TIME Disease

A Major Ebola Outbreak in the U.S. or Europe Is Unlikely, Says WHO

The statement comes as the U.S. moves quickly to contain the disease after the reporting of a third case

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said a widespread outbreak of the Ebola virus, which has killed thousands in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, will probably not be replicated in the U.S. or Europe thanks to the advanced health care systems in the West.

Christopher Dye, the director of strategy for the WHO, told the BBC that the potential spread of Ebola in the West was a matter “for very serious concern,” but added that an epidemic was improbable.

“We’re confident that in North America and Western Europe, where health systems are very strong, that we’re unlikely to see a major outbreak in any of those places,” Dye said.

The U.S., meanwhile, is dealing with its third Ebola case as Amber Vinson, a nurse who treated the country’s first patient who died earlier this month, was diagnosed with the disease.

It was revealed on Wednesday that Vinson was cleared to get on a plane by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official just a few days prior, despite having a mild temperature. Officials are attempting to track down and monitor her 131 fellow passengers.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who canceled two consecutive campaign events in order to take firmer action on Ebola, echoed the WHO view in a statement. “The dangers of a serious outbreak are extraordinarily low,” he said, “but we are taking this very seriously at the highest levels of government.”



Obama’s Leadership Shortage

His policies are fine. But the President is often a prisoner of his instincts

On the first Monday in October, Kasie Hunt of NBC asked U.S. Senator Mark Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat, what his feelings were about President Obama’s response to the Ebola threat. He said, and I quote, “Ahhh-uhhhhhhhhhm,” followed by two minutes of gobbledygook. Two days later, Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator from Kentucky, was asked who she voted for in 2008 and 2012. Her answer was similarly excruciating, and foolish. She cited the privacy of the ballot box. And about the same time, former-nearly-everything Leon Panetta landed a hammer blow on his old boss: “He [Obama] approaches things like a law professor in presenting a logic of his position … My experience in Washington is that logic alone doesn’t work. Once you lay out a position, you are going to roll up your sleeves and you have to fight to get it done … In order for Presidents to succeed, they cannot just–when they run into problems–step back and give up.”

All of this, especially Panetta, added fuel to the eternal bonfire of venality from the right. That Obama’s presidency has “disintegrated” or “crumbled” is now an article of faith in the Fox holes. Drudge featured an Ebola poster with the O an Obama symbol. That’s about as funny as MoveOn.org’s infamous “General Betrayus” ad. So it’s over, right? Obama’s toast, or a spectacularly terrible President at the very least, right?

Uhhhhhm. This is the part where I’m supposed to defend the President. He really did pull us out of a probable depression with an effective stimulus package; the economy continues to wheeze, but it wheezes forward. He really did make history by producing a universal health care plan that will not be repealed but will be reformed over time. The nonstop Republican critique that these programs were “disasters” has been rendered ridiculous. (In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell had to pull a Mark Pryor on that state’s very successful version of Obama’s plan.) The President has been sane and relatively moderate in his selection of Supreme Court Justices. His proposed job-growth policies would probably work, if given a chance by the Republicans.

He has been sane, too, in his foreign policy, for the most part. Those who say he should have been tougher on ISIS by arming the Syrian rebels–talking to you, Madam Secretary and Mr. Panetta–are wildly wrong. We would have wound up arming ISIS. There is precedent for this: we offered a fabulous buffet of armaments to the Iraqis, who left them for ISIS as they turned tail and ran in Mosul. Obama did cleave to the dreadful Nouri al-Maliki too uncritically–and thereby allowed a corrupt Shi’ite fragment to call its sectarian tune. That was Obama’s fundamental Iraq mistake.

But who hasn’t made an Iraq mistake over the past decade? The proof of Obama’s moderation can be found in the blundering simplicity of his critics: the neo-imperialists who think we can actually determine, by force of arms, what happens in the Middle East; the left-libertarians who don’t think we have the right to protect ourselves from terrorism by launching drone strikes, conducting special operations and tracking terrorist phone calls. Obama has stood as a bulwark against the irrationalities of both parties.

