The Secret Service: Friend or Foe?
– I doubt that anyone old enough to remember the events of November 22, 1963, will ever forget them. On that afternoon, President John Kennedy was assassinated. Images that seared in the minds of those who witnessed it were the courageous actions of Secret Service Agent Clint Hill as he chased the limousine of the stricken President and jumped on the bumper, then crawled across the trunk of the car to shield the President and First Lady with his body.It’s doubtful you could find any American who didn’t believe the Secret Service Presidential Protection Division would take any action, including “take a bullet,” to protect the President, his family or entourage. That day, they were “heroes” to all Americans and no wrong could be found in their actions.September 5, 1975, in Sacramento, California, President Gerald Ford survived the first of two attempts on his life. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a member of the infamous Charles Manson Family, approached President Ford and aimed a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol at him. Before she was able to fire a shot, she was tackled by Secret Service Agents and wrestled to the ground. Once again, Secret Service Agents acted with courage, without concern for their personal safety, averting another disaster.On March 30, 1981 President Ronald Reagan, and three others, fell victim to shots as they were leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel. In response to the gunfire of John Hinckley, Agent Jerry Parr pushed President Reagan into his limousine, while Agent Tim McCarthy was struck in his abdomen by a bullet as he threw himself over the President to protect him. In the years since this attempt, analysts have critiqued the performance of the Secret Service. While some find fault in some decisions of the Secret Service, most critics credit the two agents’ quick response with saving the life the President. Although a bullet ricocheted off the limousine into Reagan’s chest, Agent McCarthy’s act of self-sacrifice most certainly prevented the President’s death.Given these past acts and its storied history of selfless service to the Office of the President, one has to seriously question the character and competence of the current Presidential Protection Division.With the exception of those who harbor extreme enmity towards President Obama, we were shocked and appalled by the Secret Service sex scandal in Columbia. We understood the behavior attributed to the President’s protective detail to be a violation of their oath and the trust placed in them by the President and the Nation.Although the Agents’ behavior there was a serious breach of standards, their failure at the funeral of President Nelson Mandela in South Africa foretold of their increasing ineptitude. When one is familiar with the attention to detail that is required for Presidential security, it’s impossible to understand how a phony sign-language interpreter could be allowed to stand within feet of the President.These acts were egregious. Then we learned that an intruder jumped the White House fence and just walked inside. Next, we heard shots were fired at the White House, resulting in structural damage.Thinking things could get no worse, we learned a man with a criminal record and a gun, shared an elevator with President Obama!A Richard Pryor comedy skit suggested mortal threat to the first Black President. It was easy to laugh then, but when faced with the serious failures of those entrusted to protect the real first Black President, that skit isn’t funny at all.I wonder about the value placed on the President’s life by his protective detail. Sadly it appears to be the same one placed by his detractors in the extreme right who whip up hate for the President daily. This foolishness must stop lest we lose credibility around the world.