I’m glad Obama picked Clancy to head Secret Service

It may seem counterintuitive to many, but I’m glad the president made this decision, and not just because the guy’s name is Clancy (I mean, could you find a better name for a top cop?):

President Obama has named his acting director and trusted former detail leader Joseph Clancy as the new permanent leader of the Secret Service, the White House said Wednesday.

Clancy, 59, has led the agency for the past four months since being asked by the president to replace Julia Pierson, who resigned Oct. 1 amid a series of major security lapses. He had emerged as the likely choice for the full-time role last week, when the administration officials informed candidates that the president had made a selection.

Among the challenges for Clancy will be to determine how to secure the perimeter of the White House complex, in the wake of an intruder bursting past several layers of security last fall and a small drone aircraft landing on the lawn last month. The new director also will be charged with overseeing the massive security operation of protecting the candidates in the 2016 presidential race, through the primaries and the general election…

His selection goes against the advice of an independent panel, appointed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson to examine the security failures, that recommended the agency name an outsider to the top job for the first time in the 150-year history of the Secret Service.

But Obama signaled to associates that his trust in Clancy trumped other concerns…

Why do I prefer Clancy to some outsider? I’ll offer four reasons:

  1. I think an insider who fully understands the challenges the service faces and is committed to overcoming them — assuming he is personally up to the job — is more likely to have the full, unhesitating cooperation of the rank and file in getting the job done. This is a demoralized agency, and being led by one of their own is better for morale than having some Pro from Dover come in and assume he knows it all.
  2. The president’s had experience with this particular guy, observing him in the job, and therefore he’s a known quantity — beyond the fact that the president is used to putting the lives of his family in his hands. POTUS is the boss, and it needs to be someone who has his confidence and full backing.
  3. I’ve just got a prejudice for hiring from within, of giving good people a chance to advance where they are. I’ve been the Pro from Dover myself a couple of times, and while I was qualified and had confidence in my own abilities, I fully understood the resistance I got from people who knew the place far better than I did and resented me as an outsider. Also, I’ve got this thing about trusting people to do their jobs unless they, personally, have demonstrated they’re not up to it. (The agency may have been falling down on the job, but I’ve heard of no indication that Clancy has.) For instance, I’ve got a thing against special prosecutors, who tend to be appointed for political reasons to do jobs that regular cops and prosecutors should be able to do if we just trust their professionalism — which we shouldn’t do if they’ve shown themselves unsuited, but if they haven’t, it’s wrong not to trust them.
  4. Finally, who you gonna trust — a guy named “Clancy,” or one named “Jeh?”

OK; I was kidding with that last one.

11 thoughts on “I’m glad Obama picked Clancy to head Secret Service

  1. Doug Ross

    It’s one of those jobs where if the person in the position is doing his/her job well, we shouldn’t know who he/she is.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Now THERE’S a guy who would have fixed the problem. He would have installed some amazing gadgetry all around the White House, and then described how it worked (and it would ALWAYS work) in loving detail…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        To be fair, it wasn’t ALL about the gadgets with Clancy. They were always operated by highly dedicated, trained people who did their all to get the job done.

        That’s one of the things that made him enjoyable to read — for me, anyway. It’s kind of related to what I said above about the virtue of promoting from within when possible. I highly respect people who work hard to master a difficult job, then do it with dedication — particularly when they do it in the service of the country.

        Whether military, police, law enforcement, or even everyday bureaucrats, Clancy’s novels were peopled with characters you could admire and respect for their skill and dedication. Didn’t matter what that job was; they were likely to be portrayed as heroes.

        I liked that. No one would mistake it for great literature, but it gave you characters who made you care what happened to them…

        He didn’t much like politicians, though, or the people who worked for them… Although Arnie van Damm was a good ‘un…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I wish we had more conservatives like Tom Clancy. Instead of the kind who appropriate that label, but despise government and the people who work for it. (Which to me is not at all “conservative.” To me, a “conservative” is someone who respects society’s institutions, and acts accordingly.)

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Admittedly, his dialogue is of the “Ya big lug!” genre. But I really get into some of the stories. “Executive Orders” had some passages that are pretty engaging, as did “Beyond Remorse.”

              His best book, though, was his first: “Red October.” It was disciplined, contained, not overwritten.

              We’re talking potboiler, beach reading here. A sort of pulp fiction that involved conflict between superpowers rather than between a detective and a femme fatale. The level is kind of like romance novels for guys. But that didn’t keep me from enjoying them.

              As Cold War storytelling goes, Clancy was higher on the quality scale than the James Bond movies, and far below John le Carre, Len Deighton and Graham Greene.

              But I enjoy all of those AND the Bond movies.

              I may look down on reality TV, but I’m not a COMPLETE snob…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            No, Ding is more intellectual than Kyle… in a down-to-earth, from-the-barrio kind of way. He would at least occasionally say something like, “What’s it all about, Mr. C?”


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