bad judgment at the highest levels of administration appointees, I think the GSA shows bad judgment at the highest level of political appointees,” Issa told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday. “I would stop short myself of the Secret Service because, as far as I know, they’re not political appointees.”
Appearing Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.), Issa said Obama is handling the Secret Service matter just fine.
“I think I want the president to do what Congressman King and I are doing,” Issa said. “Leave it to the professionals, look over their shoulder and make sure it’s dealt with properly and then let’s move on.”