Presidential Protection: Not an IntrusionIn response to...


June 05, 1993

Presidential Protection: Not an Intrusion

In response to the Opinion * Commentary article in The Sun May 27, "Captive of the Secret Service," I'd like to attempt to answer some of the "why" questions which were asked by William Pfaff.

First I'd like to say that the Secret Service agents who I worked with were some of the most professional individuals in government service. They were able to accomplish a difficult mission under the most extreme and demanding of situations, especially during the Bush administration.

Their experience in the field of security, specifically presidential security, was exhibited in an efficient manner both in the planning stages of an advance and during the execution of a political event.

On several occasions they were innovative and accommodating during events to both the staff and to the public. Time and time again, we witnessed that the agents were a capable lot who are constantly challenged in a changing world.

Mr. Pfaff's "unasked questions" are easy to ask when one considers the innate contradiction of a police force in a democratic society.

Mr. Pfaff needs to consider that most of the methods that the service employs are based on research and recommendations which were mandated by the Warren Commission. The intrusive methods that he speaks of are no more inconvenient than the metal detector screening process which is employed world wide.

Given the ease by which anyone can purchase handguns and other weapons, we were all appreciative of the security not only to protect the president but to protect all of us. To protect us from the John Hinckleys, the Squeaky Frommes, the Sarah Jane Moores, the Arthur Bremmers, the Sirhan Sirhans, the Lee Harvey Oswalds, etc.

When President Reagan was shot, Hinckley posed as a press person and was able to get close to the president unchecked. This occurred prior to the time when the press corps was screened.

One Secret Service agent, one Washington police officer and Press Secretary Jim Brady were shot along with Mr. Reagan . . .

The bullet that hit Mr. Reagan was a ricochet and not a direct hit. Why not ask the White House press corps if the screening process is inconvenient today?

The comparison to other heads of state is of no consequence. Simply, the president of the U.S. is the president of the U.S. No other head of state can compare.

If the president would be "discreetly shadowed" by Secret Service agents, they would become discreet witnesses to an attack, as occurred with Prime Minister Olof Palme of Sweden about 10 years ago.

The inaccurate depiction by Mr. Pfaff is appalling. To suggest that the "protection is so elaborate that it is an obstacle to the proper execution of his duty" proves to me that Mr. Pfaff is a captive of ignorance. It is obvious that Mr. Pfaff needs to return to the U.S. and return to reality.

M. Berger

Ellicott City

Reforming the Poor Out of Health Care

While it is true the Maryland General Assembly was presented with a historic opportunity to reform health care, the deafening sound of congratulatory backslapping by the General Assembly, executive branch and insurance industry obscures the sound of 32,000 Marylanders slipping through the safety net and losing their access to health care.

The articles by John W. Frece (May 23) and Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene Nelson J. Sabatini (May 2) serve to promote the myth that substantial health care reform is occurring and that HB 1359 is a "giant step forward" in making health care accessible and affordable to all.

The truth is far from this. Not one Marylander without health care insurance prior to the 1993 General Assembly session can obtain health care today as a result of the legislature's action. Nor does this legislation require that a single Marylander have the ability to obtain such care.

Rather, tens of thousands of citizens lost access to health care over the past few months.

Dels. Casper Taylor, Thomas O'Reilly, and Clayton Mitchell (our erstwhile health care reformers) did not lift a hand to prevent this completely unnecessary action.

The possibility of meaningful health care reform, as represented by Del. Paul Pinsky's single-payer bill (which would have guaranteed health insurance to every Marylander), again died in committee.

With respect to the myth of health care reform, Mr. Sabatini's "explanation" was especially egregious. Let us translate his statements into more comprehensible language:

1. "The health care system is so complex and the problems of cost and access are so vexing that at times they seem insurmountable." This means, how can we craft "reform" proposals which do not address the underlying problems of health care in the U.S.?

Actually, most problems of cost and access are easily resolved: Take the profit out of health care and eliminate the role of insurance companies.

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