Don’t let sex scandal derail Secret Service

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With the Republican primary winding down and months to go before the electorate really begins to focus on the November elections, pundits were beginning to worry that the “summer doldrums” would set in early this year. Their worries are over. A new scandal has broken — one involving the talking heads’ favorite topic: sex.

Unfortunately, this latest brouhaha is casting a shadow over one of the premier law enforcement agencies in the country: the United States Secret Service. And while President Barack Obama thus far has not waded into the fray prematurely (as he did in the Trayvon Martin shooting) by issuing intemperate statements, others in Washington have not been so careful with their handling of the scandal. Calls for heads to roll and for public hearings on the Hill are already echoing across the Tidal Basin.

The seeds of this scandal were sown a few days before President Obama visited the Caribbean resort town of Cartagena, Colombia to attend and speak at the Summit of the Americas. About a dozen members of the Secret Service advance team decided to party at a local club, and the festivities apparently continued into the next morning at the hotel where the agents were staying. A dispute over how much money was owed one of the party girls apparently was the spark that ignited the scandal’s flame, which has now led to at least three agents leaving the Service, and perhaps more departures in the offing.

Certainly this is a major problem for the Secret Service. In the first place, such conduct clearly compromises the men involved. More important to the work of this 147-year-old law enforcement agency, however, the scandal raises serious questions about the training received by and the judgment exercised by Secret Service special agents, particularly those on presidential details. (For example, did these trained security experts not realize hotel video cameras would record the comings and goings of them and their female escorts?)

The president of the United States deserves better from the agency whose sworn duty it is to protect him and his family at all times; answers must be provided and steps must be taken to ensure such behavior does not recur. However, it’s possible to handle such matters in a way that is productive and professional, and rushing to judgment or calling for public hearings to skewer officials before the facts are in is neither appropriate nor productive. Mitt Romney, who yearns to be president and is almost certainly going to be the Republican nominee, should bite his tongue and stop issuing pronouncements on the scandal or enlightening us as to what he would do “if he were president.”

Let the director of the Secret Service do his job — which he already has begun to do — and let the oversight committees make any necessary adjustments in due course, if such are necessary. The Secret Service is too fine an agency, and its mission too critical, to allow this unfortunate episode to damage its legacy or, more importantly, its future.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He provides regular commentary to Daily Caller readers.