It used to be said about Colombia's colonial resort city that "what happens in Cartagena stays in Cartagena."
No, wait. That was Vegas, and the saying was wrong. The only thing that stays in Vegas is the money you bring, whether you're a low-rent rube playing the slots or a General Services Administration employee on a blank-check junket.
As for Cartagena, well, I always thought the Secret Service agents were told what to do by whoever was speaking into their ubiquitous earpieces. Turns out the saps were listening to their codpieces.
News stories about the GSA scandal -- involving an $800,000 "training" meeting in Vegas for employees of the federal agency -- have tapered off somewhat, while the Secret Service scandal continues to receive breathless coverage.
A case could probably be made that the romp in Cartagena is more important because it involved a security breach among the people most closely responsible for the safety of the president.
Or it could be that people are just intrinsically more interested in whiskey-soaked parties with Colombian hookers than they are with creepy bureaucrats who drink wine with their wives in the bathtub of a swanky Vegas hotel.
Memories of Bill
And let's face it, people are nostalgic for sex-related scandals involving the president. We were all so spoiled by the Clinton administration. Wild Bill was smart as a whip, but he, like the Secret Service agents, was not listening to his earpiece.
God knows Presidents Bush and Obama have had their critics, but there has never been a whisper about dalliances with interns or Oval Office orgies. Under the circumstances, a sex scandal that comes near to the president will have to do.
The sad thing is, what may be the most important long-term result of the summit in Cartagena has been completely obscured by the goatish antics of the Secret Service agents.
In Colombia, world leaders actually sat down and discussed the possibility of someday doing something about drugs besides spending boatloads of money and sending thousands of people to prison.
In the words of one English newspaper columnist, even President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have, "in their own slow and disingenuous ways, begun to acknowledge reality."
Legalization or decriminalization is long way off, but as the same columnist said, the talks in Cartagena might one day be seen as the first draft of an armistice in the war on drugs.
The past repeats itself
The pricey junket to Vegas, meanwhile, was not the first draft of anything. It was just another chapter in an endless serial novel.
We didn't need to look at the extravagant bills or see the photos of GSA commissioner Jeffrey Neely living it up in his hotel room to know that the meeting was a waste of money.
Junkets -- whether they are billed as training sessions, conferences or congressional fact-finding missions -- are chiefly structured to reward employees, corporate executives or congressmen.
The GSA outing only became a scandal because it went overboard even by Vegas standards and because modern technology provided the noose for another moron to hang himself.
Neely's wife posted all sorts of photos on her Google+ account, and Neely confided to a friend (and ultimately the whole world) in an email: "Why not enjoy it while we have it and while we can. Ain't going to last forever."
I did get a kick, though, out of Neely's appearance before Congress, where he invoked the Fifth Amendment. The GSA is the government agency that constructs and leases buildings for other government departments.
During the planning and building of the new federal courthouse in Billings, GSA officials haven't bothered to take the Fifth in brushing off pesky reporters. They just say "no comment" until they are good and ready to spin.
I'm thinking of having a T-shirt made with a picture of the new courthouse on it, and the words: "The GSA went to Vegas and all I got was this lousy building."