What grates about the Secret Service scandal

Still more from that brilliant column by Peggy Noonan, America’s Crisis of Character:

There is the Secret Service scandal. That one broke through too, and you know the facts: overseas to guard the president, sent home for drinking, partying, picking up prostitutes.

What’s terrible about this story is that for anyone who’s ever seen the Secret Service up close it’s impossible to believe. The Secret Service are the best of the best. That has been their reputation because that has been their reality. They have always been tough, disciplined and mature. They are men, and they have the most extraordinary job: take the bullet.

Remember when Reagan was shot? That was Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy who stood there like a stone wall, and took one right in the gut. Jerry Parr pushed Reagan into the car, and Mr. Parr was one steely-eyed agent. Reagan coughed up a little blood, and Mr. Parr immediately saw its color was a little too dark. He barked the order to change direction and get to the hospital, not the White House, and saved Reagan’s life. From Robert Caro’s “Passage of Power,” on Secret Service agent Rufus Youngblood, Nov. 22, 1963: “there was a sharp, cracking sound,” and Youngblood, “whirling in his seat,” grabbed Vice President Lyndon Johnson and threw him to the floor of the car, “shielding his body with his own.”

In any presidential party, the Secret Service guys are the ones who are mature, who you can count on, who’ll keep their heads. They have judgment, they’re by the book unless they have to rewrite it on a second’s notice. And they wore suits, like adults.

This week I saw a picture of agents in Colombia. They were in T-shirts, wrinkled khakis and sneakers. They looked like a bunch of mooks, like slobs, like children with muscles.

Special thanks to the person who invented casual Friday. Now it’s casual everyday in America. But when you lower standards people don’t decide to give you more, they give you less.

via America’s Crisis of Character – WSJ.com.

HT:  Doug Reynolds

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    “Special thanks to the person who invented casual Friday. Now it’s casual everyday in America. But when you lower standards people don’t decide to give you more, they give you less.”

    Great quote – although the old photos you see of everyone being in suit and tie at baseball games in the early 1900′s make me a little squeamish and glad I was born when I was born. I guess we’ve ridden the pendulum to the other end of its arc.

  • Pete

    “Special thanks to the person who invented casual Friday. Now it’s casual everyday in America. But when you lower standards people don’t decide to give you more, they give you less.”

    Great quote – although the old photos you see of everyone being in suit and tie at baseball games in the early 1900′s make me a little squeamish and glad I was born when I was born. I guess we’ve ridden the pendulum to the other end of its arc.

  • Tom Hering

    Conservative women seem to have a real problem with men in casual clothing. Sorry, gals, but stiff attire doesn’t guarantee a …

  • Tom Hering

    Conservative women seem to have a real problem with men in casual clothing. Sorry, gals, but stiff attire doesn’t guarantee a …

  • Tom Hering

    … revival of truth, justice, and the American way. What did you think I meant? :-D

  • Tom Hering

    … revival of truth, justice, and the American way. What did you think I meant? :-D

  • Dan Kempin

    I don’t know. Maybe this has to do with informality lowering expectations, but I suspect it is much more the issue of compartmentalization–a much more serious problem. We have (culturally) bought in to the idea that we can step outside of our personal integrity for a time and return to it without harm. “What happens in vegas stays in vegas” comes to mind. It is even seen as a pennance of sorts that however debauched one’s behavior on the weekend (or “off duty,” as the case may be), they are all business when on the job.

  • Dan Kempin

    I don’t know. Maybe this has to do with informality lowering expectations, but I suspect it is much more the issue of compartmentalization–a much more serious problem. We have (culturally) bought in to the idea that we can step outside of our personal integrity for a time and return to it without harm. “What happens in vegas stays in vegas” comes to mind. It is even seen as a pennance of sorts that however debauched one’s behavior on the weekend (or “off duty,” as the case may be), they are all business when on the job.

  • James Sarver

    We have been told by our antinomian culture for half a century that discipline=pretense=bad. The problem with being “who we really are” is that who we really are is as ugly as sin. I’ll take a bit of pretense thank you.

  • James Sarver

    We have been told by our antinomian culture for half a century that discipline=pretense=bad. The problem with being “who we really are” is that who we really are is as ugly as sin. I’ll take a bit of pretense thank you.

  • Tom Hering

    I have to admit that men in suits have never committed adultery, abandoned their families, or cheated their neighbors. Ah, the good old days.

  • Tom Hering

    I have to admit that men in suits have never committed adultery, abandoned their families, or cheated their neighbors. Ah, the good old days.

  • Matthew

    James @ 5, that is a point that I think gets overlooked. So many people now think of formality as simply a pretense for hypocrisy. In many ways, hypocrisy and civility are two sides of the same coin. After all, hypocrisy is hiding who we are so people won’t see “the real me.” But really, isn’t civility (and formality) about hiding who we are so people won’t have to put up with “the real me?” Once we lose a sense of original sin and just how ugly “the real me” is, formality and civility both seem to disappear quickly. Oddly, hyprocrisy manages to stay somehow.

