Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Cowboy in Chile

The more I read about the episode in Chile with the Secret Service agent and Bush, the more I like what Bush did. Also, it got the right people angry. See this

Washington Post report, for example: "Chilean journalists were critical of Bush’s actions. Marcelo Romero, a reporter with Santiago’s newspaper La Cuarta, said: ’All of us journalists agree that President Bush looked like a cowboy. It was total breach of protocol. I’ve seen a lot of John Wayne movies, and President Bush was definitely acting like a cowboy.’" Bingo. Nothing more needs to be said. I hope Bush was wearing his boots. Also see these
still photos of the fracas. Interesting.

Discussions - 18 Comments

And suppose there had been an "incident" at the dinner and President Bush had been killed. Could Chile stand up to that? I don’t think so. I notice that the next dinner was cancelled because the secret service demanded that everyone enter through metal detectors.

Cowboy? Darn tootin’!! I guess it’s my red state up bringing but I was always told that cowboys are the good guys and that acting like a cowboy is a good thing.

Dont Mess with Texas!

A few thoughts from a progressive who does not . . . ummm . . . enjoy the Bush Administration (just giving a disclaimer . . .): A) I do not like President Bush acting like he had some kind of authority over the Chilean officials. If a Prime Minister or a President of another country came into America and our security officials stopped one of HIS secret service officers and then that leader did what our President did, we’d be pissed as hell. At least I would be. Because that leader has no authority over the police/security agents of my country. President Bush had absolutely no authority to do what he did. B) The President did not know anything about the situation. If he would have asked about it, or maybe talked to the officials, I might’ve been okay with that. But he didn’t. He simply did what I think a lot of you like (which kind of frightens me :-D): reached in, no questions asked, and brought him through. So, I guess I kind of see this as an embarrassing moment for me. The President was acting as my representative to Chile that day and I think that, while what he was there to do was good, this incident was a disaster. Maybe I’m missing something, but from what I’ve seen (even on Fox News) it makes me sad inside. :(

Yes, Matt, you are missing something. You do not come between a president and his entourage no matter what. You do not invite a president to visit if you are not willing to accept his security. All grownups know the rules of diplomacy. All grownups know the why of the rules of diplomacy. I am only sorry that Bush did not immediately return to his plane and instruct the State Departent to clean out the Chilean Embassy.

And since WHEN is a comparison to John Wayne a BAD thing??? I am absolutely behind the President’s actions. In his place of power in our country, and in the world, it is absolutely necessary that his security team be available to him. If we pissed off a few diplomats or police officers or whoever - WHO CARES? Maybe the President did not have complete "authority" over Chilean officials, but he certainly had every right - AND responsibility to our country - to assess the situation and act accordingly. HIS security is in our national interest, whether you agree with his politics or not. In a world where it is acceptable that a video game is introduced where the player can recreate JFK’s assassination, which brought about a lot of uncertainty and fear in our country, whatever our President has to do to maintain his security is fine by me...

Dr. Scramm, you bring up one of my points in your argument. The President did not take the time to assess the situation. Of course this isn’t about political views or issues, it is about his security. However, when he jumped in there and pulled him through, no questions asked, he did not "assess" what was happening. Therefore, I believe he did not act in a favorable manner. I am not attempting to make you agree with me. I simply want to show you why I believe that this was an embarrassing move on his part. :) I appreciate the input, though. And I always hated John Wayne . . . I thought he was stupid . . . but that’s a fundamental difference. :) Hehe . . .

Sorry . . . you’re not Dr. Schramm. :-D

But what you are missing, Matt, is that there is NO acceptable reason for the Chileans to separate the President from his Secret Service protection. Whether Bush had time to "assess the situation" or whether he knew exactly what was going on the President MUST have his security detail with him at all times.(Incidentally, you are only assuming he acted without assessing the situation, which is a rather bold assumption since I suspect you, like the rest of us, have only seen a brief video clip of the situation. I have heard elsewhere that the Chileans were giving the Secret Service trouble about security all day. It is quite likely that the President expected that it might be an issue and had planned his response to such a problem well in advance... But it’s easier to assume that Bush is acting rashly and shooting from the hip, no?)

These are dangerous times we live in and the President is a controversial figure. He simply cannot go walking around foreign countries without protection. That would be incredibly foolish of him. He knows this. He knows he needs his agent by his side and he made certain that the agent was by his side. I don’t see what the controversy is frankly. If anything it is the absurd way that the Chileans tried to steam-roller the President’s security. That is the scandal here, not that the President was bright enough to make sure he was protected.

I think Matt is wrong because Bush obviously DID assess the situation and acted on his assessment. His assessment is probably that a terrorist assassination is always a possibility and the chances for it go up quite a bit when he is separated from his Secret Service. Therefore, he acted boldly and prudently to reconnect himself to that security in a confusing, crowded situation. I would say that he acted with quick intelligence to correct a dangerous situation. He did not submit his decision to a committee or for others to decide, he acted, and acted wisely.

Matt must also believe that talking is always better than doing. I think that the Reagan administration proved that strategy wrong quite convincingly. And, given time, the same will hold true for Iraq. Thank God we have a leader who LEADS!

