According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 71 percent of Americans report that they have had an alcoholic drink over the past year. That means that 29 percent have not. Another way of putting it is that over 75 million Americans have a particular skill or quality that would make them better Secret Service agents than many who currently are on the job.
After four Secret Service scandals over the past three years, it is time to reconsider which people are most fit to protect our president and other high-ranking officials. It is unacceptable to have this many Secret Service scandals, each of which involves drinking, partying, or lack of attention while on the job.
I remember going to college in Washington, DC and having a roommate who aspired to be a Secret Service agent. While I have not seen him in 45 years, I recall clearly the standards that were set for him, and perhaps more importantly, the standards that he set for himself. He was going to be a straight-arrow, someone who didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t womanize, and who wouldn’t do anything that in the conventional sense could be considered unpatriotic. I am confident that he has had a successful career in the Secret Service or another similar agency.
The fact that someone is a teetotaler or does not party does not ensure that he or she would be a good secret service agent, but it’s a good start. Today, when some secret service agents are either drinking and partying while on the job, or are just not alert enough to protect the president, we need to consider new standards to which a Secret Service applicant must conform. Perhaps this does not have to be permanent, but it might be necessary for a period of time, while the agency reshapes itself and brings back the integrity necessary for an agency with such a high level of responsibility.
Are we to believe that Secret Service agents are to be swashbucklers who are as well-armed as they are hard-partiers? If so, they mistake the key characteristic of the swashbuckler; the one who can come to the rescue and protect. In an era in which the entertainment industry projects most human heroes as people who ply their skills in a world of vice, then perhaps too many current Secret Service agents have a mistaken notion of what their jobs really entail. It does not include going to a Washington party and then recklessly driving back to the White House under the influence. It should be more like a common description of work for men and women in the military, on police forces, in the cockpits of planes, or a number of other extremely important jobs: “interminable boredom punctuated by moments of terror.”
I am growing a little tired of the president’s constant support for the Secret Service despite these scandals. Undoubtedly, he has loyalty to the good apples in the barrel, but the institution has a rotten core. As has been suggested by others, the Secret Service needs a new leader who comes from the outside. And when he or she gets around to revising standards for membership in the Service, he might want to place a special premium on teetotalers.