Feature

White House gate-crashers: Was it funny?

Despite heightened security, the Salahis were able to stroll into the White House and shake hands with the leader of the Free World.

This is how presidents get assassinated, said Michael Daly in the New York Daily News. Two D.C.-area socialites, Tareq Salahi, 41, and wife Michaele, 44, stunned the world last week when they posted Facebook photos of themselves hobnobbing with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and other VIPs at the White House state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh—a dinner to which they hadn’t been invited. Somehow, despite heightened security and a 400 percent increase in death threats against this president, these “uninvited twits” were able to stroll into the White House and shake hands with the leader of the Free World. Investigations are under way, as are possible criminal charges against the Salahis, but this is a “huge black eye for the Secret Service,” said USA Today in an editorial. When it comes to protecting the president, there is simply “no margin for error.”

Our republic is in danger, said Ellis Henican in Newsday, but not from the Salahis, per se. The real threat is the moronic, celebrity-addled culture they represent. Not surprisingly, these “low-class, high-gloss wannabes” were being filmed right up to the White House gates by a video crew from Bravo’s trashy reality show The Real Housewives of D.C. A similar hunger for reality-show fame recently led another pair of ninnies, Richard and Mayumi Heene of Colorado, into convincing the world that their 6-year-old son was trapped in a runaway balloon, sending police and emergency services on a wild-goose chase across that state. How long will it be before one of these “fame-seeking missiles” does something so reckless it gets someone killed?

Oh, lighten up, said Neil Steinberg in the Chicago Sun-Times. People have been crashing White House parties for 200 years, and presidents from Thomas Jefferson to Teddy Roosevelt held annual receptions where any American could stroll into the White House, “have a glass of punch, and shake the president’s hand.” It’s only recently that we’ve become a nation of metal detectors, armed guards, and endless layers of security. Besides, the Salahis did the president a favor by exposing how easy it is to get past the Secret Service, and in the process, displayed some real pluck—and a sense of humor. In an age in which anyone without an ID badge is viewed as a potential terrorist, “we’ve lost the ability to recognize, never mind cheer, the rare rule-breaker.”

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