The Chilean security did what they did delibretly. That is a very serious breach of protocol on the part of the Chileans as well as an action that can be seen as a direct threat to the safety of the President. That situation was specifically discussed by the Chileans and the Secret Service earlier. Also, Matt stated that the President does not have authority over the Chilean security forces? Are you kidding? When it comes to the secutiry of POTUS only one person or persons have authority over every one in the world including POTUS and that is the Secret Service. If he didn’t have authority over the Chilean security why did they let the Secret Service agent through so fast when they discovered who was reaching over their shoulders? Out of respect? Sure, but you can be damn sure that they weren’t going to mess with his authority either!

Also, Matt you need to understand that when a foreign head of state comes to the US his/her security is cooridinated by the Secret Service not by the visitors. No where else in the world is this the case. Every where the President goes security is handled by the Secret Service and this has been perfectly fine with every country in the world (all of Europe,Great Britain and even Russia and the former USSR and China) Now Chile decides it knows better? Hardly.

Heh, I need to learn not to be agressive here. Too many people disagree and no one is here to help me out. I could drag out this conversation further, but I’ll give you all the benefit of the doubt and force myself to agree to disagree. However, I would like to say that talking is not always better than doing. But talking should always be considered. Especially in these types of situations. I’ve said all I should say . . . I love each and everyone of you. :-D Too many smart people disagreeing with me . . . *sigh*

Matt, I think you are missing the point that, in such a visit, the default situation involves the protective detail always accompanying the most-highly-targeted-person-in-the-world at all times. The Chileans attempted to overrule that default, unilaterally and by force, at the last minute. If such a change was to be accomplished, it should have been in preliminary talks and arrangements. The Chileans know this. I admire that Bush understands his position and power enough to have simply overruled the attempt casually and without complaint. Too many presidents would have, I think, dithered and worried and put our Head of State at risk in doing so.

What was attempted was far beyond some diplomatic gaffe, or mistake. We don’t go to Chile as a supplicant, or even a co-equal, and I think this rankles. I like Bush partially because he’s willing to be upfront about just such niceties of relations, and his actions in easily and simply taking control of the situation are an extension of that attitude. To leave him unprotected is not an option, and diplomacy and polity have to take a back seat to the immediate correction of such an attempt. If there was poor diplomacy displayed, it was on the part of Chile.

Bravo for Bush.

Matt, it is not a matter of everyone disagreeing with you. I think people on the blog are trying to make reasonable decisions about the best way to approach such a situtation, including you. Your presumably parting remark on this thread leads me to further disagreement. Talking is definitely not the right thing to do in such a situation that may endanger the president. Acting was the right thing to do. Apologies and discussions could be made later to avoid diplomatic offense. But, this situation was exactly not the kind of situation in which diplomats and heads of state sit around and discuss issues over Perrier while photographers snap photos. This required decisive action. You are right in arguing that talking and acting have their proper places, I just disagree with your application of that principle in this case to favor talking.

I suppose, if I could make the world perfect, I would’ve liked to have seen our President do the following:

When he noticed he had lost his shadow, first of all a new Secret Service Agent would’ve taken his place (I know this sounds elementary, but I’m sure he has a nice, big group of ’em, right?). Then, the President could’ve walked over, discussed the problem with the officer. If a conclusion could not be reached, the Secret Service Agent would wait while Bush talked with whoever had authority over the Chilean officer and the event taking place. This make take a lot more time and energy, but this is the President’s security we’re talking about, right? You all seem to agree that that is of the utmost importance and I agree. However, to push aside ANY talking and to just grab the agent was (as I’ve said before) embarrassing.

I am getting a sense that you all think Bush was only being accompanied by one Secret Service Agent. I’m not sure about this. If that is the case, I could see the desperation of the President in that situation and would certainly think differently about his actions. Was this the case? I can’t seem to find it anywhere . . .

Thanks for reading :)

The President’s entire Secret Service contingent was cut off by the Chilean police and one of them was pinned up against a wall for attempting to get past them. Bush only pulled his lead agent through the police line. He was not accompanied by only one agent, but *none* of the agents were allowed past the Chilean police until Bush pulled one through. Perhaps now you see why this was a gaffe by the Chileans, and not by Bush?

In comment #2, Mr. Turner wrote:
"Cowboy? Darn tootin’!! I guess it’s my red state up bringing but I was always told that cowboys are the good guys and that acting like a cowboy is a good thing."

Well, I was raised in a red state also, but somehow I learned that some cowboys are good (certainly we could cite many examples, at least from movies) and others are bad (presumably we could all agree on Jesse James?). Would acting like Jesse James be a good thing? I trust that pointing this out won’t get me chastised for a Kerry-level offense of the dreaded, and currently out-of-favor, "nuance."

If you truly want the President to behave like a cowboy, why not suggest (I’m gonna regret this, I just know it!)
that Bush (oh, why not Cheney & Rumsfeld, too?) be permitted to pack his own heat so that he could blast his way into or out of any similar situations in the future, should the need arise? The sight of Bush scrambling to reconnect with his guardian didn’t remind me so much of a brave cowboy (can’t remember John Wayne, Gary Cooper or Henry Fonda ever needing bodyguards) as it did a frightened child separated from his parents in an unfamiliar and scary situation. What was in that clip for me to feel pride in, exactly?

Also, why does the idea that Bush is a righteous "tough guy" have any credibility? Ok, he might be righteous, but when has he EVER had to engage in any combat with his fists or a gun? Really, it’s very fortunate that Chilean security didn’t take a swing at him when he intervened, because something tells me that the President wouldn’t have been able to return fire (although certainly someone from the Secret Service would’ve done so on Bush’s behalf).

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