Fences at the White House, Fences at the Border

By Dan Cadman on October 30, 2014

Like most Americans, I followed the media accounts of White House fence jumper Omar Gonzalez with a lot of concern — especially as the revelations continued to seep out about exactly how serious the security breach was, and how far Gonzalez made it into "the people's house".

The incident resulted in congressional oversight hearings at which outraged members of Congress from both parties piled it on with blistering questions to then-Secret Service head Julia Pearson who lost her job as news of other equally serious breaches leaked.

One thing that Pierson said that raised eyebrows of at least some pundits at the time — and proved within days not to be accurate — was that it would never happen again.

But it did. Dominic Adesanya also made it over the fence, although not beyond the grounds, before being set upon by K-9 units.

What struck me at the time, and has struck me repeatedly ever since, are the echoes to our porous southern border that can be heard in the official and unofficial discussions of the two incidents. I wonder: Has anyone else remarked upon that? Surely they have. Just as certainly as the White House may be, at least figuratively, "the people's house" then this side of the border is literally "the people's country", is it not?

But the difference in attitude of many members of Congress between how they approach White House fence jumpers and chief executive security and how they view border fence jumpers and homeland security is a marvel of inconsistency.

For instance, Rep. Steve Lynch (D-Mass.), who has earned a career grade of F from Numbers USA because of his open-borders views, insisted to Director Pierson at the first hearing that Gonzalez should have been arrested the first time he was encountered (when he made no attempt to jump the fence), even though Pierson made clear that there was no legal basis to take Gonzalez into custody at that time.

Similarly, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who is on record as opposing the southern border fence and has a career grade of F-, when interviewed by NBC News, put his finger on the problem of White House Security quite succinctly: a combination of an antiquated fence and out-of-date technology that required attention.

How is that different from the nation's border? Should not the White House and the border both be protected by whatever means reasonably possible — including an adequate fence, supportive and up-to-date technology, and dedicated officers serving under competent leaders?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." I think he may have got it wrong, at least where statesmen are concerned. Or maybe the mistake is mine, in conflating politicians with statesmen.