1. Opinion

Ruth: For Obama, a bad week to quit smoking

McClatchy Newspapers
McClatchy Newspapers
Published May 16, 2013

You're the president of the United States sitting there in the Oval Office reveling in the power of it all, including access to Vladimir Putin's code name (Mr. Snagglepuss, by the way). While watching the Daily Show, you're informed that Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Inspector Javert, is trying to turn the botched reaction to the Benghazi attacks into Teapot Dome, the Dreyfus Affair and Mel Gibson getting stopped for speeding.

Maybe one extra Nicorette chased down with some Chantix will do the trick.

The next day, you're watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, only to learn the Internal Revenue Service has been flagging tea party groups for special scrutiny. Rush Limbaugh is foaming at the mouth. Glenn Beck is sobbing more than Scarlett O'Hara meets Field of Dreams, and every member of Congress has announced a committee to investigate you.

Maybe just one cigarette. Who would ever know?

By the next day you're watching the rosary on Eternal Word Television Network, when you find out the Justice Department had been looking for leakers by bugging the Associated Press, the Onion and Mad magazine.

Who could possibly begrudge you a carton of Marlboros, maybe even a couple of Cohibas and a bag or two of Red Man?

As bad as this trifecta of stumblebumbling is, despite the fact your administration is being investigated by everyone from Matlock to Miss Marple, surely this is the end of it. What else could possibly go wrong?

The next day, having decided to forgo television, you're playing Angry Birds when you learn the Russians have just arrested Ryan C. Fogle, a.k.a. Maxwell Smart, accusing him of being a covert CIA agent in Moscow.

Using your authority as commander in chief, you order a hookah for the Situation Room.

It was bad enough to have an American diplomat assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow busted by Russian security officials. But adding embarrassment to humiliation, it appears Fogle learned his cloak and dagger tradecraft from the Barney Fife School of Espionage. Apparently the Spy Who Came in From the Fool's Gold was endeavoring to flip a Russian official who was also a counterterrorism agent. The risk in recruiting an intelligence operative who specializes in double-crossing never dawned on the Wile E. Coyote of the CIA?

Fogle was wearing a blond wig when caught. Memo to Agent Double Uh-Ho: It is not a good idea to show up at a spy meeting looking like Harpo Marx. Fogle might as well have been wearing a sandwich board reading "Spies 'R' Us." Russian agents also discovered another wig, $130,000 in cash, maps and a letter promising his turncoat-in-waiting up to $1 million a year for betraying his country. About the only thing missing was a Dick Tracy decoder ring and a shaken, not stirred, martini.

It is hardly a revelation that the United States spies on the Russians and Russia spies on the United States. The two nations have a long history of moles, hidden microphones, U-2s and blackmail. The United States once had to raze an entire embassy in Moscow after it was discovered it was more laden with bugs and cameras than the paparazzi chasing after Justin Bieber.

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What probably offended Russian sensibilities was the ineptitude of Fogle traipsing around Moscow with all the covert intelligence skills of The Naked Gun's Frank Drebin. This is a fellow superpower. Don't they deserve a better caliber spook than Rowan Atkinson's hapless Johnny English?

You're the president of the United States. In short order you've managed to annoy Congress, taxpayers who already hold a low opinion of the IRS and the nation's news media who suspect you're listening in on the offices of TV Guide.

And now Mr. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Goober has just offended the Russian government for impersonating an undercover Carrot Top. Not the best of weeks.

There are, of course, limits on presidential power. Still, one can only extend Ryan C. Fogle best wishes in his next diplomatic posting: ambassador to the Bermuda Triangle.


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