Byline: The Mary Ellen Synon COLUMN
LAST week I wrote about the mesmerising nature of French politics now, what with Socialist politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn destroying his presidential chances in sex scandals, the current Socialist candidate for president having four children out of wedlock with the Socialist presidential candidate in the last election, and with Nicolas Sarkozy tainted by his reputation for bling and his wife's reputation for - well, for a lot.
It is no wonder with that going on in France that I warned at New Year that in America the primaries for the nomination in the November presidential election would be unexciting. I said the time was long gone in American politics when there were candidates worth getting excited about.
How could it be any other way with the 'Massachusetts moderate' Mitt Romney as the inevitable Republican candidate against Barack Obama, about whom even the Democrat party leaders now have a hard time feeling any enthusiasm? So, no political excitement in the U.S. presidential election. But it now seems maybe some fun: just as Rick Santorum, the only possible alternative to a Romney nomination, bows out, a scandal over President Obama's Secret Service agents and South American prostitutes has come to light. It appears it is not just Mr Strauss-Kahn who has all the slutty sex in foreign hotel rooms.
Eleven Secret Service agents who were operating in Cartagena last week to prepare security for the president at the Summit of the Americas have been 'relieved of their duties' and shipped home. The allegations are that some of the men were soliciting prostitutes, others were trying to cover it up - and one agent was stupid enough and mean enough to refuse to pay his hooker the $47, about [euro]36, for her service.
She complained to the police, which blew the story open.
All this came out in time for President Obama to have to face the embarrassment as he met 33 heads of state and government at the summit.
Now the story has spread to include five members of the military who were also in Cartagena to protect their Commander-in-Chief, along with allegations of heavy drinking among Secret Service staff.
Why is this important for the election? Because the first advantage any president has in an election race is his ability to look 'presidential'. Instead, the president has a Secret Service detail so badly managed that prostitutes - in particular in this case, women inevitably tied up with the Colombian drug trade and therefore the terrorists who run Colombian drugs production - turn up a story that is supposed to be about Latin American foreign policy.
This does not look presidential. It looks inept. It's a blow to the Obama image.
Meanwhile, Obama's campaign team have been trying to damage the Romney image, but their efforts there look inept, too. An anti-Romney commercial has been running on television trying to cast Mitt Romney as the Don Draper of today. Opening voiceover: 'I think he [Romney] must watch Mad Men and think it's the evening news. He's just in a time warp.' Then the commercial cuts between scenes of Don Draper saying he finds it easy to sleep at night because he sleeps 'on a bed made of money' and Mr Romney saying 'I've made a lot of money. I'm not going to apologise for that.' And on the commercial goes, trying to make voters think that Romney is Draper. But the problem is this: the reason the fictional Don Draper is so well-known in America - memo to those few who don't know, Draper is a tall, dark, super-smooth Madison Avenue advertising executive circa 1960 - is that most men, secretly or otherwise, want to be him, and women, not secretly at all, think he is the most alluring man on television.
Miscalculation All the Democrats are doing in what is being called the 'Draperisation of Romney' is sprinkling a little of the magic of the dashing Draper on the very …