That’s the case for Obama. I really believe it. But I also believe that Panetta has a point. It is about the ethereal nature of true leadership. I remember writing a similar defense of Jimmy Carter nearly 40 years ago: a great number of the policies that Ronald Reagan was later given credit for launching–Paul Volcker’s tough inflation cure; a bristling stand against the Soviets, including intermediate missiles in Europe–were Carter’s policies first. He slugged his way to a historic peace treaty in the Middle East, but he didn’t convey two essential American qualities: forcefulness and optimism. Indeed, if you look at his infamous “malaise” speech, it’s a riveting piece of work, containing more tough truth about the country than the pile of Democratic utterances in the ensuing decade. I remember thinking, Poor Jimmy: history has led America to a rut, and we’ll never be as powerful as we once were. Reagan proved me young and foolish. Some of his achievements are illusory or attributable to Carter policies (as in economics), but the man knew how to lead.

I can’t say that for Obama. I sense that Panetta is right about his unwillingness to fight. Lately, the President’s body language has too often conveyed disgust and cynicism. He seems defeated by the trivial pursuits of the media and his opponents. He does not have the sunny conviction necessary to carry the country through a period of near biblical plagues and wars. His policies and popularity have been crippled by his dour political sense. A basic law of politics: this cannot last. But I have no idea what comes next.

TO READ JOE’S BLOG POSTS, GO TO time.com/swampland

Read next: A Troubled American Moment

TIME 2014 Election

10 People Who Will Face Pitchforks if Their Party Loses the Senate

Left: Reince Priebus; Right: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz
Left: Reince Priebus; Right: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Susan Walsh—AP; Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

The blame game is already in full swing, here’s a list of folks from both parties who’ll likely bear the brunt of the finger pointing should disaster strike

One side is going to lose, the Democrats or the Republicans. Such is the nature of most American elections. And that means someone will get blamed.

With polls showing a down-to-the-wire outcome in Senate races across the country, the blame game has already begun. The stakes, and tempers, will likely be higher if Republicans lose than Democrats, given the environmental headwinds that Democrats face. But neither side is immune from the fallout.

Below is a look at the top five folks who should, and probably already are, looking over their shoulders should their party lose the Senate this year.

If Republicans lose:

  1. Reince Priebus: The Republican National Committee chairman took over the party after the 2010 tea party wave and presided over its 2012 and 2014 strategy, promising voters and party leaders that the GOP would be resurgent. If the party falters next month, Priebus, whose two-year second term expires early next year, may find himself in the hot seat. The party’s much-publicized post-2012 autopsy remains a work in progress, and donors, who have helped the committee raise record amounts in recent years, may begin asking what he has to show for it. Working in Priebus’ favor is his firm control over the 168-member governing body of the party, but some are already threatening to abandon him if the GOP can’t take the Senate.
  2. Sen. Mitch McConnell: Even if the Senate minority leader survives the toughest challenge of his political career in what will surely by the most expensive Senate race in history, he’ll face a backlash from his conference if they lose the Senate. Not only will they say he sucked money from other races to fund an estimated $100 million battle to keep his seat, but he will now have overseen three consecutive losing cycles where odds and momentum should’ve handed Republicans control of the Senate. Sen. Ted Cruz has already refused to say if he’d vote for McConnell for leader—in the majority or the minority. Other candidates have also been muted or mum in their support for their potential leader. A loss of the Senate could mean a loss of McConnell’s leadership role if his party is outraged enough.
  3. Sen. Jerry Moran: The Kansas senator waged a stiff campaign to become the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee this cycle, promising to lead his party to the majority. In doing so, he edged out Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who was initially ambivalent about taking the post and became the vice chair of the group. But Moran’s leadership has been the subject of intense scrutiny among Republicans, many who would have preferred Portman to be in the top slot. The NRSC’s campaign against the insurgent Republican candidates has further put a target on his back should the party fail to win.
  4. Senate Conservatives Fund/ Sen. Ted Cruz: Boosting insurgent candidates against entrenched Senators forced Republicans to spend millions shoring up seats that would otherwise have been safe, waging primary battles instead of focusing on November. If Republicans lose, many moderate and business-types are sure to blame their party’s conservative elements. The Texas Senator was the face of that movement, and is hoping to capitalize on the scorn in order to boost a likely bid for the White House.
  5. Outside Money Groups: Republicans pioneered the use of Super PACs and shepherded in the rise of shadowy outside money groups in the 2010 and 2012 elections. But the groups’ outsized influence is waning, as Democrats have caught up on fundraising and have proven to deploy their resources more effectively. Republican donors were livid with former Bush political guru Karl Rove over the ineffective nature of his pro-Romney efforts in 2012. If Republicans fail to take the Senate, those calls will likely be louder and broader than ever before.