  • Matthew

    James @ 5, that is a point that I think gets overlooked. So many people now think of formality as simply a pretense for hypocrisy. In many ways, hypocrisy and civility are two sides of the same coin. After all, hypocrisy is hiding who we are so people won’t see “the real me.” But really, isn’t civility (and formality) about hiding who we are so people won’t have to put up with “the real me?” Once we lose a sense of original sin and just how ugly “the real me” is, formality and civility both seem to disappear quickly. Oddly, hyprocrisy manages to stay somehow.

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    I couldn’t help but chip in here…I have a good friend who is a twenty-plus year vet of the SS who has spent most of his time in Central and South America. While there is no dress code for serving agents in this setting, the objective is usually to be invisible, hence the native dress. The average length of service in the SS is five years…most of the personnel is pretty young these days. He told me a couple days ago that when he got a memo that there was serious trouble in Colombia, he asked, “Is anyone dead?”. The reply, “No, its worse than that.”

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    I couldn’t help but chip in here…I have a good friend who is a twenty-plus year vet of the SS who has spent most of his time in Central and South America. While there is no dress code for serving agents in this setting, the objective is usually to be invisible, hence the native dress. The average length of service in the SS is five years…most of the personnel is pretty young these days. He told me a couple days ago that when he got a memo that there was serious trouble in Colombia, he asked, “Is anyone dead?”. The reply, “No, its worse than that.”

  • Kirk

    Man, I’m glad I wore a suit to work today. Now I’m guaranteed to do a good job!

    But seriously, Peggy Noonan only trusts in the professionalism of secret service members up to, but not including their sartorial decisions? Couldn’t there possibly have been some sort of determination among the security professionals as to the efficacy of their dress?

    Not to mention that she’s falling into the trap of viewing the past through rose tinted glasses. How does she know that the steely eyed agents that dove in front of Reagan or Johnson weren’t sleeping with prostitutes on advance trips (and just taking off suits instead of t-shirts and rumpled khakis to do it)?

  • Kirk

    Man, I’m glad I wore a suit to work today. Now I’m guaranteed to do a good job!

    But seriously, Peggy Noonan only trusts in the professionalism of secret service members up to, but not including their sartorial decisions? Couldn’t there possibly have been some sort of determination among the security professionals as to the efficacy of their dress?

    Not to mention that she’s falling into the trap of viewing the past through rose tinted glasses. How does she know that the steely eyed agents that dove in front of Reagan or Johnson weren’t sleeping with prostitutes on advance trips (and just taking off suits instead of t-shirts and rumpled khakis to do it)?

  • SKPeterson

    Here’s a nice take from Pr. Peter’s blog, placing this issue squarely in the context of :

    http://pastoralmeanderings.blogspot.com/2012/04/crisis-of-character.html

  • SKPeterson

    Here’s a nice take from Pr. Peter’s blog, placing this issue squarely in the context of :

    http://pastoralmeanderings.blogspot.com/2012/04/crisis-of-character.html

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Sorry, I just don’t buy the idea that this is the first time SS members have hired prostitutes. This is the same secret service that kept tight lipped about President Kennedy’s affairs. And they wore suits back then. I’m betting they also wore shorts. The detail that is around the President is always in suit and tie for good reason, even today. But your an idiot if you think those are the only agents working that day, or that they all have a suit and tie on. Never has been like that.
    These guys are just genius in their ability to lose a job over a $30 dispute, and cause a controversy.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Sorry, I just don’t buy the idea that this is the first time SS members have hired prostitutes. This is the same secret service that kept tight lipped about President Kennedy’s affairs. And they wore suits back then. I’m betting they also wore shorts. The detail that is around the President is always in suit and tie for good reason, even today. But your an idiot if you think those are the only agents working that day, or that they all have a suit and tie on. Never has been like that.
    These guys are just genius in their ability to lose a job over a $30 dispute, and cause a controversy.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I will listen to Peggy Noonan’s conservative sartorial opinions when she stops wearing business suits — with pants, even! What, is she some sort of liberal cross-dresser?!

    Where is her floor-length skirt? Where is her lacy collar that covers up her entire neck? The long sleeves, where are they? Her blouse is open so low I can see flesh below her collarbone, the whore!

    Also, what sort of modern liberal nonsense is this where women are able to express their opinions publicly in a newspaper now?

    What has our world come to? I ask you! We should have never given them the vote.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I will listen to Peggy Noonan’s conservative sartorial opinions when she stops wearing business suits — with pants, even! What, is she some sort of liberal cross-dresser?!

