Shrub in a "Scrum"
This shoving match between the Secret Service and Chilean security was reported like it was no big deal.
The story that most of the news services agreed on was that the President was separated from his lead Secret Service agent momentarily by some overzealous Chilean security officers. There was some pushing and yelling. Bush jumped in - was resisted for just an instant, but then was able to pull his agent into the room. Problem solved.
Eager to be diplomatic, the White House downplayed the incident, "Chilean security tried to stop the president's Secret Service from accompanying him," said White House deputy press secretary Claire Buchan. "He told them they were with him and the issue was resolved."
Reporters have alternatively described the President's mood afterward as "irritated" and "proud of himself." Probably both descriptions are right. But there was more to this incident than generally reported. The Washington Times has the real story:
Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush arrived at 8 p.m. local time yesterday at the Estacion Mapocho Cultural Center for the official dinner of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.All of this is much better reporting than I read elsewhere, but then it really got interesting:
After the first couple posed for photos with Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and his wife, the four entered the doorway with a line of Chilean security guards and uniformed police closing quickly behind him.
The president's lead agent approached the line of men as quickly as it closed and demanded to be allowed through. Within a few seconds, the confrontation began to escalate with voices being raised and shoving in all directions.
"You're not stopping me! You're not stopping me!" yelled the agent, as captured by several television cameras. "I'm with the president."
During the fracas, another Secret Service agent was roughly pulled from the tumult and pushed against a concrete wall by Chilean security…
Mr. Bush calmly turned right as the other three continued on and inserted himself into the fight. The president reached over two rows of Chilean security guards, grabbed his lead agent by the shoulder of his suit jacket and began to pull…
A few Chilean guards turned their heads and noticed that the arm draped over their shoulders was that of the president, and the line softened. Mr. Bush pulled his agent through, who was heard to say, "Get your hands off me" as he passed roughly through the doorway.
Mr. Bush then adjusted his shirt cuff and said something to the first dignitary he passed as a grin crossed his face.
According to Secret Service sources, the man Mr. Bush pulled through is a high-level agent and one of the president's personal favorites…
The Secret Service source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the president's security detail and that the Chileans had argued about security procedures all day and that he wasn't surprised to see last night's skirmish unfold.I understand the White House's desire to be diplomatic about this incident, but the fact that Chilean Security Agents purposefully separated the President from his security detail is very troubling.
The Chileans, he said, were determined to take charge of security, but the president of the United States is the only world leader who takes his bodyguards with him wherever he goes. Normally, foreign countries defer to that demand. The Chilean security detail resisted, the source said, and was determined to take a stand at the dinner.
"That's what the argument this afternoon was about," he said. "I saw this coming."
Chilean security knew that the Secret Service always accompanies the president and knows how to identify them by the pins on their lapels, the source said, but blocked them anyway.
This was about honor, not intrigue, but we are a country at war and there are people who would like to assassinate the President. Our Secret Service protects our President wherever he goes. If some Banty Rooster security force is too macho to accept that, then that country should not get a Presidential visit. Period.
The Secret Service should learn from this incident and make sure that this sort of conflict is worked out long before the President arrives.
One news service described this incident as a "scrum." I had never heard this word before in my life. From the context I was sure it simply meant "scuffle," but I looked it up.
It’s a Rugby term - "a play in Rugby in which the two sets of forwards mass together around the ball and, with their heads down, struggle to gain possession of the ball." The British have taken this term out of Rugby to apply it to any "disordered or confused situation involving a number of people" particularly, I assume, when there is a struggle.
"Scrum" is a apt description of what happened. The "ball" being fought over wasn't the agent, the "ball" was the right to guard the President. The President must have known about this conflict in advance. Knowing this, he was brave to insert himself into the fight. Doing so quickly pacified the situation.
This could have escalated, everybody involved was armed.
UPDATE I: Here's a video link found at Dean's World.
UPDATE II: A commenter pointed me to this AP story:
An elaborate state dinner with 200 people Sunday was downgraded to an official working dinner, reportedly because Chilean President Ricardo Lagos balked at Secret Service demands for guests to walk through metal detectors.I beginning to doubt whether this is just about honor. There is some bad blood between this President and the current leadership of Chile. I hope that the President and his Secret Service are careful and that he gets home soon.