If Democrats Lose:

  1. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: The knives were already out of Wasserman Schultz’s back before early voting even began. Questions remain about how much President Obama supports the chair of the Democratic National Committee after his press secretary was asked if he has “complete confidence” in her last month and Josh Earnest responded that Obama had “strong confidence” in Wasserman Schultz. Strong does not equal complete. Though her second term does not expire until 2016, there are ways to force her out and certainly having the President turn against her publically would be hard to overcome.
  2. President Barack Obama: With approval ratings at 40%, the lowest they’ve been during his presidency, Obama was a pariah on the campaign trail. The most accomplished campaigner of the last six years, he was invited to just Illinois, Connecticut and Maine in 2014 to stump for candidates. With such stubby coattails, a loss of the Senate would be a tough referendum on the President’s legacy, especially since his astronomical popularity is what helped Democrats to historic majorities in the House and Senate in 2008. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. And oh, how angry Democrats will be with the President for dragging him down with him should they lose the Senate.
  3. Organizing for Action: The President’s historic “movement,” Organizing for Action, was supposed to be the magic bullet that could whip believers into a frenzy of electoral activity. If Democrats lose, critics will surely blame the overhyped OFA machine, which drew money early on from other needy areas and then never delivered. So much for hope and change.
  4. Guy Cecil: By all accounts the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ran the best possible campaign against the prevailing headwinds. The wizard had turned out a previous miracles, salvaging the Senate from odds and expectations in 2012. Losing it in 2014 won’t kill his career. But it may cost him his rumored next job: campaign manager of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, especially if Democrats start blaming the lady herself for not helping enough.
  5. Hillary Clinton: The former Secretary of State is likely to declare a repeat bid for the White House in the coming months, but for years multiple groups have raised millions plotting her re-ascendance. Some Democrats have already argued that this money could have been better spent on 2014 Senate races, a chorus that may grow if the Democrats lose by a hair. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have been in demand among vulnerable Democrats all year, but she only hit the road after completing much of her book and paid-speaking tour. As Clinton gears up to run for president the last thing she may want to hear is ‘could you have done more.’
TIME celebrities

Gwyneth Paltrow to President Obama: “You’re So Handsome I Can’t Speak Properly”

Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow. (Photo by Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP) Dan Steinberg—Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP

The Goop icon meets the President at a Los Angeles fundraiser

For perhaps the first time, Gwyneth Paltrow was at a loss for words.

The actress and cookbook author hosted a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at her Los Angeles home, and told guest of honor President Obama: “You’re so handsome that I can’t speak properly.”

Paltrow was reportedly composed enough in the presence of the President to remind him that she had been a longtime supporter, telling him she was “one of your biggest fans, if not the biggest.” The actress also told the assembled crowd, including Julia Roberts and The West Wing star Bradley Whitford, that equal pay was an issue “very important to me as a working mother.”

