November 22, 2004

An Assassination Would Have Been Embarrassing Too

The pride of the Chilean police and its power elite might have been chafed a tad had Bush been assassinated while visiting, so I'm pleased on their behalf that such a faux pas did not occur:

U.S. officials said Chilean police had been chafing for a week about a demand by Secret Service agents that they control the president's space, even when he was on sovereign turf. Now, it was payback time.

In the fracas that ensued, amid a flurry of half nelsons, one Secret Service agent wound up jammed against a wall. "You're not stopping me! You're not stopping me! I'm with the president!" an unidentified agent can be heard yelling on videotape of the mayhem.

The president, who is rarely alone, even in his own house, turned and walked back to the front door unaccompanied, facing the backs of a sea of dark suits. Bush, with his right hand, reached over the suits and pointed insistently at [Secret Service shadow, Nick] Trotta. At first the officials, with their backs to him and their heads in the rumble, did not realize it was the president intervening. Bush then braced himself against someone and lunged to retrieve the agent, who was still arguing with the Chileans. The shocked Chilean officials then released Trotta.


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."


By Saturday night - though it had not been announced - Chile had already begun calling the guests to the dinner planned for Sunday at La Moneda, the presidential palace that was the site of the coup that overthrew Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973. The dispute over the dinner on Sunday centered on the question of whether the Chilean guests would be required to go through metal detectors before dining with Mr. Bush, a standard practice for the Secret Service. The Chileans told Mr. Bush's delegation that the practice was humiliating. "Can you imagine someone like the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court having to submit to an inspection by gringo security agents in order to get into our own seat of government?" asked one of the disinvited Chileans, who spoke on condition that he not be identified. "That's an affront no Chilean was going to tolerate, and Lagos had no choice but to act the way he did."

So, no U.S. sponsored coups, no Chilean facilitated U.S. presidential assassinations, but a few bruised egos. All in all I don't know what anyone is complaining about.

Plus, they had fried fish which I also had for dinner last night. And if the Crackerbarrel had seen fit to screen me through security, I'd have taken it in stride I think.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at November 22, 2004 05:41 AM

I read elsewhere that Bush seemed irritated and "straightened his cuffs" after the incident. I think that speaks well of the "cowboy," don't you? And some think cowboys have no style... huh.

Posted by: Curtis at November 22, 2004 06:56 AM

Yippee Ki Yay, Mother-- well, you know the rest.

Posted by: Scott Janssens at November 22, 2004 06:59 AM

I can understand the Chilean security aparatus being miffed at being treated like childish incompetents, but the proper response is not to then act like childish incompetents.

Posted by: Mark Poling at November 22, 2004 07:00 AM
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."

Just as an aside, I'd love to know if he used the word "cowboy" or "gaucho" -- I think that would be somewhat culturally revealing.

Posted by: Mark Poling at November 22, 2004 07:03 AM

Well here is the most powerful single man in the whole wide world and because he will not allow one of his people to be abused in a second or third rate state with delusions of grandeur, he is a cowboy .
How un-nuanced of W.Does he not understand how diplomacy works?
What a guy !!!!
And what a clear demonstration of petty little WEAKNESS by the Chilean government.Wonder why no-one in the cowboy US EVER takes South America seriously? Well wonder no more.Given Chilean,cough, incompetence ,it seems especially ungracious to blame the victim for the problems.

Posted by: dougf at November 22, 2004 07:10 AM

How is it that no one got these issues straight with the Chileans IN ADVANCE of the visit? Or was there in fact an agreement and it broke down? In which case, who is to blame?

Posted by: Mike Reynolds at November 22, 2004 07:20 AM

And if the Crackerbarrel had seen fit to screen me through security, I'd have taken it in stride I think.

Only because you're far too trusting of gringos. Clearly you wouldn't last a week in Santiago. ;-)

Posted by: SoCalJustice at November 22, 2004 07:29 AM

I've watched the Secret Service prep an area for the President. (I used to work in a building that overlooked the heliport in New York where Marine One landed. It seemed like Clinton spent every-other Friday in New York.)

