Joe Gandelman, 10/3/2014 [Archive]

The Barney Fife Secret Service

Independent's Eye by Joe Gandelman

Law enforcement has long been a popular subject in film comedy. It looks like some producer now has a lot of potential material.

In the early 20th century,the incompetent Keystone Cops did big "B.O." (Variety's old term for "box office,"although it also means "body odor") for Mack Sennett and his Keystone Film Company. With itscast including later-to-be-famous actors such as Edgar Kennedy and Fatty "Roscoe" Arbuckle,plus long-forgotten actors who only made a short or two, The Keystone Cops set the entertainment template for bumbling, awkward, don't-have-a-clue, show biz-portrayed, law enforcement stereotypes.

In 1960, "The Andy Griffith Show" gave audiences Don Knotts' immortal, smug and naive, blowhard deputy Barney Fife.TV Guide later declared Barney Fife one of the 50 greatest TV characters of all time. Calling a cop "Barney Fife" is today a put-down. In 1963, Blake Edwards' "The Pink Panther" starredDavid Niven, but it's surprise breakout character was the ever -bumbling, inept French Chief Inspector Jacques Cleausou, so perfectly crafted by Peter Sellers that Cleausou sparked a long series of "Pink Panther" movie sequels.

Somewhere a new producer is salivating, because the Secret Service seems poised to inspire a new joke:

What do the Keystone Cops, Barney Fife and Inspector Clouseau have in common? The Keystone Cops and Barney Fife were hired by the Secret Service -- and Inspector Clouseau as its consultant.

It'd be funny, if it wasn't so outrageous and terrifyingly dangerous.

More details keep emerging about a Secret Service that seems so sloppy it borders on negligence, with the potential of enabling a future tragedy that will be near-criminal negligence. If the trending continues without some ASAP fix, get ready to mourn another President or members of a President's family-- or both.

A new tidbit comes from the website Inside Sources which,in an "exclusive," reports that in the lead up to the 2012 election a Secret Service agent provided details of President Barack Obama's schedule to Republican nominee Mitt Romney's camp several days before they were made public. According to the website, a married Secret Service agent did it to impress a female Romney staffer. While that isn't as bad as would-be Reagan assassin John Hinckley, Jr.'s"I did it to impress Jodie Foster," it isn't an impressive reflection of the agency's purportedly stringent hiring and screening processes.

Add to that the stunning revelation via The Washington Post that the Secret Service let a contractor who was armed and had a criminal record get into an elevator with Obama. And then there were revelationsthat contradicted earlier Secret Service-provided info: White House gate jumper Omar Gonzalez was indeed armed, got farther into the White House residence than reported and was tackled by an off-duty Secret Service agent.

Plus the earlier gate jumper-- and the case in March of three Secret Service agents sent home early from an Obama trip to Amsterdam due to alleged drinking.

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned after a dismal performance atCongressional hearings, but the "last straw" for the White House was reportedlynews of the elevator incident. Now some pundits wonder whether Pierson was the victim ofa "glass cliff" --a woman hired to clean up an impossible mess made by a man. Nope:

The REAL issue is that after John F. Kennedy's assassination, the agency vowed to tighten up its security and leave absolutely NOTHING to chance.A small number of agents and agency managers seem to have forgotten the nation's -- and its own-- traumas. The danger is no longer just from domestic nutcases or domestic conspirators with guns, but from terrorist groups with gunsand various bombs, who love beheading high-profile victims and posting snuff videos on You Tube.

You read it here first:soon you'll see a TV or movie comedy featuring an inept Secret Service agent, because producers know it'll get "big B.O." -- due to the other kind of "B.O.,"an overpowering institutional B.O coming from a once-respected agency.

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Copyright 2014 Joe Gandelman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panelsand is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. He also writes for The Week's online edition. CNN's John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at jgandelman@themoderatevoice.com and can be booked to speak at www.mavenproductions.com. Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joegandelman

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinion are solely those of the author.

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