This sort of rhetoric has, historically, bothered those who find everything about Paltrow bothersome; she’s not exactly a typical working mother, as indicated by her weekly Goop newsletters advising readers on complicated recipes and luxury fashions.

But what Paltrow may lack in self-awareness she makes up for in passion. Even before last night’s fundraiser, the actress had been involved in politics, taping an ad encouraging expatriate Americans to vote for Obama via absentee ballot in the 2008 election. She lived in London at the time with her husband Chris Martin, from whom she has since consciously uncoupled.

For his part, Obama was reported to have enjoyed Paltrow’s hospitality. Following her compliment on his appearance, the President said “I’m taking her to the next event.”

TIME Peace

See the 20 Most Famous Nobel Peace Prize Laureates

On Friday, the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize will be announced. Since 1901, the Norwegian committee has bestowed 101 awards to individuals and 22 to organizations. Here are the 20 most famous figures who have received the prestigious honor

TIME ebola

Obama: U.S. Will Beef Up Airport Screenings for Ebola

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama meets with members of his national security team and senior staff to receive an update on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Oct. 6, 2014, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin—AP

But reassures Americans that odds of an outbreak here are "extraordinarily low"

President Barack Obama said Monday that the U.S. is working on additional passenger screenings for airline passengers flying from Ebola-stricken West Africa, two weeks after a Liberian man infected with the disease entered the country.

Officials are “going to be working on protocols to do additional passenger screenings both at the source and here in the United States,” Obama said, addressing reporters following a briefing on his administration’s response to the epidemic in Africa and efforts to keep the disease from spreading to the U.S. “All of these things make me confident that here in the United States at least the chances of an outbreak, of an epidemic here are extraordinarily low.”

The president did not give specifics on the new screening measures, and Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declined to elaborate further in an interview with CNN after the meeting.

Obama also said other countries need to “step up” to address the spread of the disease, which has already killed thousands. “Although we have seen great interest on the part of the international community, we have not seen other countries step up as aggressively as they need to,” he said. “So I’m going to be putting a lot of pressure on my fellow heads of state and government around the world to make sure that they are doing everything that they can to join us in this effort.”

The U.S. has deployed more than 100 medical professionals and is readying to send as many as 4,000 troops to help contain the outbreak in West Africa, while border agents and flight attendants are receiving training materials on how to spot potential travelers infected with Ebola.

But the disease’s long incubation period means that infected travelers may not show signs of illness for as long as 21 days after they’ve been exposed, a gap that allowed Thomas Eric Duncan to enter the U.S. last month from Liberia via Brussels.

Duncan is in “critical, but stable” condition in a Dallas-area hospital after being admitted last Sunday, and is being treated with an experimental drug called brinciodofovir. Ebola is only contagious once the infected individual shows symptoms, meaning fellow travelers were not in danger.

U.S. officials have said that it is possible that others infected with Ebola may enter the United States, but have expressed confidence that they will be quickly isolated once they show symptoms. A sick passenger on a flight from Brussels to Newark, N.J. was greeted by medical crews including officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Procedures are now in place to rapidly evaluate anybody who might be showing symptoms,” Obama said. “We saw that with the response of the airplane in Newark and how several hospitals across the United States have been testing for possible cases. In recent months we’ve had thousands of travelers arriving here from West Africa, and so far only one case of Ebola’s been diagnosed in the United States, and that’s the patient in Dallas.”

In an interview with CNN after the meeting, Dr. Tom Frieden, the CDC’s director, declined to elaborate on the potential new screening measures.

TIME White House

Biden Takes Veiled Shot at Clinton, Panetta Over ‘Inappropriate’ Books

Vice President Joe Biden speaks to students faculty and staff at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass. on Oct. 2, 2014.
Vice President Joe Biden speaks to students faculty and staff at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass. on Oct. 2, 2014. Winslow Townson—AP

High-level White House debates over Iraq and Syria are coming to light as top officials air their differences.

