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Secret Service director survives scandal, so far

By Candy Crowley, CNN Chief Political Correspondent
April 23, 2012 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Secret Service is embroiled in a scandal involving Colombian prostitutes
  • Director Mark Sullivan has deftly handled the situation, Candy Crowley observes
  • She says he's gotten in front of the information flow; politicians see him as forthcoming so far

Washington (CNN) -- There is nothing good to say about a scandal involving 12 Secret Service agents in a foreign country in advance of a presidential trip with 20 prostitutes and too much liquor.

"It included two supervisors," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. "That is particularly shocking and appalling."

Widespread respect for the Secret Service in general helps blunt the impact. It also helps that Director Mark Sullivan seems well-versed in the rules of Scandal Handling 101.

Rule 1: The best defense is lightning-speed offense.

"[The agents involved] are gone, half of them, and I think others will be leaving shortly," U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, told me Sunday.

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Rule 2: Whatever you've got, put it out there.

"From every indication I've seen, from the moment this scandal broke until now, there's no attempt to cover anything over," U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-New York, told NBC.

Rule 3: Information is the coin of the realm in Washington -- keep in touch.

Members of Congress filled the Sunday talk shows with information they got directly from the director. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, said she had spoken with Sullivan the night before.

And don't forget the boss.

"The president has confidence in Director Sullivan and the agency," David Axelrod, President Barack Obama's re-election campaign communications director, said Sunday.

It's the worst Secret Service scandal in history. The president's security might not have been compromised, but it certainly could have been.

Senate broadening Secret Service investigation

And yet, when was the last time you heard this in Washington?

"The Secret Service, I believe, they're investigating themselves, and they're doing, I think, a very good job," was Cummings' take.

Keep in mind that this is an election year. Congressional hearings are primo venues for political food fights, especially about scandals.

But even the Republican head of the House Oversight Committee agrees with Democrat Cummings.

Two lawmakers: Service needs more women

"It's something that we believe that the Secret Service can fix," Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, told NBC. "Our committees are going to look over shoulder make sure it's fixed and then announce, as I think (House Homeland Security Committee) Chairman King is announcing, that we have confidence and it will be fixed.

At the least the director with the deft touch has bought himself time.

"I think it's really important that we not jump ahead of the head of the Secret Service. He has demonstrated in many ways that he's on top of this, and we'll get to the bottom of it," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, told CBS.

But a final rule of Scandal 101:

"People have said to me, it's hard to believe this was an isolated incident, just happened all of a sudden in Cartagena out of nowhere. I don't know," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, on Fox.

It ain't over until the last question is answered.

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