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Tilting at Windmills

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November 28, 2009

PARTY CRASHERS.... When I saw reports that a couple of aspiring reality-show participants finagled their way into the White House's State Dinner, I thought, "Well, I guess security will be tighter next time," and moved on.

It never occurred to me this would become literally front-page news and the subject of obsessive media speculation. Sure, the political news has been a little slow, but we're talking about some odd, publicity-craving couple who showed up at a party without an invitation. I'm not entirely sure why we're supposed to care.

John Cole's reaction struck me as the right one.

Some days I've about had it with this country. The absurd over-reaction to the WH dinner crashers was way too much the last few days, but I just saw a ten minute piece on CNN that treated this like it was an enormous deal, and I can't take much more of this kind of idiocy.

In a sane society, the reaction to this sort of thing would be for people to say to themselves "Wow, the cheeky bastards" and move on with life while the Secret Service quietly performed an internal investigation. But we are not a sane society....

Yesterday, we reached the point at which at least one member of the House, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), requested a full congressional probe into the incident. Seriously. Congressional Republicans couldn't bring themselves to lift a finger to investigate Bush-era scandals, but wannabe Bravo stars crash a soiree and all of a sudden, it's hearing time.

I can appreciate the fact that threats against the president and his family are up considerably this year, as right-wing radicals contemplate violence. Obviously, security for the First Family has to be taken seriously, and after an incident like this one, it stands to reason that the Secret Service would take steps to prevent the error from happening again.

But if there's a good reason for this intense media interest about an inconsequential stunt, someone's going to have to explain it to me.

Steve Benen 8:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (55)

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Comments

Thanks for saying that. I was beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with mr for not caring and that maybe I was under-reacting.

Posted by: caphilldcne on November 28, 2009 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

"But if there's a good reason for this intense media interest":

new version of "look, there's a missing white girl" --- a distraction from real issues.

Posted by: gilead on November 28, 2009 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

Here is a very short analysis: Most of the people in the media aren't very bright and they love stories where they don't have to actually do any analysis.

Posted by: mrgavel on November 28, 2009 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

All I know is that I don't get CNN international on my cable. A side by side comparison with regular CNN will blow your mind. It's the same company, isn't it?

Posted by: Boronx on November 28, 2009 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

I thought it was somewhat interesting in the way George Plimpton books once were. But the fascination here suggests a nation that sees itself as a reality-TV show. How to crash the D list? First get on TV.

The obsession with fame is the curse of our infotainment culture. The benchmarks for achievement are appearance and attitude. This is what our time has become: not an age of heros but an age of fireflies.

Posted by: walt on November 28, 2009 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

I can appreciate the fact that threats against the president and his family are up considerably this year, as right-wing radicals contemplate violence. . . .
But if there's a good reason for this intense media interest about an inconsequential stunt, someone's going to have to explain it to me.

If there is a Congressional hearing, then Pete Hoekstra will have an opportunity to reveal classified details about the Secret Service's procedures for protecting the President.


Posted by: SteveT on November 28, 2009 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

I think the lesson is this: If Bin Laden would hire ex-Redskin cheerleaders, instead of people who look like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, he could get them much closer to the target.

One well-placed celebratory leg kick like those that follow touchdowns (OK, it would have to be an OLD ex-Redskin cheerleader to remember how) -- and all history could change.

Posted by: Burford on November 28, 2009 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

It's the same phenomenon that makes the National Enquirer the paper with the largest circulation in America. It's our fascination with trivia and shiny objects.

Posted by: Mustang Bobby on November 28, 2009 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

The end of empire. Bread and circuses, except no bread.

Posted by: Greg Worley on November 28, 2009 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

I just think the end result of this and "Balloon Boy" is going to be that everyone who does something wrong is now going to claim they did it for a Reality TV show.

Bernie Madoff? Was auditioning for "Mad Money"
Dick Cheney? Wanted to be on a History Channel special.
Osama Bin Laden? Actually, he's starting on "The Real Husbands of Afghanistan" next month...

