Don't Overreact to the Secret Service, GSA Scandals

A handful of badly-behaving agents and employees shouldn't detract from the entire government workforce as a whole.

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Government employees and elected officials understand they are to be held to a higher standard, be it a question of behavior or cost control. But is that any reason to denigrate government employees as a whole?

Yes, the Secret Service agents accused of patronizing prostitutes while on assignment behaved badly and should be disciplined. But critics are talking about the episode as though it's reflective of something much, much larger than it is. A massive breach of security? Not really, President Obama had not even arrived in Colombia when the events occurred, and the idea that a prostitute could somehow blackmail an agent (Tell me where the president keeps the nuclear codes, or I'll tell your wife!) is just laughable. Even more ridiculous is failed vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's comment that the Secret Service members' behavior is proof of Obama's "poor management skills." The president isn't doing any day-to-day management of the people assigned to protect him; it would be even more alarming if he were micro-managing that way.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Secret Service scandal.]

Those of us who have traveled with presidents have witnessed first hand the focus, courage, and commitment of the Secret Service. A handful of badly-behaving agents shouldn't detract from that.

The General Services Administration scandal, as well, has given a black eye to government service. But where is the outrage when private corporations hold lavish retreats, then give huge bonuses to executives while short-changing the public? Walmart is under fire for allegedly paying bribes to public officials in Mexico to secure their market there. But has the entire institution of private enterprise been slammed because of it?

[Washington Whispers: GSA Heads Slammed During Congressional Hearing]

Standards are important for public and private sector workers. But if we denigrate the entire idea of public service, we will only attract the worst elements to the job. And then we really end up with the government we deserve.