Anyway, those guys are GOOD, and they are meticulous. My read is the Chileans tried to get cute, and ended up looking very bad. (Paranoia makes you wonder if something wasn't up. The first incident, okay, stupid machismo stuff. The second bait-and-switch gets me more than a little paranoid. You have to wonder if there's a bounty on the cowboy, and if so who's putting up the funds.)

Posted by: Mark Poling at November 22, 2004 07:30 AM

What second bait-and-switch? Hopefully there'll be an investigation. If Chilean cooperation is less than 100%, they can take the spot vacated by Iraq in the Axis of Evil.

Posted by: Mike Reynolds at November 22, 2004 07:45 AM

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.

And who the f---K are you?

Yeah, he IS a cowboy. But the President of the United States doesn't need protocol lessons from the glorified papparazzi.

Bush did the right thing. The Chilean cops were throwing their weight around and now they look like idiots for doing it, so Bush gets flamed for it.

Posted by: David at November 22, 2004 07:55 AM

You've got a point, Mike. It's hard to imagine there wasn't meticulous planning regarding security, so the breakdown might have been in the planning stages and might have been mutual. But it sure reads (though who believes everything they read in the paper these days) as if there's a vindictive vibe coming from the Chilean officials.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at November 22, 2004 07:57 AM

It would not surprise me in the least if elements of some foreign governments decided to assist in an assassination attempt against Bush.

He really is despised and hated far more than Kim, Hussein, or the Mullahs of Iran.

Now that many world leaders have failed in their attempt to monkeywrench the US election, a quick assassination is their best bet for impacting American foreign policy in the hopes that a President Dick Cheney will be more cautious and easily cowed. After all, the NYT and the Guardian have already come out advocating a Bush assassination in their round-about way.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at November 22, 2004 08:34 AM

It would not surprise me in the least if elements of some foreign governments decided to assist in an assassination attempt against Bush.

Yup. Bush is the number one target in the world, and anything but the strictest security is unnaceptable. The cowboy could have behaved himself and "lodged a complaint" after the fact, but what good is protocol when you're dead.

Posted by: David at November 22, 2004 08:37 AM

The "my guests are too imporant for the metal detector" bait-and-switch.

The dispute over the dinner on Sunday centered on the question of whether the Chilean guests would be required to go through metal detectors before dining with Mr. Bush, a standard practice for the Secret Service. The Chileans told Mr. Bush's delegation that the practice was humiliating.

This happened the day after the attempt to prevent the Secret Service agent from sticking by Bush's side.

Again, the Secret Service plans these things down to the second and the inch; the Chileans had to know what the Secret Service required well before the Bush arrived in Chile, and trying to change the rules at the last minute smells worse that a sunbathing sea bass.

Posted by: Mark Poling at November 22, 2004 08:47 AM

One report had it that the initial planning would allow the agents through but the Chilean guards either didn't get the message or wanted to throw their weight around. Or something more sinister.
The latter is retroactively reinforced by the metal-detector flap.
I am reminded of a situation when a Mexican-American, killed overseas, was buried in his home town in Mexico. The Mexican police gave the Marine guards a hard time.
Possibly it's...because they could.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 22, 2004 08:48 AM

I just saw the video for the first time, and the whole incident appears to be overhyped. There was nothing physical about it. He simply walked back and retrieved his man. Big deal.

I guess this boils down to the lenses people want to see this through. To the haters, it's more Bush hubris. To the non-haters, it's just Bush doing the reasonable thing.

More evidence that conservation with the haters is impossible. Only victory.

Posted by: David at November 22, 2004 08:54 AM

" I've seen a lot of John Wayne movies, and President Bush was definitely acting like a cowboy."


Just one more reason why I like President Bush better all the time. Come to think of it, my opinion of cowboys is improving, too.