Posted by: squiggleslash on November 28, 2009 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

This should NOT be treated like some kind of reality-show stunt. When there are people carrying weapons to political events and the president receives more death threats than anyone before him, that some uninvited/uncleared people could show up and get into this event is a federal crime.

Not only does the Secret Service provide security for the President and VP, they are supposed to make sure the environment is secure for guests - like the Prime Minister of India.

Posted by: CParis on November 28, 2009 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

If there's a Congressional investigation, Pete Hoekstra will have another opportunity to grandstand.

Posted by: msmolly on November 28, 2009 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Bobby,

I hate to admit it, but you are probably right. I think the republican party has had a better sense of popular culture in this country (except in the realm of comedy, where they are perennially unfunny)and how to use it to their benefit. The Democratic party does well in the educational and artictic niches that it occupies, but it is just beginning to understand what passes for public discourse for much of America. Maybe the only way to get this portion of America to understand the problems that this country faces, and the opposition that blocks every effort to address these, is to produce a democratic version of The National Enquirer. You can imagine the sordid headlines (real ones, not imaginary ones like "aliens stole Glenn Beck's internal organs")that would be splashed across the cover each week. I wonder why some wealthy Democratic donor hasn't done this already.

Posted by: Broken Arrow on November 28, 2009 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Today's version of missing white girl!

Posted by: SadOldVet on November 28, 2009 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

A well-connected somebody (say, a notch up from David Headley) could perhaps do something like this and threaten the Indian PM while he was in Indian secret service care.

Posted by: Arun on November 28, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

No, Steve, I think you (and the others supporting you on this thread) are wrong on this one. Yes, it will be amplified and harped by a culture obsessed with stupid publicity and by a GOP desperate for any distractions. Nonetheless, this is way more than some frat pledge jumping the fence at the White House. Two people were turned away, came back anyway, and made it into the room with two heads of state. Emerging details indicate that they did this by bluffing their way past a single checkpoint.

It's more than a little ironic that we suffer everything but a strip search so that we can fly to Disneyland but two yahoos can reach the President after one checkpoint. It's not a small thing -- and the fact that people will focus on the tawdry doesn't make it a small thing.

Posted by: Bernard HP Gilroy on November 28, 2009 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

What's the big deal? It's not like the president bowed to the party crashers.

Posted by: Grumpy on November 28, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

According to Gawker, they may have had an assist from an Indian diplomat.

Posted by: Blue Girl on November 28, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

I can understand the Secret Service making a huge deal about it: can't have uninvited guests drifting into a state dinner and moseying right on up to the President and Vice-President of the United States. Okay, that's a problem.

It only takes about a minute to understand it. It doesn't require wartime coverage on the media.

Posted by: Algernon on November 28, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

This is going to make it much tougher to crash the red carpet at the Academy Awards.

Posted by: martin on November 28, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

She's blonde.

Someone could have harmed the president.

It's a twofer.

Posted by: Jay on November 28, 2009 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Lighten up. It's a funny story, and the woman smokin' hot.

P.S. Too bad it didn't happen during the Bush years. The photo with Bush and the smokin' hot babe would have priceless.

Posted by: Northern Pike on November 28, 2009 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Well, the right wing concerned about the president's safety? Seems to me they have been trolling around for someone to harm him, with the tea parties etc. Maybe they had a guilty conscience - not!

Posted by: JS on November 28, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Dunno, but I'm not sure it's linked to the U.S. I seem to remember there was a huge media play in England when an intruder (Michael Fagan) managed to get into the Queen's bedroom.

Posted by: a on November 28, 2009 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Have not watched a second of cable TV news in weeks, thank goodness, but I still think this incident was very disturbing.

Yes, the crashers were well dressed suburbanites who used to own a winery this time. They did not seem threatening.

But this was too damn close, they made it right up to President Obama.

Ginormous fail.

Can imagine this is this week's Boy in a Balloon cableganza and people are tiring of the coverage. That doesn't mean the implications of this one aren't chilling.


