Commentary: Uninvited, but hardly dangerous
Scripps Howard News Service
If Tareq and Michaele Salahi had been on last Tuesday’s White House guest list they would have fallen between the Obamas’ fellow Chicagoans and early supporters and donors, Michael and Cari Sacks, and Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez of California and her new husband.
But the Salahis were not on the guest list and not even guests, though they got into the White House anyway and managed to be photographed with the president, first lady, vice president and other notables. It was a publicity stunt to get Michaele Salahi on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of D.C.”
The couple did not go undetected. A sharp-eyed Washington Post reporter spotted them and, in her story written that same night, described the “notorious Fauquier County vineyard socialites” as swanning into the White House even though their names did not appear on the list.
The pundits happily dwelled on the sociology of party-crashing and publicity-seeking, but more seriously, the Secret Service came in for an unwonted and unwanted examination over a possible security breach.
The president himself said he wanted a review of Secret Service security procedures.
The chairman of the House government reform committee called for a similar review. The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security may do a special report. And the House Committee on Homeland Security has summoned the Salahis and the Secret Service to a hearing Thursday to, among other areas of inquiry, identify deficiencies in security planning and correct vulnerabilities.
This is when official Washington should take a deep breath and ask itself, “Really, what just happened here, and is it all that significant?”
The Salahis went through the magnetometer and their Social Security numbers were put through a criminal-background check at the gate. They were never out of sight of armed agents. And their admission may have only been due to a well-intentioned officer’s desire not to see the guests to the Obamas’ first state dinner huddled outside the gates in a cold rain any longer than necessary.
The outcome of the hearings may be Washington’s version of “round up the usual suspects.”
Previous security alarms have brought an end to public White House tours; restricted access to the Washington Monument; the permanent closure of streets on three sides of the White House; and, in one moment of epic paranoia, barring the public from the lighting of the national Christmas tree.
Stepped-up security always seems to come at the cost of the ordinary public’s convenience and access to the capital’s amenities.