For a Republican Party that has made no secret of its evident hatred for Barack Obama over the years, what are we to make of the expressed outrage that Republicans are showing over lapses in the Secret Service that ostensibly have put the nation’s first Black president at risk?
Is there true concern for the president’s safety — or an eagerness to highlight any human failure and embarrassment connected to the White House?
“You have a convicted felon within arm’s reach of the president, and they never did a background check,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who heads a House subcommittee that oversees the Secret Service, said of the security lapse in Atlanta that had an armed convicted felon riding on the elevator with Obama during his Sept. 16 visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to talk about Ebola.
“Words aren’t strong enough for the outrage I feel for the safety of the president and his family,” Chaffetz said. “His life was in danger. This country would be a different world today if he had pulled out his gun.”
For those who don’t remember, Chaffetz is the Tea Party favorite who last year initiated the Republican chatter about impeaching Obama. During the midst of the loud Republican cries about the way the Obama administration handled the Benghazi attack, Chaffetz said the administration was engaged in a “cover-up.”
“I’m not saying impeachment is the end game, but it’s a possibility, especially if they keep doing little to help us learn more,” Chaffetz warned.
So much for his touching concern about the president and his family — and how it would affect the country if he were suddenly snatched away.
During Tuesday’s House Oversight Committee hearing investigating Secret Service security lapses, the committee grilled Secret Service Director Julia Pierson about the Sept. 19 incident during which Omar Gonzalez, a 42-year-old knife-wielding Iraq war veteran, scaled a White House fence, overpowered a Secret Service officer and entered an unlocked door to the executive mansion — penetrating “five rings of security.”
“How on earth did this happen?” asked Chairman Darrell Issa, a Republican from California. “Why was there no guard stationed at the front door of the White House, and, yes, how much would it cost to lock the front door of the White House?”
Before you’re tempted to be moved by Issa’s concern, don’t forget about his very long list of vicious attacks against Obama, perhaps highlighted by his claim on more than one occasion that Obama was “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.”
This is not to suggest that Republicans want harm to come to Obama. But considering the vehemence of their distaste for the president over the years, and the extent to which they have spread that distaste to angry Republicans across the nation, it feels like there is a bit of hypocrisy afoot when Republicans start talking about their concern for the president and his family.
One suspects that Issa — who led Congress to hold Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, in contempt in 2012 — was on more comfortable ground when he concluded Tuesday’s hearing by saying he and Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland agreed that “an internal investigation by the Secret Service is not sufficient” and said they plan to formally request an independent inquiry.
As for Chaffetz, he sounded a bit more like himself during the hearing when he asked whether the Secret Service officers who caught Gonzalez acted appropriately by not using lethal force against him.
Chaffetz said the Secret Service should take a more aggressive posture.
If agents kill someone who has breached White House security, “I will have their back,” he said.