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Matthews: Don't let a 'few knuckleheads' ruin Secret Service's reputation

Let me finish tonight with this.We just had Clint Hill on to talk about his work with the Secret Service.

Let me finish tonight with this.

We just had Clint Hill on to talk about his work with the Secret Service. He is, in a real way, a sterling model of the agents that have been assigned to the service over the decades.

There are thousands of others--people like Jerry Parr, who saved Ronald Reagan's life in 1981 by getting him to George Washington University Hospital in three minutes. Had he not done what he did that bleak day (covering and evacuating the President from the scene of the assassination attempt and getting him to the hospital) there's a real question whether Reagan would have made it. 

I don't doubt there are many stories like this: stories of courage and self-sacrifice on the part of those defending the President. And because of a "few knuckleheads" down in Cartagena a few weeks back, the reputation of the Secret Service has been harmed--not permanently, but for a while.   

We've had a couple of weeks for bad stories to leak out, to find their way to the surface. If they were abundant, we would all be sharing them now. The tabs would be feasting on them. We'd be talking about them here.  Clint Hill's story--what he did on November 22 to try and save President Kennedy, what he did to protect the President's wife--belong among the real, sterling stories of the Secret Service. Along with the quick, gutsy work of Jerry Parr, they tell the story that makes young men and women want to grow up and someday take their place. 

Every time I walk through the White House gate, I am impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the Secret Service. I am gladdened that the story of a "few knuckleheads" who made bad middle-of-the-night decisions amid the beckoning of sexual excitement, the influence of alcohol and foreign soil opportunity is just what it was. It happened. We covered it.

It is an episode involving a dozen agents out of 175 agents that weekend in Cartagena. It is not the story of these men's careers and certainly not of the justifiably proud Secret Service.