As one old enough to recall the national trauma of the murder of John F. Kennedy and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, I saw nothing funny in the jokes by late-night comedians ridiculing the Secret Service over the recent intrusion of an armed man into the White House.
And given the scandal about Veterans Administration health care, the disastrous rollout of the Obamacare website and the summer’s breach of the border by Central American children, I’m not exactly reassured by the experts declaring Ebola can be controlled now that we have the first case of a sick traveler in the country.
Is President Barack Obama safe in the White House? Are we safe from infection by a deadly disease raging out of control in West Africa?
I believe the answer to both is yes.
But the Secret Service isn’t inspiring a lot of confidence. Not only did it fail to stop Omar J. Gonzalez, said to be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, from invading the White House with a knife, it lied about how serious the transgression was. Gonzalez climbed over a fence, ran across the lawn into the White House and wandered into the East Room and past a staircase leading to the presidential family’s living quarters before being apprehended.
No guard dog was released as the intruder ran across the grounds. No emergency locking of doors closed off the Executive Mansion. The agent who finally tackled Gonzalez was off duty and just happened to be passing by. Fortunately, Obama and his family had left the White House shortly before. The Secret Service praised itself for restraint, but count me among those who believe that when someone crashes into the White House, he should be shot, not chased.
The Secret Service’s response is to consider moving tourists off the sidewalks around the White House. Bad idea. We can’t wall off the national home of our republic. A better idea is new leadership for the service. Director Julia Pierson was as unimpressive in her bland, bureaucratic answers to a congressional hearing Tuesday as the service has been in guarding the president. She resigned Wednesday.
As unsettling as these security problems are, now we have to deal with the announcement that a traveler from Liberia is hospitalized in Dallas with Ebola.