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at November 22, 2004 09:05 AM

Jeremy, I think you're right on. The report here says that the SS knew it would be a problem and weren't surprised that the scuffle happened. I speculate that they had told Bush to expect something like that, and he knew what the problem was and dealt with it. Otherwise, why wasn't he startled? He was way too calm to not know exactly what was happening.

Posted by: Jennifer at November 22, 2004 09:54 AM

It might be wise for the Chileans and "the rest" to remember that you rarely saw John Wayne in a picture where he wasn't armed...and prepared to use to use 'em. And he often carried a cut-down 44-cal rifle as a sidearm...not some dinky 9-mm.

While I don't support the excesses of the "Cowboy-culture" and America's various Churches-militant in international affairs...some people are just not paying attention.

For all our faults, we are the global Success Story and Hegamon.

Posted by: Ted B. at November 22, 2004 10:13 AM

I can think of a few Presidents this incident reminds me of, Roosevelt for one. Just because he's the "most powerful man in the entire world" doesn't mean he's so "special" that he can't touch those "normal people" while helping out a man who puts his life on the line everyday just to keep the guy alive.Words like 'cowboy' as you so aptly call him don't come to mind. I think it's more along the lines of 'leader of the free world' and 'example to all of us'.

Posted by: Garret Bolthouse at November 22, 2004 12:33 PM

For those of you wondering Roosevelt I'm talking about, it's Teddy Roosevelt. Hmm, shoulda caught that one.

Posted by: Garret Bolthouse at November 22, 2004 12:36 PM

This stuff happens everywhere the U.S. prez goes. Last time Bush was in London, Scotland Yard was up in arms about a request by the secret service to seal off the city center. Tabloids had a field day denigrating what was deemed to be unreasonable and arrogant demands by the Americans.

Posted by: Chuck at November 22, 2004 12:55 PM

Their country, their rules.

Mark Poling, there are no "gauchos" in Chile. They're called huasos there. Gauchos are in Southern Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. People from the southernmost Brazilian state, Rio Grande do Sul are referred to as gaúchos whether they have ever been near a horse or not.

Posted by: Randy Paul at November 22, 2004 01:46 PM

Randy.. is of course, correct. It's huasosn in Chile Knowing the chilean dialect as I do I', 99% sure the chilens would have called Bush "cowboy" using the english term. I saw the video and it was overhyped. Further, I have NO idea what actually happened on the ground.
I will say two things however:
!) it was perfectly natural for Bush to grab his own guy out of a melee.
2) it was just as natural for the Chileans to be pissed they were bigfooted out of securing their own presidential palace.
Try the Shoe On The Other Foot Test:
The chilean president visits the white house and his security details demands on controlling security and submitting VP Cheney, the cabinet and the Supreme Court to metal detector tests? What would the howl be like here?
Of course, that' only if you believe is something resembling mutual respect and the norms of international protocol. if you dont think that's important, then I suppose you can do whatever the fuck u like.

Posted by: Marc Cooper at November 22, 2004 01:55 PM

Gringo that I am, I am still chagrined to realize I wasn't using the regionally-correct term.

I stand by my statement that the correct way to handle the insult wasn't for Chilean security to make asses of themselves. Especially considering the heads-of-state being "protected" and the amount of firepower that was probably Real Handy.

But hey, when machismo trumps common sense on a regular basis, I guess you end up with basket case societies.

Posted by: Mark Poling at November 22, 2004 02:03 PM

I don't even like Bush, and I think he did the right thing.

Posted by: Rob at November 22, 2004 02:05 PM

But hey, when machismo trumps common sense on a regular basis, I guess you end up with basket case societies.

Good point.

Posted by: Mork at November 22, 2004 02:29 PM

Mark Polling -

There are USSS agents paid a LOT to behave and think in ways that would earn your run-of-the mill postal worker a trip to a psychiatrist.

