Here we are in day five of Secret Service Colombian Hooker-gate. You know the story by now: In advance of President Obama’s visit to the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, members of the U.S. government’s elite security detail and members of the U.S. military were allegedly caught—while off duty, mind you—fraternizing with prostitutes. They were found out when one agent reportedly disagreed over the bill the morning after, leading the prostitute in question to stick around past 7 a.m. against hotel policy trying to collect what was owed her.
What’s the big deal, right? After all, the Prez did just sign a U.S.-Colombia free-trade deal, right?
But seriously, these associations with a criminal element can put people in power in compromising positions, precipitating all sorts of unintended outcomes, from blackmail to extortion and, if things get really serious, the throwing of baseball games.
As the President bent over backward to emphasize in his extremely measured statement on the matter, theirs is a difficult gig. (Rule No. 1 of the Presidency: Don’t ruffle the feathers of the agency charged with taking a bullet for your presidential ass, no matter how many hookers they’ve banged or uncouth their haggling skills.)
“These men and women perform extraordinary service on a day-to-day basis, protecting me, my family, U.S. officials. They do very hard work under very stressful circumstances and almost invariably do an outstanding job,” said Obama. “”If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I’ll be angry.”
The lukewarm condemnation was more father scolding his son for making time with the hot older neighbor chick than the most powerful man in the world dressing down the outfit charged with protecting the life of his family. (The agents in question were not part of his personal security detail.)
While it may not be “acceptable,” is it particularly surprising that a more-or-less military unit with one of the most high-stress jobs in the world arrived in a country that essentially has a Hamsterdam attitude toward prostitution and let loose? Isn’t this the very premise of naval Fleet Week and shore leave?
Yes, the Secret Service are expected to be ever vigilant, and the question of whether this shit goes down all the time is a fair one. Because either this is the first time this happened (the whole morning-after bargaining session sure sounds like a rookie mistake), or this isn’t the first time (and the haggling was more akin to arrogance).
Let’s pause here to ponder Americans’ puritanical views toward sex and prostitution and how they might be influencing whole situation:
a) Would this whole sordid affair be quite so sordid if Americans didn’t have a big crooked stick up their aggregate assess about what consenting adults do in bed—regardless of what they’re doing is for love, lust or money?
b) Would the accused agents be at risk of blackmail/extortion/etc. if prostitution weren’t so taboo here?
c) Would the agents be under as much scrutiny if they’d simply been partying with locals (after buying them dinner and drinks)?
(Lest this be read as condoning a boys-will-be-boys attitude, let me be clear that I advocate this keep-your-laws-out-of-the-bedroom position for all genders.)
When it comes down to it, the Secret Service have jobs—very hard ones—and it’s in all Americans’ interest they perform them perfectly. I’m no law enforcement expert but I’ve witnessed, both personally and professionally, the toll the job can take. Morale is important, and maybe a little after-hours/off-duty carousing is what maintains esprit de corps.
When I started writing this column, my intent was to end with five tips for Secret Service agents looking to have a little illicit fun while you’re enjoying diplomatic immunity—and I’ll get there—but the real actual take-away from all this? If you’re gonna pay for a little strange on the road, pay up front, and pay well. Remember the words of the immortal Charlie Sheen: You’re not paying them for sex, you’re paying them to leave.
5 Tips for Wayward Secret Service Agents:
- When purchasing illicit substances, remember the metric system. Everyone laughs when you ask for an ounce.
- When betting over/under on futbol, always take the under.
- When engaging in high-stakes poker, know your exchange rates. Raising a couple million yen may sound like a lot, but you’ll just be insulting your hosts.
- Much like the unsavory end of a bullfight, in many countries, horse race losers are killed and then eaten. (True fact!)
- Countries that have been pushed around in one way or another by the United States don’t take kindly to government officials taking advantage of their young girls, and especially don’t like them being short-changed for the privilege.