Posted by: Elizabelle on November 28, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but I think it is a serious thing. Just because someone passes through a metal detector doesn't mean they can't do physical harm. The fact that this time it turned out to be poseurs actually makes one more worried. If amateurs can get through White House security, imagine if a professional quality organized plot was afoot.

Posted by: Mxyzptlk on November 28, 2009 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

"Most of the people in the media aren't very bright and they love stories where they don't have to actually do any analysis."

It's even more than that. Most of the public are not very bright and they love quasi-political stories they can understand (and have opinions about) without having to know anything about history, current events, government, economics, or foreign policy.

The media may not be very bright, but they know what people want. And people want stories they can understand without effort.

Posted by: G. Jones on November 28, 2009 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Dude, I talked about this on my radio show this morning. I have had right wing knuckleheads tell me that this is a non-story that the Obama administration has planted in the media. The MSM is bored out of their minds. We have them covering this story like there is something else here besides a screw up. We have them covering every little detail about the State Dinner before it happened. What was the meaning behind the soup and the color of the napkins. Now, they are on to Tiger Woods. Why did he crash? Where was he going? Was he fighting with his wife? Who cares? I want to know why Lincoln, Landreiu and Nelson are still playing coy? Are they holding out for a better deal? What is that going to cost me? Why aren't they being hounded by the media 24/7 for holding up the Obama train? Why aren't we out of Iraq yet? Where are the green jobs and why hasn't Congress passed green legislation yet. This is what I want to know. I don't care that Tiger Woods crashed his car. There are thousands of car crashes everyday. The media is simply a total cluster.

Posted by: ecthompson md on November 28, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

I'm going to go out on a limb & say that the party-crashers have done us all a service.

They. personally, appear to be harmless & so the President was in no danger from them.

But they have seriously embarassed the Secret Service - maybe enough that they will actually improve their efforts to protect this President, whom many in that organization (if the under-current of rumors is correct) view as illegitimate.

Posted by: sidewinder on November 28, 2009 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

I agree this is an insane over-reaction to a very minor incident. And I would say media people are often very smart, educated and literate. But they are "chasing" the audience and make the easiest coverage for "above the fold" news.
The problem is the MSM is caving into Republican bullying. Editors need to allow a little more judgment.

Posted by: Darsan54 on November 28, 2009 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Some people find it funny and others serious and the real truth is security is no laughing matter. A trained assassin in lets say Krav Maga or Kung-Fu does not need a weapon; only close proximity. Think about it. These people were harmless and did bring security the attention it needed of which I am grateful. Our country does not need to go through the pain of losing another President or even an attempt. Every President in order for our Government to work properly needs to be physically protected. Sincerely, Satguruyogiprabhu

Posted by: Satguruyogiprabhu on November 28, 2009 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Let's see.

Clicked on a story about this event to read up about it today and yesterday . . . CHECK.

Commented along with others "aghast" I tell ya' at dumb celebrity news overreach . . . CHECK.

As earlier poster mentioned, smokin' hot blonde woman . . . CHECK.

Ditto re earlier poster - President danger factor due to SS not doing its job adequately . . . CHECK.

Sorry, y'all, it CHECKS out as news. Expect at least another few days of this story.

Posted by: colonpowwow on November 28, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

I agree that it was a monumentally trivial and insignificant event in the history of Republic.

However, I do not get the reflex that the people have to portray this and events of this sort as a uniquely American phenomenon. Every culture is celebrity obsessed. Most humans are turned on by fame even if it is notoriety masquerading as such. Even in Botswana and Madagascar and Burma.

So hold down the breast beating folks.

Posted by: gregor on November 28, 2009 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

I almost always agree with Steve & the majority of his commenters, & I do love the sense of humor of guys like Grumpy, but this time I think you've got it wrong.

The Secret Service isn't "embarrassed." It's bare-assed. In fact, their use of the passive voice, prepositional phrases, the handy gerund phrase & syntactical errors to "explain" the situation is itself hilarious:

"The preliminary findings of our internal investigation have determined established protocols were not followed at an initial checkpoint, verifying that two individuals were on the guest list."