All of them, as a matter of fact. It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you - or your pricipal - you know. Rule one is they are in charge of the immediate space around the president. In D.C., in Chile, in Oz or wherever the president goes.

I don't know what the background is on whatever conflicts of pride or political points that may have been tried to make. Don't care, either.

The graveyards are indeed full of indispensible men, but there are some that are a lot less dispensible than others. The president of the United States falls in that category as a rule, and George W. Bush is way up the scale any way anyone could measure it.

"In Texas we call it walking". Yeah, I like the guy. I look forward to the next four years. It's a privilege to be on hand for world changing events.

Especially when they are triumphs and not tragedies.

Posted by: TmjUtah at November 22, 2004 02:34 PM

there are no "gauchos" in Chile. They're called huasos there.

True, and unlike 'cowboy', to call someone a "huaso" is very much an insult.

Posted by: David at November 22, 2004 02:50 PM

And Mork, I'm sure I know exactly which society you think is the basket case.

If only the people who threatened to emigrate if Bush won actually would....

Posted by: Mark Poling at November 22, 2004 03:02 PM

I hope we're not heading for a Pacers/Pistons situation here. I feel a certain obligation to Michael to try to keep the peace and, with all due respect, it worries me when people start to edge toward personal invective.

If we're going to get ugly we should save it for something bigger than this. Let's not blow the wad on the small stuff.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at November 22, 2004 10:15 PM

Apparently there was a fraction of a second when the Chileans were ready to manhandle Bush before they realized who he was. What that means is that if their recognition had lagged for, say, an extra three seconds, gunfire might well have broken out. Think about it.

When all's said and done, if the Chileans weren't prepared to make crystal-clear security arangements and then abide by them scrupulously, they never should have invited Bush in the first place.

Posted by: Mike Reynolds at November 22, 2004 11:57 PM

The two events aren't really comparable. London was about the British government not wanting to seal of the centre of its capital for a foreign visit. Eventually a compromise was reached and the trip went of without any noticeable problems. The Chilean incident(s) seems like a deliberate attempt to provoke the US into a diplomatic incident.

Posted by: sam at November 23, 2004 04:00 AM

My understanding is that Chile is a conservative country. A country that in some ways is out of the main-stream- geographically and culturally.

I think perhaps that the level of security and awareness that it is felt is needed around President Bush (especially at present) is something foreign to their experience. This may have contributed to the mix-ups and the Chilean perception that the metal-detector was a potential insult to the Chilean President's guests.

Of course, on the fringes of all of this is the press, doing their best to twist events to fit their template.

Posted by: David at November 23, 2004 09:10 AM

Or maybe they just don't like being told by another country the procedures required for their citizens to enter their seat of government.

Posted by: Randy Paul at November 23, 2004 09:18 AM

Of course the U.S. security personnel can't order the Chileans to do anything in Chile. All they can do is advise the Chileans of the security arrangements they require. If these arrangements can't or won't be made, then all they can do is advise President Bush not to attend any function at which they can't reasonably guarantee his safety.

That seems fair.

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that the President of the U.S. needs lots of security.

I just think the Chileans were caught a bit off guard at the extent of it.

No ill will on either side- unless we add in the press as a "side".

Posted by: David at November 23, 2004 09:27 AM

I think the Chilean police were not used to anyone disagreeing with them. I remember reading the motto on their badges, which translates:
"If not by reason,
Then by force"

A nice bunch, as long as you don't disrespect them. A friend of mine did, and she got the cr*p beat out of herself and her husband. That was in the mid-90's. Maybe they've mellowed out.

Posted by: dennymack at November 23, 2004 01:00 PM

The leader of the world's sole superpower has no peers, while he occupies that office. The level of protection he must receive should be understood and respected, wherever he goes--particularly when he goes as a guest.

If he goes as other than a guest, as to Iraq for Thanksgiving last year, security was handled by US forces exclusively.

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Like those of Caspar Weinberger.
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