Party crashers have existed for as long as events have been organized: gate crashers will try to gain access where they do not belong.
And it takes a savvy party crasher to get into a VIP event at the White House – the first official state dinner hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, but that disgrace goes to Michaele and Tareq Salahi.
Whether their presence was legitimate or not, the Salahis went through security, spent time with the President and other guests, and left without incident. The next day the Salahis posted the stunt on their facebook page.
After this became public, the Secret Service accepted the error as its own and assured that the President was never at risk. But this explanation wasn’t good enough, and politicians from both sides of the aisle requested more investigation – even the President ordered a full review of the situation in haste.
The White House was duped. Crashergate!
Unfortunately, the rhetoric has heightened. Representative Edolphus Towns (D-NY), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, questioned the capabilities of the Secret Service. Three Secret Service officers were suspended for their roles. The Homeland Security Committee has held hearings in front of empty witness seats, now threatening to use subpoenas for its first time. And, so far, White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers has been shielded from the storm.
Cooler heads must prevail before this goes any further.
The question is, was it illegal for the Salahis to arrive without invitations, request entrance and gain access to the White House event? My guess is, no.
The next question is, does it require additional public service time and tax dollars for more scrutiny? My guess is, no.
As it relates to the current actions of the Committee on Homeland Security, I imagine that if they continue with their hearing, history may record the committee as taking actions that ultimately just diminished its own purpose: investigating the celebrity wannabe party crashers of November 24, 2009, rather than addressing dangerous homeland security issues in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.
White House state dinners are official celebrations managed by White House staff. And that’s why White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers – who has been credited for planning and executing the event – and her team should be the focus.
She’s the event manager. Rogers worked in close consultation with the first lady to select the theme, venue, catering, décor, entertainment and guest list.
While I don’t know what plans were established by Rogers for on-site event management, she appears to have deferred welcoming and screening guests to security staff – who should be available if needed to address any inappropriate actions at the event.
For many event planners, this will seem like an odd decision for such a high profile event. Why did Rogers defer her team’s role? For example, if guests arrived at the East Gate of the White House, then an event operations staff member should be assigned to that gate. If someone approaches who is not on the guest list, the event staff member will know how to handle the situation. If security is ever needed, the event staff will request assistance at that time. Security is always a planned part of every major event.
It has been reported that the guest list was nearly four times larger than traditional state dinners. Although the Salahis weren’t on the final guest list, security at the gate were probably persuaded they belonged because the list included hundreds of politicians, entertainers, media elite and others for a black-tie event in a tent on the south side of the White House.
Perhaps the White House and other public officials just can’t accept that Michaele and Tareq Salahi crashed the White House state dinner with the same spirit extended by Uncle Sol when he discovered Roseanne and Dan Connor crashing his nephew’s bar mitzvah …
Subpoenas aren’t necessary. The Secret Service should stop allowing itself to serve as a scapegoat and cancel the suspension of its three officers. The Homeland Security Committee should cancel its hearing. And the President should cancel his order of a full review of the situation in whatever politically expedient method possible.
The White House – like any other organization – must review its event procedures and make staffing adjustments for future events. It’s clear that the President has no interest in a public reprimand of Rogers and her staff.
I don’t like party crashers any more than the next event planner, but now is the time that everyone should simply allow strangers, friends and family to shame the Salahis until they feel like a stale joke. The White House crashers inquiry should end.
May Not Be Reproduced; Published on About.com