How many Americans have ever heard of IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman? How many could pick him out of a lineup if their lives depended on it? Not one in a million, you say? Don’t tell Shulman, who believes himself to be so famous that he requires Mick Jagger-level personal protection. Before Shulman sat down to eat in an upscale Washington restaurant last week, at least two members of his federal security detail checked the dining room for threats. They stayed with the virtually-anonymous-yet-apparently-gravely-imperiled commissioner throughout the meal.
And if you think that’s overkill, consider the security retinue that travels with Gen. James Jones, the national security adviser, when he eats in public. One local maitre’d counted no fewer than six bodyguards the other day. The group showed up more than an hour before Jones himself, and demanded that the retired Marine general be given a specific table. Keep in mind that this took place in downtown Washington, D.C., during daylight hours, one of the safest, most cop-saturated places on Earth.
But for obnoxious, nothing beats the flamboyant power play Valerie Jarrett staged at Dulles Airport not long ago. Jarrett’s official job title is “assistant to the president for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs,” whatever that means, though her power derives from her friendship with Barack Obama. And that’s also how she gets to the departure gate faster than the rest of us. Jarrett cruised through the airport at high speed with at least three members of a security detail, all paid for by tax dollars.
The line between government-issued bodyguard and manservant has always been thin in Washington, and never more so than now. By all accounts, the Obama administration has dramatically increased the number and scope of the security details that protect but mostly serve its appointees. Has Washington become a dramatically more dangerous place to work? Of course not. But they can. So they did.