It goes without saying that there are a lot of reasons why Barack Obama is president of the United States of America — and I’m not.
The list, obviously, is long. But what has been churning over and over in my mind lately is his seemingly endless amount of patience, which, I guess, springs from a deep reservoir of self-confidence and capacity to forgive.
Despite the way many among the ranks of the nation’s staunchest conservatives try to paint him as weak, slow to act and, often, indifferent, he is a rock, albeit it a thoughtful one, not given to knee-jerk bristling and idle threats, just to appear strong and decisive. When he says he wants to give diplomacy a chance to work, before using more violent methods, he means it.
But, again, his ability to be incredibly patient has me scratching my head. The recent revelation that two senior members of the U.S. Secret Service — one of them the No. 2 person on the president’s security detail — are accused of crashing a car into a White House security barrier, allegedly, after a night of drinking at a local bar, prompts me to write.
The duty of these men and others like them, remember, is to protect the president and his family from harm — from terrorists, crazed fence-jumpers and even, yes, drunks who run into the fence around the president’s yard.
If this were just the first embarrassing lapse on the part of the agency’s supposedly highly trained, dedicated and determined officers, the president’s calm sense of patience, and his continued confidence in the man he picked to straighten out the agency a few weeks ago, would be understandable.
Alas, this is not the first deeply disturbing incident that, I think, has put the president, his family members and others in serious jeopardy. It is likely just the grace of God that something horrible hasn’t happened, considering the apparent ineptness of those who traditionally have been characterized as willing to risk their own lives to protect the president’s. Since Barack Obama has been president, there have been far too many such confounding episodes to give any American citizen the confidence that their Commander-In-Chief and the leader of the free world is well-protected.
Just in the last six months, as a recent Associated Press report will attest, “several top agency officials, including former Director Julian Pierson, have been forced out amid revelations of multiple, serious presidential security breaches.
“In September, a Texas man, armed with a knife, was able to climb a White House fence and run deep into the executive mansion before being apprehended.” That man, a war veteran, pleaded guilty to charges in the case this week and is awaiting sentencing. Earlier, in Atlanta, agents were surprised that an unauthorized man, armed with a gun, managed to get on an elevator with the president. Fortunately, the man apparently had no intention of harming the president, but, even so, the lapse could have led to tragedy.
Another major embarrassment for the agency, and a black eye for the nation, occurred nearly two years ago, during the president’s trip to attend the Summit of the Americas in Cartogena, Colombia. The trip was marred by allegations of agents and military personnel consorting with prostitutes and consuming copious amounts of alcohol. According to published reports, one local prostitute claimed she could have easily obtained confidential, and highly sensitive, U.S. information — if she had been so inclined.
A recent internal investigation, according to the Associated Press, concluded that there were, indeed, serious problems in the agency. And a panel of former senior officials determined that the agency was too insular. Given all of that, I was surprised to see the president, on Thursday, following the revelation of the Secret Service gate crashers, calmly insist that he still has full confidence in recently appointed Director Joseph Clancy, who is, by all measures, an agency insider.
What’s even more troubling is that Clancy, the man picked to clean up the agency, according to published reports, didn’t even find out about the gate incident until days after it occurred. Does that sound like he’s really on top of things at his agency?
Nevertheless, a White House spokesman quickly confirmed that President Obama still believes Clancy is the right man to fix the problems. “Nobody has higher standards for the Secret Service than Director Clancy,” said Eric Schultz, according to the Associated Press.
OK, OK, I told myself, that’s just for public consumption, right? Behind closed doors, maybe President Obama was jumping up and down on the table in the war room, yelling at the top of his voice and throwing things against the wall to get the point across that he is pissed and isn’t going to take it anymore. I say that, because that is probably what I would have done.
But, like I said, he and I are different. For one thing, Barack Obama is one of the coolest dude’s I’ve ever seen. Just the way he walks — he’s got swagger for days, and the way he talks — he takes cool to it’s outer limits.
Part of me admires his sense of calm, collected control. There is one other man, whom I have encountered in my life, who exhibited that kind of calm at the center of his being; Oliver Tambo, who was president of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, during the days of apartheid. I once sat across a table from him during a meeting in an editorial conference room at The Atlanta Journal- Constitution. His sense of being totally centered-down and calm has stayed with me all these years. And from what I’d seen of Nelson Mandela, and know about how he handled his many struggles, he must have been that way, too.
But, I just hope my president, Barack Obama, doesn’t let cool betray him. Sometimes, you can be too cool.