The commenter with the bright idea that bin Laden should recruit more people who look like Michaele has it right. As Katie Couric remarked, she has more trouble getting in to do a scheduled interview than she had getting into a party for two controversial heads of state. These people might have been Pakistani terrorists just as well as rabid teabaggers. I think the Secret Service's laxity was inexcusable & scary.

The Constant Weader at www.RealityChex.com

Posted by: Marie Burns on November 28, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, CNN can't catch a break with you critics. First you complain when they cover a blonde who goes missing, then you complain when they cover a blonde who turns up somewhere.

Just what kind of coverage of blondes will satisfy you guys??? ;-)

Posted by: biggerbox on November 28, 2009 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Nope Steve, you are way way wrong on this one. With the number of threats to the President way up since he took office, I want security around Obama to be A LOT higher than getting on a plane -- I want anyone who might have a chance to do harm to our President to get tons and tons of scrutiny. This was a monumental screw up and I seriously hope some people get fired for this. If someone got fired for the stupid non-story that was the AF1 photo op over NYC, then a bunch of people need to be fired for this.

Posted by: paul on November 28, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

If you look at the link above to gawker.com, a link is shown to the India embassy in DC and a Deputy Ambassador and these two people. Obama is even mentioned in a report linked from gawker, as being invited to a soccer event in June and these two are involved. It would seem to me that the embassy would be allowed to invite guests and perhaps these two were overlooked and the deputy ambaassador vouched for them. There's just too much missing from the equation right now, but the two are definitely linked to the India embassy and not just unknown crashers.

Posted by: Dave on November 28, 2009 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

TalkingPointsMemo has also gone wall-to-wall with this story. Kinda disappointing.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on November 28, 2009 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

isn't it about time for joe leiberman to
launch another homeland security investigation?

Posted by: daveminnj on November 28, 2009 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if there's a certain ghoulish fascination here. It COULD HAVE been an assassination story, much the same way that the runaway bride a few years back got ridiculously excessive coverage mainly because the media had been all geared up for another Lacey Peterson type disappearance. Hey, assassination stories make newsmen's careers! Dan Rather became a household name covering the Kennedy assassination. You have to wonder how many pundits are thinking "close but no cigar . . ."

Speaking of "smokin' hot blonde women," if Michaele is your idea of "smokin' hot," you must also have a thing for Cindy McCain. Michaele looks nipped, tucked, and Botoxed into one of the hardest faces I've ever seen.

Posted by: T-Rex on November 28, 2009 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I believe Obama has set a record for death threats.
I'm REALLY not up for another state funeral, the last time was bad enough.
We were lucky. This time.

Posted by: jean on November 28, 2009 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

This is getting so much news coverage because it embarrasses the President. Period.

Posted by: pol on November 28, 2009 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

But if there's a good reason for this intense media interest about an inconsequential stunt, someone's going to have to explain it to me.

If they had killed President Obama, or someone standing next to him (a la the Chicago mayor riding beside FDR), then would it have been worthy of media interest?

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on November 28, 2009 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, there should definitely be an probe into what happened with the party crashers *RIGHT AFTER* there is a probe into what the hell Jeff Gannon was doing at the White House during the Bushie years. Wannabe Reality TV Stars Crashing a Party vs Known Male Prostitute Spending Dozens of Nights at the White House? I'd love to see the results of those probes...

Posted by: Limbaughs Diabetes on November 28, 2009 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

About time for the Christians and the lions, says I. Can I get a hallelujah ?

Posted by: rbe1 on November 28, 2009 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

The only reason this is not being taken seriously is because it was a blonde haired white women who got within stabbing distance of the president.

Consider this counterfactual:

While attending a state dinner in India, a couple of Indian grifters circumvent the presidents security detail and pose for photos with the Prez.

They'd be renditioned within 48 hours.

Posted by: Banana-Eating Jungle Monkey on November 28, 2009 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Hi Steven,

I read both yours and John Cole's post as well. While I don't agree with the MSM's hyper-cry and republicans alternate universe type-imaginations, there is a something more at stake here and that is 'How deeply the secret service has let down the whole country by this thoughtless and stupid act?'

