- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 5, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

One should never underestimate the seductiveness of television, particularly in this era of reality-based programming that not only attracts a large number of social bottom feeders but also frequently stimulates behavior that could only be ascribed to blithering idiots.

Recent examples include the parents who set off false alarms about their son being in a homemade balloon headed for the stratosphere as a means of winning a spot on a TV show and all those women willing to birth a litter of children as a means of tapping into the reality of big money - the so called “Octomoms.”

But nothing has produced more disturbing results in the race for more than just the allotted 15 minutes of fame than the now-infamous second-tier socialites who managed to evade the toughest security in the world to mingle uninvited with the White House elite right up to the president of the United States himself.

There is good news and bad news in this. The incident was a frightening breach of security despite the Secret Service’s contention that the Virginia couple passed successfully through magnetometers and was no real threat. This ignores the possibility of plastic stilettos. A sharpened, long handled comb can do a lot of damage. The good news is that nothing bad occurred and that the hole in security will be plugged.

Will some heads roll over this? The odds that someone will pay with firing, suspension or demotion are pretty good and should be. Before it is over, Congress will demand answers to some tough questions from the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service, whose agents are brave men and women who don’t make many mistakes, at least the kind that result in the ultimate tragedy for the nation.

The White House social office might have provided the real opportunity for the interlopers by failing to assign a list checker to the agents at the point where security went awry. That obviously will be determined by an internal investigation and the inquiry expected to come on Capitol Hill.

Crashing parties to fulfill some deep-seated psychological need to have one’s picture taken with celebrities is nothing new. Slipping through security and walking across the stage at the Academy Awards used to be a regular occurrence. Most people, if given the opportunity, want to be photographed with the famous. But it is a whole different thing to come uninvited to the most important residence in the world and insinuate yourself into the presence of the man who lives there and his guest of honor.

In fairness to television, it can’t be blamed for all of this even though the flashy former Washington Redskin cheerleader has been under consideration for a new series, “The Real Housewives of D.C.,” which one wag suggested might now be called the “Real Housewives of Federal Prison,” in reference to the fact they may face charges. A camera crew and others accompanied them to the White House gates but were turned away. The television officials said they thought the couple had been invited.

Michaele Salahi and her husband, Tareq, whose family winery in Virginia is in bankruptcy, seem even more than most to crave the limelight, to be part of the whirlwind of the District’s politically dominated social scene, but have never quite made the A list. What they are all about was made clear when they immediately began trying to peddle the experience to television for a high price. They are reportedly in some financial straits.

Sadly for them, this unforgivable escapade produced the kind of celebrity that moved them for a few minutes at least to the center of attention but under circumstances that should make them pariahs.

The number of guests invited to Mr. Obama’s first state dinner was 400, a significant number given its importance in the history of social elitism. There is no record of two extra at Mrs. Astor’s famed parties and there sure shouldn’t have been at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue the other night.

Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.


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