It’s exciting to engage in the big issues and philosophical debates of the day. But it’s also important to pay attention to the details where those matters work themselves out. On the surface, the General Services Administration’s $822,000 party in Las Vegas, the prostitution solicitation scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, and the Taliban’s coordinated attacks in Afghanistan don’t have much in common. They happened thousands of miles apart and have vastly different consequences. But in each instance, people who should have been paying attention were not.
Perhaps because the GSA’s party was the most frivolous, its images of people in hot tubs and tidbits of outrageous spending have gotten the most attention. Jeffrey Neely, the event’s organizer, pled the Fifth Amendment before Congress, even to the question of his job title, which will presumably soon be changing anyway. His rationale, I suppose, was “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."
A couple of dozen members of the military and the Secret Service undoubtedly feel the same way about Cartagena, where they spent the night carousing with prostitutes in preparation for the president’s arrival.
Lastly, while the Afghan military responded to the Taliban raids better than had been expected, the attacks caught U.S. personnel by complete surprise – what one western official called an “intelligence failure for us, and especially NATO.”
The federal government is the nation’s biggest employer, with almost 3 million full- and part-time civilian employees alone. Things slip through the cracks. But perhaps because it's the time when we pay the bill, it seems important to remember that all the details do add up.