Vice President Joe Biden blasted former members of President Barack Obama’s administration who have gone on to write “inappropriate” books about the White House.

Speaking to Harvard students in a question-and-answer session Thursday, Biden was asked whether he believes the U.S. should have acted earlier in Syria, a critique leveled by former Secretary of State and likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, as well as former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in recent memoirs.

“The answer is no for two reasons,” Biden said. “One, the idea of identifying a moderate middle has been a chase America has been engaged in for a long time. We Americans think in every country in transition there’s a Thomas Jefferson hiding behind some rock, or a James Madison beyond one sand dune. The fact of the matter is, the ability to identify a moderate middle in Syria was—there was no moderate middle, because the moderate middle are made up of shopkeepers, not soldiers; they’re made up of people who, in fact, have—ordinary elements of the middle class of that country.”

The vice president continued that it was “inappropriate” for former administration officials to write books while Obama is still in office.

“And what happened was—and their history will record this, because I’m finding that former administration officials, as soon as they leave write books, which I think is inappropriate. But any rate,” Biden said as the audience chuckled. “No, I’m serious. I do think it’s inappropriate. At least give the guy a chance to get out of office.”

Clinton’s book Hard Choices includes details of internal deliberations where she unsuccessfully pressed President Barack Obama to arm Syrian rebels in 2012, one of the only clear denunciations she makes of the president in the book. “The risks of both action and inaction were high,” Clinton wrote. “Both choices would bring unintended consequences. The President’s inclination was to stay the present course and not take the significant further step of arming rebels.”

In Panetta’s forthcoming memoir, Worthy Fights, excerpted in this week’s TIME, the former Pentagon chief takes issue with Obama’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the subsequent rise of ISIS in Syria. “To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country,” Panetta writes.

Left unsaid by the vice president, is that he often argued for caution against intervention in the debates highlighted by Panetta and Clinton, according to current and former officials’ accounts.

TIME 2014 Election

President Obama Plays Politics in Economic Speech He Calls Nonpolitical

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’'s 44th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 27, 2014 Susan Walsh—AP

"I'm not going to tell you who to vote for," the President said, "although I suppose it’s kind of implied"

“This isn’t some official campaign speech or political speech,” President Obama declared Thursday in Chicago, in the middle of a nearly hour-long address that was, if nothing else, decidedly political.

With 33 days until the midterm elections, the President was attempting once again to pivot the national conversation back to the economy after months dominated by foreign crises, in West Africa, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine. Obama had spent the morning campaigning with beleaguered Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat in a close re-election battle, an event that marked the President’s return to the campaign trail for Democrats. Senior aides said last month that Obama would use much of October to help Democrats where he can, which is a dwindling set of locales, given the drag of his approval ratings in many contested districts and states.

Perhaps for this reason, he chose the campus of Northwestern University to attempt again a feat he has so far failed to achieve: convincing the American people that his economic policies were working.

“It is indisputable that our economy is stronger today than when I took office,” Obama said. “By every economic measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office. At the same time, it’s also indisputable that millions of Americans don’t yet feel enough of the benefits of a growing economy where it matters most, and that’s in their own lives.”

Delivering a recap of past progress and outlining four cornerstones “of a new foundation for growth and prosperity,” Obama’s new message was familiar, differing only in its sharply subdued ambition. Longtime horizons have replaced the calls for swift action in a speech whose signature refrain was a call to collective action that is almost certain no to come: “Let’s do this,” he said, again and again.

Driving home the traditional Democratic messaging points on immigration, minimum wage and health care, Obama blamed Republicans, and Fox News, for standing in his way. “A true opposition party should now have the courage to lay out their agenda,” he complained. In a break from past practice, he didn’t promise an end to political gridlock after November; there was no pledge that the “fever will break” if his favored candidates win. Indeed, many of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats now seeking to avoid defeat are campaigning on their ability to convince their constituents that they will block Obama, as much as work with him.

