Politics & Policy

Grope and Change

President Barack Obama at the Americas Summit in Cartagena, Colombia
It’s time to halve the motorcade, halve the security detail, halve the hookers.

Unlike the government of the United States, I can’t claim any hands-on experience with Colombian hookers. But I was impressed by the rates charged by Miss Dania Suarez, and even more impressed by the U.S. Secret Service’s response to them.

Cartagena’s most famous “escort” costs $800. For purposes of comparison, you can book Eliot Spitzer’s “escort” for $300. Yet, on the cold grey fiscally conservative morning after the wild socially liberal night before, Dania’s Secret Service agent offered her a mere $28.

Twenty-eight bucks! What a remarkably precise sum. Thirty dollars less a federal handling fee? Why isn’t this guy Obama’s treasury secretary or budget director? Or, at the very least, the head honcho of the General Services Administration, whose previous director has sadly had to step down after the agency’s taxpayer-funded public-servants-gone-wild Bacchanal in Vegas.

All over this dying republic, you couldn’t find a single solitary $28 item that doesn’t wind up costing at least 800 bucks by the time it’s been sluiced through the federal budgeting process. Yet, in one plucky little corner of the Secret Service, supervisor David Chaney, dog-handler Greg Stokes, or one of the other nine agents managed to turn the principles of government procurement on their head. If the same fiscal prudence were applied to the 2011 Obama budget, the $3.598 trillion splurge would have cost just shy of $126 billion. The feds’ half a billion to Solyndra would have been a mere $18 million. The 823-grand GSA conference on government efficiency at the M Resort Spa & Casino would have come in at $28,805.

Chaney-Stokes 2012! Grope . . . and Change! Red lights, not red ink.

#ad#Alas, young Miss Suarez, just 24 and with a nine-year-old son and a ravenous pimp to feed, didn’t care for the cut of her Secret Service man’s jib. He made the fairly basic mistake — for an expensively trained government operative — of attempting to pay a prostitute in the hotel corridor, and Dania caused an altercation whose fallout has brought the Secret Service to its knees. Which isn’t how these encounters usually go.

What we know so far is this: All eleven Secret Service men and all ten U.S. military personnel staying at the Hotel Caribe are alleged to have had “escorts” in their rooms that night. All of them. The entire team.

Twenty-one U.S. public servants. Twenty-one Colombian whores. Unless a couple of the senior guys splashed out for the two-girl special. “Some of them were saying they didn’t know they were prostitutes,” explained Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

“Some are saying they were women at the bar.”

Amazing to hear government agents channeling Dudley Moore in Arthur: “You’re a hooker? I thought I was doing so well.” It turns out U.S. Secret Service agents are the only men who can walk into a Colombian nightclub and not spot the professionals. Are they really the guys you want protecting the president?

Congress is not happy about this. “It was totally wrong to take a foreign national back to a hotel when the president is about to arrive,” said Representative King.

It’s wrong to take a “foreign national” up to the room, but it would have been okay if she’d been from Des Moines? We’re all in favor of outsourcing, but in compliance with Section 27(e)viii of the PATRIOT Act this is the one job Americans will do?

With respect to the congressman, sometimes it helps to step back and consider the bigger picture. Why were 21 officials of the United States government able to enjoy a night of pleasure with 21 prostitutes, whether “foreign nationals” or all-American? The answer isn’t difficult. Indeed, one retired agent spelled it out: “They just didn’t have anything to do.”

So they did Dania Suarez and her friends instead.

The 21 dedicated public servants jetted in on the so-called car-planes, the big transports flying in the tinted-windowed black Suburbans for the presidential motorcade. The “car-plane” guys show up a few days in advance, but usually two weeks or so after the really advanced advance team has hit the ground. And there was nothing for them to do. There is no reason for them to be there.

So instead they went to the Pleyclub.

As I understand it, the 21 public servants did not technically bill U.S. taxpayers for their “escorts.” But you suckers paid for them to fly to Cartagena, and they were enjoying those women on your time. On foreign trips, aside from the 40 or so armored limousines, there are usually 200 Secret Service agents plus a couple of dozen sniffer dogs. Did the latter take any Colombian bitches back to their kennels? Or are they just the entrée for Obama’s embassy banquet?

#page#I’ve written before about the U.S. government’s motorcade culture. Just last month, it cost U.S. taxpayers half a million bucks to fly Obama and David Cameron to Dayton, Ohio, to pretend to enjoy a basketball game. I’ve attended previous “Summits of the Americas” and G7 meetings and other international confabs, and always heard the same story wearily retailed by representatives of the host nation — that the money-no-object Yanks are flying in a bigger and more disruptive presidential entourage than everybody else put together. At this point, the local official usually rolls his eyes, and mostly, but not always, leaves the thought unspoken:

“Americans! What do you expect?” The Queen routinely turns down requests from visiting U.S. presidents to reinforce the garden walls and replace the windows of Buckingham Palace — for an overnight stay. When the U.S. was the richest country on earth, the mad excess used to impress in a crude kind of way: If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Now it’s the Brokest Nation in History: America hasn’t got it, but still flaunts it. Which is kind of pathetic.

#ad#Does more equal better? No. All eleven Secret Service johns had their “security clearances” canceled. That still leaves over 4 million Americans (or about 2 percent of the adult population) with “security clearances,” and, according to the director of national intelligence last October, just under 1.5 million federal employees with “top secret”clearances. Which helps explain why one army private was able singlehandedly to download bazillions of (admittedly mostly worthless) “secrets” for WikiLeaks. Imagine the entire population of New Zealand with security clearances, and the entire population of Philadelphia or Phoenix with “top secret” clearances.

And yet the more guys on the payroll, the less anyone does. For all the hooker-cavorting among a bored entourage with time on its hands, there was no one to proofread President Obama’s speech. So he stood up in public and attempted to pander to the Latins by referring to the sovereign British territory of the Falkland Islands by the designation of its temporary Argentine usurpers 30 years ago: “Las Malvinas.” Except that his writers got it wrong. So the president of the United States called it “the Maldives,” an entirely different bit of British Commonwealth real estate half a world away in the Indian Ocean. Were the speechwriting staff also face down in the hooker bar? “Jush a minute, baby. Hic. The preshhhiduh wansh a couple rewrites. ‘I call on London to return British Columbia to Colombia.’ Thash should do it. Lesh go back to my room and I’ll show you my prompter.”

It’s not just the entitlements. Everywhere you look in the bloated federal Leviathan, all is waste, all is excess. But the absurd imperial presidency is a good place to start. The next citizen-executive of this republic would be sending a right message were he to halve the motorcade, halve the security detail, halve the hookers.

Otherwise, America’s foreign creditors will start to figure out that another half decade of U.S. spendaholism and they’re likely to wind up like Dania Suarez: You loan the U.S. government $800 billion, and come the due day the treasury secretary reaches in his pocket and says: “So how about we call it 28 bucks even?”

Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2012 Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist. That’s to say, his latest book, After America (2011), is a top-five bestseller in ...

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