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R. Emmett Tyrrell / December 4, 2009

White House Gate-Crashers

WASHINGTON – Sidney Blumenthal, the Clinton administration’s famed servitor, saw it all coming. He predicted the Obama administration’s carousel of incompetence, as I like to call it. He was not thinking about the serious botches, the health care monstrosity, the spending spree, the criminal trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed planned for New York or the cap-and-trade extravagance. He probably agrees with those policy lurches.

What he probably had in mind were the lesser bungles, the administration’s bizarre appointees (Van Jones, Anita Dunn), their embarrassing departures and now the two imposters who gate-crashed a state dinner for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. Things like this happened during the Clinton administration, though not the last colossal bungle, the gate-crashing of a state dinner. Blumenthal had witnessed the greenhorns who came in with the Clintons from Arkansas. Now he has seen the greenhorns who have been coming in with the Obamas. Inadvertently, he confided to an American Spectator reporter some months ago his judgment that the Chicagoans are even greener. The arrival of the uninvited Michaele and Tareq Salahi at the southeast gate at the White House and their untroubled entry into the Obamas’ first state dinner confirms his judgment. This sort of thing was heretofore unthinkable, and the security around the president was supposed to be unprecedented.

Now, of course, the Secret Service has been put under pressure to take the heat. Its director, Mark Sullivan, has made a rare public apology and appeared before Congress to explain. The Secret Service is one of the finest organizations in our government. Its members have proved their competence and even heroism for generations. Why are they taking the heat rather than the White House social office? It is the social office – under social secretary Desiree Rogers, a Chicagoan close to the Obamas and particularly close to White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett (a Chicagoan, too) – that is supposed to have a representative standing near the security checkpoint into the White House to welcome and verify every guest. Sometimes the social office representative precedes the Secret Service; sometimes the representative is just behind the Secret Service. Always one is there.

No one from the social office was anywhere in sight, we are told. Well, I, for one, cannot believe the Secret Service would wave an uninvited guest into the White House. But assuming that happened the other night, how did the Salahis then roam through the White House and out into the dinner tent unbothered? At every White House state dinner I have attended – and at every other White House social function, for that matter – social office representatives were everywhere, greeting us and verifying the authenticity of our credentials. Moreover, how did the Salahis know where to go in this vast mansion? Any time I have been at such a high-toned White House function, I have been a bit bewildered. I would have no way of knowing which hall to walk down, which grand staircase to ascend.

It is not as though the Salahis are geniuses. I have actually met them, and they are obvious lightweights. I met them at a horse-country outing in northern Virginia and, with my friends, identified them immediately as rastaquoueres. “Born with a philanthropist’s heart and raised on ponies and wine” is how Tareq wrote himself up in one of the event’s programs. We all had a good laugh at that, even as we quailed at the prospect of sipping the dreadful wine he was offering. How did they mingle so freely with the guests that night?

They are rather loosely described as “socialites” in the news accounts. We are told that the American guest list at the Indian state dinner was freighted heavily with the Chicagoans from the president’s staff. My guess is that the Salahis identified themselves to the other glamorous attendees not as socialites, but as socialists. That would have ensured a warm welcome. If they had not been exposed as frauds so publicly, it is entirely possible that even now, both would be tapped for high positions in the government. After all, someone has to replace Jones and Dunn.


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