Julia Pierson is out as Director of the United States Secret Service–and gender politics is to blame. “Time and again, women are put in charge only when there’s a mess, and if they can’t engineer a quick cleanup, they’re shoved out the door,” wrote Bryce Covert of Think Progress and The Nation yesterday in the New Republic. “The academics Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam even coined a term for this phenomenon: They call it getting pushed over the glass cliff,” she added.
Covert also listed corporate examples of women falling off the cliff:
Women are also thought to have qualities associated with cleaning up messes.
And that would be fine, except taking over an organization that’s in trouble is a lot harder than taking over one that’s flourishing. The chances of failure are inevitably higher. Just ask Mary Barra, who made history when she became the first woman to run a global car company. But just two weeks into her tenure as CEO of General Motors, the company issued a massive recall on faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths, something the company knew about as early as 2001 but she didn’t know about until she had spent a few weeks on the job. Carly Fiorina took over Hewlett-Packard as the tech bubble was bursting. Anne M. Mulcahy got her shot at being the first female CEO at Xerox when it was $17 billion in debt and being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Lynn Laverty Elsenhans was named the first female CEO of Sunoco after shares had fallen 52 percent. Erin Callan got a chance at being CFO of Lehman Brothers in December 2007 – just ahead of the financial meltdown – and resigned just months before it ended up declaring bankruptcy. Zoe Cruz became the most powerful woman in finance and was about to be the next CEO of Morgan Stanley just before the mortgage market tanked.
Granted, there is something to be said about this trend–and a legitimate debate is warranted for how women are treated in the workplace; that’s fine. But the United States Secret Service isn’t Hewlett-Packard; it’s not Lehman Brothers. It’s protecting the most powerful person on the planet; this person is the leader of the free world. A major breach, like the one we saw this past week, is definite grounds for dismissal.
The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident.
An alarm box near the front entrance of the White House designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what officers believed was a request of the usher’s office, said a Secret Service official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The officer posted inside the front door appeared to be delayed in learning that the intruder, Omar Gonzalez, was about to burst through. Officers are trained that, upon learning of an intruder on the grounds — often through the alarm boxes posted around the property — they must immediately lock the front door.
After barreling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family’s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses.
Gonzalez was tackled by a counterassault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident.
The agent who tackled him was off-duty, who happened to be leaving and crossed paths with Gonzalez at the right moment.
Oh, and let’s not forget that time an armed contractor with a criminal record was able to take an elevator ride with President Obama in Atlanta, which was also reported by the Washington Post [emphasis mine]:
A security contractor with a gun and three convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta, violating Secret Service protocols, according to three people familiar with the incident.
Obama was not told about the lapse in his security, these people said. The Secret Service director, Julia Pierson, asked a top agency manager to look into the matter but did not refer it to an investigative unit that was created to review violations of protocol and standards, according to two people familiar with the handling of the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The incident, which took place when Obama visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis, rattled Secret Service agents assigned to the president’s protective detail.
The private contractor first aroused the agents’ concerns when he acted oddly and did not comply with their orders to stop using a cellphone camera to record the president in the elevator, according to the people familiar with the incident.
When the elevator opened, Obama left with most of his Secret Service detail. Some agents stayed behind to question the man and then used a national database check that turned up his criminal history.
So, what say Covert–and other liberals–trying to facilitate some irrelevant feminist narrative from these breaches in security? It’s all Congress’ fault:
Congress certainly shares the blame. This is the first year since 2010 that the agency isn’t operating with a budget below what it requested. And since that year, personnel levels have seen a severe decline. In her testimony before Congress, Pierson said that the agency’s current 550 employees is below “optimal level.”
The understaffing, for which Pierson was not responsible, could have played a significant role in the breach that led to her losing her position. Former secret service agents told the Washington Post that the incident may have been related to the severe staffing shortage in the division responsible for securing the White House. It’s gotten so bad that the agency has had to fly agents in from around the country, who are less familiar with the grounds and response plans.
So, does this mean that Congress is responsible for the terrorist attack that led to the assassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens, too?
With a breach in security of this magnitude, she was right to tender her resignation. Regardless of the new measure now being undertaken, it could bolster the confidence of other would-be jumpers–and possible assassins–to copy what Gonzalez did. It’s best to wipe the slate clean–and it’s not like this was a minor incident.
If Hewlett-Packard’s stock collapses, some investors are left penniless and the company is worthless. If a person is able to spring across the lawn, get inside the White House, and assassinate the President of the United States, the effects are a LOT more pronounced.
There is no doubt that the Secret Service has, well, sunk in prestige. A change was needed after the Cartagena prostitution scandal–and the odd instance where agents assigned to patrolling the White House perimeter were called off to protect a friend of then-Director Mark Sullivan.
But does this incident have to be a moment where some on the left have to rehash the tired axioms of gender politics? There is no debate here; a massive breach of security happened. Someone had to go. There was bipartisan consensus on this issue; even Nancy Pelosi agreed with her colleague Rep. Elijah Cummings that Pierson needed to go.
Comparing the corporate world and the world of protecting the President of the United States is apple and oranges. Pierson made mistakes, security breaches occurred on her watch, and there are consequences for those errors.
At the same time, Covert points out that the interim Secret Service Director, Joseph Clancy, was in charge of the presidential detail the night the Salahis crashed a White House state dinner; they’re not out of the woods yet.
Nevertheless, let’s keep the “glass cliff” parables to areas where they are plausibly applicable.
After all, as Allah point out earlier today, her strategy for the agency was to become more like “Disney land.” I wish I could say I was joking. Frankly, if that’s what’s coming down from the top, and some “glass cliff” existed, you deserve to be pushed off of it.