When I think of hospital I think good/appropriate healthcare and expect the same.
When I think of police I think protection/service and expect the same.
When I think of secret service I think supreme alertness and uncompromising activities especially
when guarding their prime subject.

And here I read about how two ordinary socialite can fool these super duper secret service, gate crash the world's greatest super power president's party, mingle with nary a worry, I think this is very atrocious and must be treated more seriously than Vaughn and Owens crashing weddings and having fancy part food and free booze.

I can't help speculating that had the lady in question worn a head scarf and the man sported a beard like that 'greek priest' and had still gotten away with their act, what would the conversation be like today? Wouldn't we as a country have been more concerned at the lax in security then..? Gosh, I shudder!!

Bottom line: this is a major screw up by some folks at the secret service and maybe even WH and they must be held accountable so we ensure no similar occurence. There is a reason why invitations were sent out and there is a reason why all the legitimate invitees stood in line for a long time (for the screening process), both young and old alike. There is a reason as Josh Marshall at TPM points out, we pay big $$$ for the secret service.

/ mia

Posted by: Mia Malkan on November 28, 2009 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Just like to point out that it can be easily discovered (by google newsing the gentleman in question) that this couple has been to the White House before and he and she are probably Democrats. Maybe it was an oversight that they weren't invited.

But it could be that Obama needs to shake up the Secret Service before something really regrettable happens. Maybe there are two many registered Republicans working for the SS.

Posted by: anomaly on November 28, 2009 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Whenever a narcissist succeeds in satisfying his narcissism with a stupid stunt, the media feeds the narcissist its exclusive attention for two weeks giving the narcissist even more of the additional attention he craves. The goddamn Balloon Boy people were media whores and the media couldn't cover anything of consequence, just Balloon Boy and that appalling birdbrained narcissist Sarah Palin. Now they're dividing their attention between this dull narcissistic story and Sarah Palin. If a narcissist is not involved in a story they will simply not pay any attention to it. You have to get all your news off the Internet now.

Posted by: maverratick on November 28, 2009 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

But if there's a good reason for this intense media interest about an inconsequential stunt, someone's going to have to explain it to me.

Well, it's a good thing you found a way to blame this on Republicans, Steve, or else you wouldn't have been able to add to the intense media interest.

Idiot.

Please, for all that is holy, give your megaphone to someone who will do something constructive with it.

Posted by: Disputo on November 28, 2009 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

Steve: You are too young to remember -- you weren't even born yet -- the terrible assassinations of the Sixties. I'm not. The damage of such violence is deep and devastating: it not only represents immediate and terrible loss, but scars the national psyche for decades. I worry that some lunatic will try to hurt Obama or his family; the uptick in threats and the appalling vitriol of racial slurs being directed toward them worries me more. The issue is not about a prank: Who cares, and thank god the pranksters were harmless. The issue is the job, or lack thereof, the Secret Service is doing to protect this First Family. Period.

Posted by: SF on November 28, 2009 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

The story is an important reminder of the Obama administration's abject incompetence. If they're not capable of keeping people with such checkered pasts as the Salahi's away from the President, they can't be trusted to keep this nation safe. For the same reason, the administration's inability to deliver the H1N1 vaccine on time disqualifies it from running the nation's healthcare system.

So it's quite simple to understand, Stevie -- next time think before you write!

Posted by: Torture Fan on November 28, 2009 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

Keep on fluttering that fan, Torture; I'm coming, as fast as I can, with the heartshorn...

Posted by: exlibra on November 28, 2009 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

This breach is important because it disproves the movieland meme that it takes a highly trained government agent to penetrate a security perimeter.

Think about all the examples: James Bond, Indiana Jones, and everyone in between.

It just isn't true. Security guys look for something out of the ordinary. If you fit in, you skate through. That is the problem.

Posted by: tomj on November 29, 2009 at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK

We cannot have people with phony stories just roving willy-nilly around the White House.

I myself conducted a very thorough probing of WH security and found it easy to repeatedly penetrate the premises through an unsecured back door.

Posted by: Jeff Gannon on November 30, 2009 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK
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