“I’m not on the ballot this fall — Michelle’s pretty happy about that,” Obama said, before delivering a line that will make most vulnerable Democrats cringe. “But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot, every single one of them.”

Then, in a speech he maintained was presidential and not political, he turned an unsparing tongue on his Republican foes. “The one thing they did vote yes on was another massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans,” Obama said, reflecting on one of the most unproductive legislative sessions in American history.

Not that he was campaigning of course. “I’m not going to tell you who to vote for,” he added. “Although I suppose it’s kind of implied.”

TIME White House

Secret Service Has ‘Elevator Manifest’ for Every Presidential Trip

Barack Obama Elevator
President Barack Obama, during his candidacy in 2008, is surrounded by Secret Service agents as he boards an elevator at his hotel in Berlin, July 24, 2008. Jim Young—Reuters

Raising new questions for the Secret Service on how an armed contractor got within arm's length of Obama

When the President travels nothing is taken for granted, not even the co-occupants of the presidential elevator, raising new questions about how an armed man with a criminal history managed to get within arm’s length of President Barack Obama last month.

A week before every presidential trip—often longer for foreign travel—”advance” teams from the U.S. Secret Service, the White House, and other government agencies trace every step the president will take, as well as alternates for every contingency. Plans are drawn up for who will sit where on Air Force One and which vehicle in the President’s mile-long motorcade aides will occupy, according to multiple individuals familiar with presidential travel, including law enforcement personnel.

Officials said the manifests are largely logistical in nature, devised to clear up which aides will travel with the president and “the shift,” the personal detail assigned to him. “There may be 35 people with him in a freight elevator in a sporting arena, or just a few in a cramped one in an old-school Chicago high rise,” one veteran said. Other aides, members of the press, and additional Secret Service agents will be shuttled in other marked elevators or will take the stairs, depending on the site. Occasionally a space for an “elevator operator” is reserved, especially when the president is set to move in a freight elevator, but often they are not named on the manifest.

“Elevator manifests are a standard procedure,” said a law enforcement official, citing the logistical challenge of moving the president, his aides, his bodyguards, and the traveling press without a hitch. Which is another reason the Secret Service will remain in the sights of Congressional overseers even after Wednesday’s announced resignation by Julia Pierson, the agency’s beleaguered director.

A private contractor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta boarded the presidential elevator on Sept. 16 and wouldn’t heed orders to stop photographing Obama. Agents pulled the man aside for questioning after Obama left the elevator, at which point the man’s supervisor fired him on the spot for his behavior. It was only then that officers discovered that the man, who was arrested several times, was carrying a firearm, officials said.

The security breach came days before an armed man leaped over the White House fence and charged past an agent at the North Portico door before being arrested near the Green Room, an incident that prompted renewed public scrutiny for the agency.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that Obama was not informed of the elevator incident until minutes before it was first reported by the Washington Examiner on Tuesday afternoon. Congressional sources said outgoing Secret Service Director Julia Pierson did not mention the security lapse in her classified testimony to lawmakers Tuesday, despite being asked whether there were any undisclosed security incidents that she was aware of. Pierson tendered her resignation Wednesday after losing the support of Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. “The President concluded that new leadership of that agency was required,” Earnest said.

Whether the still-unidentified individual was named on the manifest, was unnamed, or had simply managed to enter the elevator with the president is one subject of the ongoing internal probe into the incident. Either way, officials said, the man should not have been able to carry the weapon that close to the President. The Secret Service would not comment on the status of the ongoing investigation.

With reporting by Alex Rogers / Washington

TIME politics

How To Fix the Secret Service

House Oversight Committee Hearing on Secret Service Errors
Julia Pierson, director of the U.S. Secret Service, is grilled by members of congress during a Hearing by the House Oversight Committee on the flaws and errors by the U.S. Secret Service in protecting the White House held at the Rayburn House Office Building on Tuesday, September 30 , 2014, in Washington, DC. The Washington Post—The Washington Post/Getty Images

Ronald Kessler is the author of The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents.

