The Secret Service Gets the Woman It Needs
A couple of months ago, I complained about President Barack Obama naming too few women to top-tier Cabinet posts in his second term. So let me now praise him for appointing Julia Pierson to lead the Secret Service.
OK, so she's not becoming Treasury secretary. But a woman in a high position carrying a gun is a big deal. The director of the U.S. Marshals Service and the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration are women, but the Secret Service is much more visible as the agency that protects the president -- and as the agency Hollywood loves to depict in the movies. Remember Clint Eastwood in "In the Line of Fire" in 1993? That was before he put himself in another line of fire by appearing with an empty chair at last year's Republican convention.
In the just-released “Olympus Has Fallen,” about a terrorist attack on the White House, Angela Bassett plays the head of the Secret Service. This is a leap forward from "In the Line of Fire," where in one scene agent Lily Raines (played by Rene Russo) wears a slinky black evening gown in which no weapon could hide. (We only know she carries when it takes a long time for Russo and Eastwood to shed their gear as they get to know each other better in a hotel room later.)
It took Pierson 30 years to get the top job, so no one can accuse her of being an affirmative-action pick. She's carried heat since she was a cop in Orlando. She joined the service in Florida and thrived amid the macho culture.
There's nothing like a woman to counter the picture of the agency left by a bunch of party boys cavorting with prostitutes in Colombia last year. Agents preparing for Obama's appearance at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena brought prostitutes back to their hotel after a night out on the town. One agent didn't pay up, and one of the working girls, who released pictures of herself in a bikini, exposed him. Nine agents were fired or left.
There may soon be another crack in the bulletproof ceiling -- this time at the FBI -- when and if the president names Lisa Monaco, currently his counterterrorism chief, to head the nation's most important law enforcement agency. The last time I can remember a woman starring in a film about the FBI is when Jodie Foster went head-to-head (or head-to-masked face) with Anthony Hopkins in "Silence of the Lambs." J. Edgar Hoover could never have imagined it.
(Margaret Carlson is a Bloomberg View columnist.)