The Secret Service agents implicated in the prostitution scandal in Columbia probably never saw the Clint Hill interview with Mike Wallace on 60 minutes. If they had, there wouldn’t be a scandal.
The last time I worked with the Service was 2008 when they were protecting Renaissance at San Jose State University, in January of the following year she became the first lady of the United States. But in all of my experience with those who protect Presidents and would-be Presidents, there has never been a doubt in my mind that they are the most serious, focused, obsessive, humorless and professional people on the face of the planet That is as it should be; as their job duties include putting themselves in harm’s way to protect the leader of the free world.
That’s why it was beyond fathomable that an advance party of these highly trained public servants would be exposed in a scandal. In their world, everybody gets a background check, every threat is real and nobody is allowed to breach security protocols. Nobody.
In the famous Clint Hill interview, Wallace talked to the former Secret Service Agent who was in Dallas to protect President John Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The guilt-ridden agent confessed to being at fault in the President’s death for not moving fast enough. A sympathetic Wallace and the American public would interpret the action as ‘survivor’s guilt’.
But Hill understood, as does every agent in the Service, that failure is not an option. He had failed, as did every member of the detail. The consequences of that failure resulted in an abrupt change in history. There are no do-overs and therapy does not absolve one of a failure to fulfill their duty.
This President has a unique set of threats and the Service has more than their share of challenges. The pressure to perform flawlessly in a job that does not allow for any error is intense. That’s why the actions of a few are so alarming and out of character with their inviolable mission.
More than a few of us who support this President worry about his safety. Until last week, I was confident he had the best protection possible. That any agent would compromise his security, even unintentionally, was never a previous concern.
But if an agent needs a reminder of their mission and the consequences of failure, let them re-watch the Clint Hill/Wallace interview.