- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2009

CRASHERS MASH

So many distractions, so little time. The saga of White House party crashers Michaele and Tareq Salahi has taken on a dazzling number of sideshows and back stories.

Hearsay multiplies: Were the Salahis really longtime friends with President Obama, as a suspiciously Photoshopped-looking image at a polo Web site would suggest? Are the couple faux or famous? Do they have ties with a radical group as they seek cash for their exclusive story, chat with the Secret Service and evade creditors?

The Salahi buzz rises, even as their allies publicly claim the couple have legitimate invitations to the fancy state dinner almost a week ago. But one reality remains.

“There’s still going to be a prosecution here. No matter how many distractions there are in this story, a good prosecutor can come up with a number of laws that were violated that night they crashed the White House,” Ronald Kessler tells Inside the Beltway.

The former journalist is the author of the recent tell-all book, “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect.” Mr. Kessler suggests that the public be alarmed — not amused — by the Salahis.

“It’s necessary to prosecute this couple to serve as a deterrent to future escapades like this. Today, it was a pretty blonde evading detection; tomorrow it could be a terrorist. I also think this incident is part of a pattern of wholesale corner-cutting by the Secret Service, even when the numbers of threats against the president are up by 400 percent,” Mr. Kessler said.

“He needs to recognize that real changes must be made, starting with the replacement of Secret Service director Mark Sullivan with someone from the outside who will change management culture. In addition, given the demands on it, the Secret Service’s $1.4 billion annual budget is pathetically small and should be doubled or tripled,” he adds. “If the president doesn’t get it, maybe Michelle Obama will recognize the need after all this.”

CRASHER BASH

The culture of insta-fame could be toxic; the cautionary chorus is growing.

“Everyone believes that they can be the star of their own reality TV show,” Dallas-based life coach and motivational speaker Marc Accetta tells Beltway. “But after the ‘Balloon Boy’ incident last month and now the White House party crashers incident, it’s clear that many people are losing their grip on reality. Breaking the law to get the 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol predicted isn’t the answer.”

CHENEY REVEALED

Foreign Policy magazine has named the Top 100 “Global Thinkers,” with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke at No. 1, President Obama in the No. 2 slot, Secretary of StateHillary Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton sharing the honors at No. 6 and White House policy adviser Cass Sunstein at No. 7. U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus follows in eight place.

And amid the oft predictable roster of economists, activists, analysts and leaders comes one familiar face: behold former Vice President Dick Cheney at No. 13, cited by the magazine “for his full-throated defense of American power.”

“Cheney has exerted a greater influence over the Republican Party’s foreign policy outlook than any figure since Henry Kissinger, with gruff warnings of the foreign threats facing the United States and his suggestion that military action, rather than ‘soft power,’ is the only method for keeping the United States safe. And now in the age of Obama, the shadowy bureaucratic operator who often seemed to be the dominant force in George W. Bush’s administration has emerged as the most forceful public defender of its record, re-energizing otherwise demoralized conservatives.”

The magazine cited Mr. Cheney’s vociferous defense of Mr. Bush’s national security policies and made a clear moral, legal and strategic case for the use of “enhanced interrogation” of suspected terrorists.

“By delivering an unapologetic broadside against Obama at a time when many Republicans were apprehensive of refighting the national security battles of the Bush era, Cheney established himself as the most prominent dissenting voice in a moment of Democratic party dominance,” the magazine concludes.

DAWN OF BLOGGREGATOR

Overwhelmed and confused by the sheer numbers of news aggregator sites, political blogs, message boards and online opinion depots out there?

Lucianne Goldberg, the longtime proprietress of the Web site of the same name, has just invented the “bloggregator” to track personal sites that display “information, hard news and dogged investigative journalism increasingly found on blogs,” she says.

This new cache of insider stuff - www.blogslucianne loves.com - highlights Publius Forum, Riehl World View, Brutally Honest, Sweetness & Light, Patriot Room and Quirk & Quark, among others. It also rates the top-five blogs of the day.

“There are nearly a billion blogs on the Internet. This will be the place of the precious few we felt you should read,” Mrs. Goldberg observes.

POLL DU JOUR

• 72 percent of Americans prefer to see signs that say “Merry Christmas” at this time of year, up four points since 2008.

• 22 percent prefer the expression “happy holidays,” down from 25 percent last year.

• 6 percent are unsure.

• 91 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of unaffiliated voters prefer “Merry Christmas.”

• 58 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 adults conducted Nov. 20-21.

Seasons greetings, big complaints, finger-pointing to jharper@washington times.com. Follow her at twitter.com/harperbulletin.

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