What has happened, and when did it start? Did it begin with Bill Clinton? I rather think so. One of the Arkansas state troopers with whom I became familiar suggested as much. He was a well-educated man and at one time a friend of Bill's. He told me, "Clinton's treating his Secret Service detail the way he treated his Arkansas trooper detail." My friend was referring to Clinton's propensity for giving his bodyguards the "residuals," the women that he had tired of or that did not measure up.
I have known Secret Service agents as far back as the Nixon years. They were always first rate and straight as an arrow. They were devoted to their principle. I remember when Spiro Agnew had to leave the vice presidency, his Secret Service detail on their off-hours moved his effects from his office. I doubt such loyalty is practiced today. A source for The American Spectator tells the indefatigable Jeffrey Lord that owing to Liberal bugaboos such as affirmative action for minorities and women, "the bar was lowered significantly. Now that affects ALL hires of the Service regardless of race." As a consequence, when combined with "the societal attitudes of the latest generations and their general lack of education, commitment and reality," the result is a "dumbed down" agency. And our source goes on to say Cartagena was "only the tip of the iceberg."
Can the Secret Service recover? Some are calling this scandal the worst in its history. Actually, the Secret Service was born of scandal. Thomas Craughwell tells us in his book, "Stealing Lincoln's Body," that the agency was set up in 1865 to combat counterfeiting. Half the paper money in the Midwest was counterfeit. The Secret Service was successful in part because it hired as agents wayward counterfeiters. Such agents were great at putting the cuffs on active counterfeiters, but somehow the counterfeiters' booty kept disappearing. The answer was to bring in incorruptible new leaders such as Chicago's Chief of Police Elmer Washburn, who brought with him his own kind of incorruptible agents, for instance, the agent who broke the plot by counterfeiters to steal President Abraham Lincoln's body in 1876, Captain P. D. Tyrrell.
In a new biography of Lincoln's son Robert, "Giant in the Shadows," Jason Emerson demonstrates how under Washburn the Service arose from corruption and became a police force of the first rank. Tyrrell, my great-great-grandfather, though from remote Chicago, became "one of the service's most outstanding operatives and later in his career would be considered one of the most distinguished law-enforcement officers in the country." You will understand why I, for one, am hoping for an Elmer Washburn to appear.