|Claude Rains as Captain Renault|
One of my favorites (and, I am not alone on this) was Casablanca. The romantic WW II classic starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman had a great supporting cast including Claude Rains as a corrupt French policeman.
The ordering by the Nazi’s to find a reason to shut down Rick’s Café (Bogart’s establishment) elicits the following dialog between Rick and Rain’s Captain Renault
Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.
I thought of him this week when the news broke of members of the Secret Service and (gasp!) our very own military were discovered to have engaged the services of prostitutes in Colombia. I am shocked, shocked to find that members of our military and Secret Service engaged the services of prostitutes.
But, this is not a joke. There are a couple of issues here:
Prostitution is legal in Colombia. What's the controversy? Are we to hold these public servants to a standard that is above the law? Who sets the standard? How does a member of the Secret Service know what the standard is?
Well, there is a higher standard. It’s called a security clearance. And, though I seriously doubt that everyone who engages the services of a prostitute has had theirs lifted, in this case, that’s exactly what happened.
But, I wonder. Are activities that are legal some places but not others permissible? Drugs are legal in Switzerland and prostitution is legal in the Netherlands. Should members of the Secret Service be precluded from engaging in legal activities in other countries if they are not legal in the US?
The larger issue, of course, is the potential security risk associated with inviting prostitutes into a hotel room that houses the President's itinerary and other details of his trip to South America. What's to stop a potential terrorist or assassin from paying a prostitute to spirit away some of the confidential documents that contain these details in the middle of the night?
Something nearer to me personally is the scandal that just broke about alleged rapes at West Point and Annapolis and the associated cover-up. Two women – one from each of the Academies – have alleged that they were raped as students (cadets, midshipmen) and that senior officers were unresponsive to their complaints. If true, it is unconscionable. Women were first admitted to the Academies in 1976. By now, their participation in our armed forces and their evaluation on the basis of merit should be a matter of routine.
Tailhook scandal in 1992. Navy Lt. Paula Coughlin was forced to run a gauntlet of drunken pilots who groped her and tore at her clothes. The annual Tailhook convention was attended by some of the same senior officers who should have been preventing this type of behavior.
When the story broke, then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney asked for and received the resignation of the Secretary of the Navy (the Navy’s CEO), Lawrence Garrett III. Several senior officers were relieved of their responsibility and punished for the cover-up. The Navy embarked upon an education program to prevent future occurrences of sexual harassment.
It’s time for a refresher course.
There will always be breaches of acceptable conduct and there will always be cover-ups. The larger question is how will the leadership of these important institutions respond?
The Catholic Church covered up sexual abuse of children for decades, a breach that I still find the most egregious of any in my lifetime. Richard Nixon and his close advisors engaged in a cover-up of the Watergate burglary. The cover-up was worse than the crime.
So, it will be interesting to watch the events of the next few weeks. How will the LEADERS of these important institutions respond as the facts unfold? What will the current Secretaries of the Army and Navy do? How about the head of the Secret Service? How will they respond?
Will they act like true LEADERS? Or, will they act like Claude Rains?
WHO WILL LEAD?