The risk posed by Obama's uninvited guests
By Jo-Ann Armao
I can recall a Thanksgiving when this country was mourning the loss of its youthful, handsome president. And because of the memory of those horrible days following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I am having a hard time being either amused or nonchalant — as some seemingly are — about the Virginia couple who crashed Tuesday’s state dinner at the White House.
All I can imagine is what would have happened if this duo were guilty of more than bad manners. What if they had been after something more sinister than attention?
Would-be reality-TV stars Michaele and Tareq Salahi, as the world now knows, weren’t invited to President Obama’s first state dinner. That didn’t stop them from sashaying past multiple layers of supposedly high security to hobnob with, among others, Vice President Biden, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.
The Secret Service, which is supposed to protect the president, has acknowledged the breach but isn’t saying much. [UPDATE: Looks like the Secret Service is finally saying that it really failed here. It is right to be embarrassed, but much more must be known, like why did this couple think they could get away with such a stunt?]
Officials did try to assure us that the potential harm to the president was minimal, if not nonexistent, because everyone entering the White House goes through metal detectors. And we don’t know how close the crashers got to Obama. [UPDATE, 7:04 p.m.: It's now emerged that they met the president.] But it’s plausible, as Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) told the New York Times, that the Salahis could have had an undetectable weapon on them, such as anthrax, or picked up a knife from a dinner table. In a world where terrorists can commandeer airplanes using household items, even the unimaginable is possible.
We were supposed to learn some lessons from 9/11. But this and other high-profile security lapses — the parents of “balloon boy” launching an unregistered craft into airspace, say, or the sluggish reaction of federal aviation officials to the two errant Northwest pilots — make me wonder if we’ve become complacent as memory fades. Equally troubling is the notion that this shameless couple could be anyone’s idea of American reality.
| November 27, 2009; 4:34 PM ET
Categories: Armao | Tags: Jo-Ann Armao
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