April 20, 2012

What they did was neither secret nor service.

“They,” of course, are the 11 Secret Service agents who were removed from their assignment as part of an advance team for a presidential trip to Cartagena, Colombia, after it came to light that they, along with some U.S. military personnel, had been in the company of upwards of 20 prostitutes in a local hotel.

The incident became an international scandal over just four words: “Baby, my cash money.” That’s what an escort told one of the agents the morning after their liaison, according to a report in the New York Times. The agent was offering the woman $30; she was asking for $800.

Three Secret Service employees were ousted early in the week: One was fired, a second decided to retire (ahem), and a third was allowed to resign. And news broke on Friday that the Secret Service intended to force out three additional employees, while six more are on administrative leave pending an internal investigation. It seems unlikely that the departures so far are the last we’ll hear of the scandal.

No matter how it ends, it’s clear that no one will look at the Secret Service the same way for a long time. An institution whose official motto is “Worthy of Trust and Confidence” will now be better known for the phrase “wheels up, rings off.” (On behalf of happily married men who travel frequently for work, the Fix offers a big sarcastic “thanks” to the Cartagena 11 for introducing that expression into the vernacular.)

The Secret Service, for squandering our trust and confidence, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at chris.cillizza@wpost.com.

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Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.