The federal government by definition has to make a federal case out of everything it touches, from mandating toilets that barely flush to prescribing how many calories must go into a schoolboy's lunch.
So we can't be surprised that the Secret Service will assign nannies and chaperones to monitor the bedtime behavior of the president's bodyguards on their trips abroad.
These "senior-level chaperones" will accompany agents to enforce "conduct rules" on foreign trips. This should please Congress, which as we all know is shocked — shocked! — by naughty behavior. Rep. Peter King of New York, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, praises new rules and the introduction of Official U.S. Government Nannies as "very positive steps by the Secret Service to make clear what is expected of every agent and also makes clear what will not be tolerated."
The best thing about the nannies, from the point of view of the feds, is that it opens possibilities for vast expansion of the government. Soon we will have a new government agency to recruit, train and supervise the nannies and chaperones. This will requires acres of new bureaucratic turf, and thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of "supervisory personnel." Simple solutions to small problems is not the government way.
However, there is a cheap, thrifty and effective way to monitor the bedtime affections and ablutions of Secret Service agents abroad. It's so simple that a cave man could do it, even if he would prefer to drag a nocturnal visitor by her hair back to his cave at the Holiday Inn.
No chaperone would be as effective as a wife. The simple video baby monitor, familiar to new parents everywhere, could be connected to a telephone to give Secret Service wives back home an instant view of the beds of their wandering boys. The Lavana Babyview 20 Interference-Free Digital Wireless Monitor, for example, with Night Light and Lullaby Camera, is advertised on the Internet for a mere $119.99, with one-day shipping.
This monitor and others like it would be easily connected to the abandoned hearth, and a wife could dial up access at any time during day or night. This would be far more effective and far less expensive, even with one-day shipping, than hiring thousands of chaperones and paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries, benefits, overtime, bonuses and travel expenses. Wives would pay far closer attention than mere professional chaperones.
The Secret Service has assigned crack wordsmiths to write "rules of conduct" for agents abroad, to make clear that excessive drinking, entertaining foreigners in their hotel rooms and "cavorting in disreputable establishments" will not be tolerated. Mark Sullivan, trying to save his job as director of the agency, urges his employes to "consider your conduct through the lens of the past several weeks." What better lens than the lens of a Video Baby Monitor, with or without the Night Light and Lullaby Camera?
The military, not yet recovered from the shock of learning that American soldiers joined the Secret Service in cavorting with the daughters of desire in Cartagena, insists that loose women are "incompatible" with military life. (Who knew?) A soldier, seaman or Marine caught paying for sex faces a court martial and could spend a year in the brig or stockade. But if the military enforces this rule, it will deplete the ranks and shutter the thousands of massage parlors and other dens of sensual suggestion surrounding military bases around the world.
The threat by the Pentagon is meant for consumption only by whoever is credulous enough to believe it. "He-ing and she-ing" has been going rife in the ranks since centuries before the Peloponnesian War. Sailors still have girls in every port but civilized soldiers are no longer entitled to carry off women as booty of war. So we've made some progress, even without a court-martial.
The Army, in one little-known asterisk to war, once operated a brothel. Sydney Hyman, the distinguished historian and a speechwriter for JFK, landed in Tunisia with the U.S. 1st Armored Division in 1942 and when the division overran one town it inherited several bordellos that townspeople regarded as public utilities, like water and electricity.
The Army was stumped until Mr. Hyman was assigned to find a solution, "one that would keep the women employed until we moved on but not bring down on us the wrath of the mothers of America." He came up with the device of issuing admission cards, suitable for punching, to every GI, entitling him to "Target Practice on the Range." Who could object to careful aim? Problem solved. The Army soldiered on. The rest is history.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
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