The Ramirez episode is only the most recent Secret Service bungle that calls into question President Bush's safety. Just earlier this month, the federal protection squad allowed a Ugandan joker -- with no press credentials and no passport -- to slip onto a press bus during Bush's South Africa trip and board a press charter plane that shadows Air Force One. Not one Secret Service agent noticed him during the four-hour flight, or during another press bus ride that the stowaway took to a Bush event at Lake Victoria. It was a White House press officer who finally detected the media charlatan.
The president was never in any danger, argues the Secret Service incredibly.
The service also insists he wasn't in harm's way in February when the Rev. Rich Weaver, an infamous publicity stuntman known as the "Handshake Man" who has evaded White House security for years, eluded Secret Service agents at a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., and lifted the rope around Bush's table to give the president a personal letter.
Insight Magazine investigative reporter John Berlau has reported on far more serious security breakdowns involving the White House's computerized access-control system operated by the Secret Service. And U.S. News and World Report recently charged that the service maintains "inadequate oversight" in disciplining misconduct. "Holdovers at the agency still are more interested in suppressing internal criticism than in fixing security problems," Berlau notes.
In an age of terror, America's president needs competent lifesavers, not cartoonish face-savers. Heads should roll -- and no, Secret Service geniuses, I don't mean that literally.