If a corporation is performing poorly, the CEO is replaced with an outsider who can shake up the company and change the culture—the same should apply here

If you are wondering how the Secret Service became such a tarnished agency, look back to 2003 when it became part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Forced to compete for funds with 21 other national security agencies in a department of 240,000 employees, the Secret Service, which previously was under the Treasury Department, became more political and compliant. Mark Sullivan, appointed director by President George W. Bush in 2006, proudly proclaimed that the Secret Service “makes do with less.”

Over time, corner cutting and laxness became more prevalent, while the agency became more arrogant. As revealed in my book The First Family Detail, it became commonplace for Secret Service management to order agents to let people into events without magnetometer or metal detection screening to curry favor with White House or campaign staffs impatient with long lines. Uniformed officers such as those who let Michaele and Tareq Salahi and a third intruder, Carlos Allen, into a state dinner at the White House in 2009 became convinced that Secret Service management would not back them if they turned away party crashers at the White House gate.

Agents who called attention to deficiencies or potential threats were punished, never to be promoted. Those who went along with such outrageous White House requests as turning off alarms and who perpetuated the myth that the Secret Service is invincible were promoted and given bonuses.

Reflecting that preoccupation with image, just after replacing Sullivan as director, Julia Pierson, his chief of staff for five years, sent an email to all agents reminding them to maintain a “professional appearance.” Tattoos should not be visible, and facial hair must be short and “neatly groomed,” she instructed. The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover reflected the same obsession with outward appearance, helping to conceal the bureau’s many flaws.

The Secret Service’s annual budget is $1.5 billion — about the cost of one B-2 stealth bomber. Besides its protective duties, the agency investigates counterfeiting and financial crimes. Given the importance of the presidency, doubling the budget would be money well spent. But rather than request substantially more funds, the Secret Service assures President Obama and members of Congress that the agency is fulfilling its job with the modest increases it requests. Pierson even proposed a decrease in funding.

Meanwhile, the agency takes on more duties, and sleep-deprived agents often work almost around the clock. Citing cost, the Secret Service has refused to update with the latest technology its devices at the White House for detecting intruders and weapons of mass destruction. Yet scrimping on protection of the president, the vice president and presidential candidates risks an assassination that would undermine American democracy.

Congress has also been derelict in its duty. When it comes to selecting a Secret Service director, Congress has never demanded accountability by requiring Senate confirmation.

The list of appointments that do require Senate confirmation is long and the positions often obscure. Not only the head of the U.S. Marshals Service requires Senate confirmation but also 94 marshals positions, one in each judicial district. Besides the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, the director of the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime requires confirmation. So does the librarian of Congress and the deputy director for demand reduction of the so-called drug czar. The Secret Service director is missing from this list.

Yet along with the FBI, whose director does require confirmation, the Secret Service is the paramount agency responsible for protecting American democracy. And given its powers, the service’s potential for engaging in abuses is almost as great as the FBI’s.

Since Pierson’s resignation, we have heard proposals to transform the Secret Service into an as-yet-undefined new agency, move it to another department such as the Justice Department, or even place it under the military. These are foolish ideas. If a corporation is performing poorly, the CEO is replaced with an outsider who can shake up the company and change the culture.

The same solution applies to the Secret Service. As FBI director, Robert S. Mueller III removed anyone who did not tell him an honest story. The FBI performed magnificently under his management, protecting us since 9/11 from foreign terrorist attacks.

As Mueller’s successor, President Obama made an excellent choice in naming James Comey, who previously served in the Justice Department. Given that his own life is at stake, I believe Obama can be counted on to select a similarly outstanding candidate to be the new Secret Service director.

Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, is the author of The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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