- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 2, 2009

THAT EXPLAINS IT

In journalistic patois, the saga of White House party crashers Tareq and MichaeleSalahi is “the gift that keeps on giving” - a ripe story that provides endless fodder for reportage and fancy analysis, without a whole lot of effort. The only thing that would make it more interesting would be if Elvis, UFOs or Monica Lewinsky were somehow involved. Or maybe Bo Obama.

On average, about 6,000 Salahi-themed stories have appeared daily since the couple sashayed past White House security last week, according to a Google search. And what a trajectory: The accounts have covered politics, media, national security, clandestine agencies, bureaucratic foibles, debt, lying, social climbing, etiquette, popular culture, frivolous society, fashion and public opinion. A few initial surveys reveal that roughly three-fourths of Americans say the Salahis “endangered” President Obama and should face prosecution.

But there’s always more. Why’d they do it?

“A surprisingly large number of people — about 2 percent of the adult population — seek fame as an end in itself. For these people, fame is the defining element of their lives and, once in place, it is virtually impossible to eliminate,” says human behavioral analyst Orville Gilbert Brim, author of “Look at Me: The Fame Motive From Childhood to Death.”

For all the importance attached to celebrity in American society, it has been ignored as a primary human motivator, he says.

“A person driven by the fame motive will go to remarkable lengths to achieve it. Their motive is not power or wealth, it is fame itself,” Mr. Brim adds.

And maybe a cool half-million for, say, “Real World: The White House Crasher Edition.”

CONNECTING THE DOTS

There is one more thing to consider before we move on.

“Were ‘party crashers’ a distraction strategy?” asks Judi McLeod, editor of the Canadian Free Press. “Were the MSNBC-dubbed ‘most infamous party crashers in the world’ a Thanksgiving weekend distraction for Obama Afghanistan strategy?”

Stranger things have happened.

“With media giants, including Fox News, chasing down how the Salahis made it into President Obama’s first official state dinner on Friday, preparations for Obama’s Afghanistan decision were being worked out for Tuesday’s televised speech,” Ms. McLeod adds.

“Obama’s plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, some to be in place before Christmas, is not good news for Democrats and the anti-war crowd.”

INFLATION

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is challenging Americans to use the Internet, social media and maybe telepathy to solve a mystery, with a $40,000 cash prize attached. In a one-day competition scheduled for Saturday, the Defense Department agency is asking the public to identify the exact latitudes and longitudes of 10 red, 8-foot weather balloons tethered at undisclosed, publicly accessible sites across the continental U.S.

The challenge is meant to inspire “fresh thinking” and innovative collaboration, says Norman Whitaker, deputy director of the agency’s transformational convergence technology office.

Well, OK. A search for red balloons. But inquiring minds want to know: Where does the $40,000 come from?

The simple answer: The money is authorized by the U.S. Congress, as per the United States Code, Title 42, Chapter 26, Subchapter I - specifically described as “Prize authority: The administration may carry out a program to competitively award cash prizes to stimulate innovation in basic and applied research, technology development and prototype demonstration that have the potential for application to the performance of the space and aeronautical activities of the administration.”

Prize money is nothing new. In recent years, DARPA has awarded millions of dollars to researchers who vied in public robotics competitions; the Beltway is completely unqualified and disinclined to pass judgment on the merits of it all. And remember. Someone has to win the balloon thing. For information, check out https://networkchallenge.darpa.mil.

WISH LIST

Insiders have cautioned that an Afghanistan exit strategy brimming with troop numbers, withdrawal dates and benchmarks for Afghan President Hamid Karzai could backfire, prompting entrenched enemies to wait it out and simply spring on the locals once the U.S. bids farewell.

“No one is saying that we’re going to end our partnership with the Afghan people,” White House senior adviser David Axelrod told CNN on Tuesday. “But we are, at some point, going to have to transfer responsibility for security to them and I think everybody understands that.”

Mr. Axelrod continued: “What this will do is give a sense of urgency to the leadership in Afghanistan to get serious about the issues they have to deal with, including not just building up the army but also dealing with issues of governance and corruption, of delivery of services to people, things that are needed in order to strengthen them against the challenge that they face. We don’t want to create a sense of dependency, the sense that we will be there forever, and therefore they don’t have to get serious about the tasks at hand.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 606,000 - First-week sales of “My Life” by Bill Clinton in 2004.

• 469,000 - First-week sales for “Going Rogue” by Sarah Palin in 2009.

• 440,000 - First-week sales for “Living History” by Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2003.

• 67,000 - First-week sales for “The Audacity of Hope” by Barack Obama in 2007.

• 6,000 - First-week sales for “Why Courage Matters” by John McCain in 2004.

• 5,000 - First-week sales for “Promises to Keep” by Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2007.

Source: Neilsen Co., from an analysis of “political books” released Nov. 25.

Send squeaks, leaks, peeks, freaks to jharper@ washingtontimes.com.

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