As the White House and Secret Service determine whose head should roll for admitting Tareq and Michaele Salahi to Tuesday's state dinner, more revelations about the Salahis make it clear that White House gatecrashing hasn't been their only misstep.
Few dispute that the Salahis' admission to the dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was a serious oversight by the Secret Service and the White House staff. Bush appointee Cathy Hargraves, former White House "assistant for arrangements," says it used to be her job to physically check guests off a list at the White House's East Gate portico entrance. But when Obama took office, social secretary Desiree Rogers told her the position would no longer be needed because, "In these economic times, I don't think we're going to have very many lavish expensive dinners. It wouldn't look very good." As a result, no one from the White House social office was at the East Gate to check if arrivals were actually invited guests. Rebecca Dana and Lloyd Grove at the Daily Beast hint that Rogers herself, who attended the dinner as a guest (in a dress that, for what it's worth, I think is cool) rather than staffing it, may be abandoning the social secretary's real responsibilities. But a White House official says the Secret Service was supposed to check with a social office employee about any questionable guests, and that they never did so.
Secret Service Director Mark Patterson issued a statement reading, in part,
Although these individuals went through magnetometers and other levels of screening, they should have been prohibited from entering the event entirely. That failing is ours. [...] While we have protocols in place to address these situations, we must ensure that they are followed each and every time.
As our investigation continues, appropriate measures have been taken to ensure this is not repeated.
Both the House of Representatives and the Obama administration have plans to review Secret Service security procedures. Meanwhile, the more we learn about the gatecrashers, the worse they look. It's been widely reported that Michaele Salahi was angling for a spot on The Real Housewives of D.C., and her path to "fame" apparently included a lot of stretching the truth. Salahi claimed she had been both a "supermodel" and a Washington Redskins cheerleader, though there is no evidence she was either. And her husband Tareq's polo organization hosted a match in the spring, supposedly to benefit a children's charity run by the Salahis and called the Journey for the Cure Foundation. But a few days later, the state of Virginia issued a warning that the foundation had "not registered with or been granted the appropriate exempt status by the Commissioner as required by law."
So what's the proper punishment for these small-time charlatans turned big-time party-crashers? Sens. Evan Bayh and John Kyl think federal charges should be brought against them. Republican political operative Ed Rollins concurs, suggesting, "These people want a reality TV show, give them one. It's called ‘Dealing With the Federal Prosecution System of the District of Columbia.'" Our favorite suggestion comes from Tareq Salahi's own mom, Corinne Salahi, who says, "I think they need a spanking." But perhaps the best punishment for the Salahi's would be denying them the attention they so brazenly seek. Unfortunately, given the boost their stunt has delivered to the Real Housewives franchise, that's not very likely to happen.
Secret Service Agents Interview Intruders [NYT]
White House Guest List Chief Says She Quit Post [Newsweek]
U.S.S.S. Head On Security Breach [Politico]
'They Need A Spanking' [Daily Beast]
Days Of Wine And Poses [Washington Post]