I swore to myself that I would not discuss this issue on my blog. But the sustained interest in this tawdry affair demands some sort of comment. In a recent Yahoo news story, for example, we are told that the DEA is now involved in the prostitution scandal that recently rocked the Secret Service.
Two of the agents allegedly had encounters with masseuses in the apartment of one of the agents, according to Sen. Susan Collins, the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“It’s disturbing that we may be uncovering a troubling culture that spans more than one law enforcement agency,” the Maine Republican said this evening. “In addition to the Secret Service scandal, we now learn that at least two DEA agents apparently entertained female foreign national masseuses in the Cartagena apartment of one of the agents. The evidence uncovered thus far indicates that this likely was not just a one-time incident.”
Needless to say, it is the Republicans who want to keep our collective attention focused on these incidents, as though the Democratic President is personally or professionally responsible for what the people around him do in their free time. This is absurd on its face. Obama is responsible for a great many sins of omissions and commission, I dare say. We all are, including Senator Collins. But these would be acts the man committed himself or knew about and refused to take action to prevent. In the cases before us, there is simply no way he could be held responsible for actions agents of his government engaged in while out of his sight and hearing in their free time in a country in which prostitution is perfectly legal.
Generally speaking, prostitution is a “victimless crime.” That is to say, no harm, no foul. Sex between consulting adults in a country where that law allows women to receive cash payment for sex, cannot be viewed as a crime except by the neo-Puritans among us who simply think that prostitution is “wrong.” What possible grounds could there be for condemning legal acts in which no one is harmed and both participants consent? There might be a moral issue if the women were forced into prostitution, as is sometimes the case. But this is not the case in Cartagena where the women who prostitute themselves do so voluntarily and, apparently, routinely. To be sure, many in our society find prostitution offensive for personal reasons, but that’s their problem. As a recent story in the New York Times noted following the scandal involving the security forces, Many here [in Cartagena] are perplexed about why the Americans have made such a fuss over something as unremarkable, in local eyes, as a man taking a woman to a hotel room, and paying for sex.
In the case of the Secret Service personnel who were supposed to protect the President, the situation is a bit more complex. There is some concern that secrets may have been divulged to the prostitutes, though it “beggars belief,” as the English would say. In any case, isn’t that always a possibility when two people are intimate? If secrets were revealed by the security people, it is irrelevant that the people who were supposedly told these secrets were prostitutes. The problem in this case is simply one of keeping security personnel away from anyone who might be told something that the government regards as a risk to national security. But this would mean keeping security personnel away from everyone, which is clearly absurd. One must trust that those with the highest clearance will not betray that trust.
The real issue here, as I see it, is that the Republicans want to make political hay out of an issue they think will help them regain the White House. It’s as simple as that. And it may indeed work if they are able to keep the issue afloat (as they seem to be doing) until well into the Summer and even into the Fall. The average citizen loves to read about this sort of thing and to cast stones from their glass house. So I dare say we will hear more about this sordid affair, even though it is hardly worth a moment of our time.