- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Michaele and Tareq Salahi don’t deserve the scorn that has been heaped upon them for crashing President Obama’s first state dinner. Their reality-show-fueled and Facebook-promoted life of social climbing isn’t some twisted celebrity-seeking aberration. Rather, it is a reflection of the aspiration for equality held dear by all Americans and represents all that is best about the Democratic Party populism that brought Mr. Obama to power in the first place.

To criticize the Salahis for slipping through Secret Service protections is exclusionary in the very worst sense. To include some Americans on the White House guest list and not others is taking the principle of private gated communities and applying it to government. Only elitist Republicans live in gated communities. Indeed, in every single state dinner held by the George W. Bush administration, there was a guest list, and unfortunates without an invitation were turned away. Mr. Obama cannot be expected to behave like the snooty Bush dynasty.

Mr. Obama came to Washington to change such shameful practices. As he ran for office and since becoming president, he has unstintingly deployed cliches to break down such artificial barriers. “We can’t allow division and indifference to imperil our position in the world,” he has said. “In an era of division, they call upon us to come together … in our need to move beyond old divisions to focus on the future.”

If the president were to allow divisive social institutions such as “the guest list” to continue, he would be turning back the clock to a sordid past when America was divided into the haves and have-nots. A guest list is part of the very narrow-minded thoughtlessness Republican demagogues have deployed to scapegoat slightly-less-than-documented immigrants.

Just because someone hasn’t complied with all the rules and regulations and may be a threat to security doesn’t mean he or she shouldn’t be included in all it means to be an American, including state dinners with the leaders of the world’s most populous democracy.

The Secret Service did not “fail” to protect the Obamas, and it certainly doesn’t owe anyone an apology. The Secret Service showed progressive leadership in opening up American government to all.

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