    Where is her floor-length skirt? Where is her lacy collar that covers up her entire neck? The long sleeves, where are they? Her blouse is open so low I can see flesh below her collarbone, the whore!

    Also, what sort of modern liberal nonsense is this where women are able to express their opinions publicly in a newspaper now?

    What has our world come to? I ask you! We should have never given them the vote.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    For her next trick, Peggy Noonan will express shock — shock! — upon learning that American soldiers sometimes drink too much alcohol and may also have caroused with other people … sexually. This in spite of the fact that they also are professionals willing to die for other people. Noonan will blame this carousing on the invention of rock and/or roll.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    For her next trick, Peggy Noonan will express shock — shock! — upon learning that American soldiers sometimes drink too much alcohol and may also have caroused with other people … sexually. This in spite of the fact that they also are professionals willing to die for other people. Noonan will blame this carousing on the invention of rock and/or roll.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Also, I was too busy to comment on the previous thread about Noonan’s brilliant column, but could someone please explain to me how 76% of Americans think we’re on the wrong track as a nation because they don’t like what has happened to our culture?

    Were all the respondants in that poll somehow not part of American culture? Did they just get lucky and happen to call all the (very few) upstanding people that are left?

    Because I’m being asked to believe that (1) our culture celebrates licentiousness, a loss of community, and the fact that there is no right or wrong, and (2) our culture is very worried about the fact that there’s so much licentiousness, a loss of community, and so on.

    How’s that work?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Also, I was too busy to comment on the previous thread about Noonan’s brilliant column, but could someone please explain to me how 76% of Americans think we’re on the wrong track as a nation because they don’t like what has happened to our culture?

    Were all the respondants in that poll somehow not part of American culture? Did they just get lucky and happen to call all the (very few) upstanding people that are left?

    Because I’m being asked to believe that (1) our culture celebrates licentiousness, a loss of community, and the fact that there is no right or wrong, and (2) our culture is very worried about the fact that there’s so much licentiousness, a loss of community, and so on.

    How’s that work?

  • SKPeterson

    The thing I found interesting was the concern over soldiers posing with body parts and or dead enemy combatants as sign of the decline over culture. It’s like that never happened before in Viet Nam, or Korea, or Europe, or the Pacific. Or even at places like Gettysburg or the Wilderness.

  • SKPeterson

    The thing I found interesting was the concern over soldiers posing with body parts and or dead enemy combatants as sign of the decline over culture. It’s like that never happened before in Viet Nam, or Korea, or Europe, or the Pacific. Or even at places like Gettysburg or the Wilderness.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Right SK. It never happened there. Never. No one ever collected trophies in the form of scalps, made necklaces with ears, or any other such thing. We have always been a culture that thinks it is ok to shoot someone but never urinate on them. We certainly do not celebrate Liver Eating Johnson…

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Right SK. It never happened there. Never. No one ever collected trophies in the form of scalps, made necklaces with ears, or any other such thing. We have always been a culture that thinks it is ok to shoot someone but never urinate on them. We certainly do not celebrate Liver Eating Johnson…

  • Joe

    Bror said, “These guys are just genius in their ability to lose a job over a $30 dispute, and cause a controversy.”

    I thought it was a couple hundred bucks, but still the point is valid. I wonder how many now former SS agents are lined up to kick the living snot out of the guy who refused to pay …

  • Joe

    Bror said, “These guys are just genius in their ability to lose a job over a $30 dispute, and cause a controversy.”

    I thought it was a couple hundred bucks, but still the point is valid. I wonder how many now former SS agents are lined up to kick the living snot out of the guy who refused to pay …

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #12,

    Thank you for a good laugh! I thoroughly enjoy the extra effort you make to deliver your point on a needle sharp skewer of wit.

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #12,

    Thank you for a good laugh! I thoroughly enjoy the extra effort you make to deliver your point on a needle sharp skewer of wit.

  • kerner

    Bror and Joe:

    See, that’s why those guys should be forced out. Anybody that stupid is clearly too dumb to be qualified for the Secret Service.

    When those Marines made the video of themselves urinating on the dead terrorist I asked my son what he thought. He said they should be severely disciplined for forcing every other marine, soldier, sailor and airman to undergo the inevitable preachy training seminar designed to educate military personel as to why urinating on dead bodies is bad, and for forcing the taxpayers to pay for it. It was the best analysis on that event that I got from any source.

  • kerner

    Bror and Joe:

    See, that’s why those guys should be forced out. Anybody that stupid is clearly too dumb to be qualified for the Secret Service.

    When those Marines made the video of themselves urinating on the dead terrorist I asked my son what he thought. He said they should be severely disciplined for forcing every other marine, soldier, sailor and airman to undergo the inevitable preachy training seminar designed to educate military personel as to why urinating on dead bodies is bad, and for forcing the taxpayers to pay for it. It was the best analysis on that event that I got from any source.


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