At first, it might have seemed amusing that two attention-seeking partygoers had brazened their way past the usual tight security to crash last week’s White house state dinner for the prime minister of India. After all, a recent movie about a pair of wedding crashers was a hit comedy.
As more details have emerged, however, the tale has gotten progressively less humorous — both for what it says about the lengths people will go to for fame and the state of presidential security.
Virginia couple Michaele and Tareq Salahi seem shamelessly afflicted with the identifying disease of the Look-at-me-Generation — a consuming need to be seen online, on TV and on any communication device to enlarge their notoriety. In merciless proof that you might want to be careful for what you wish for, the news media descended, as they are wont to do, talking to neighbors and acquaintances, quickly painting a deeply unflattering portrait of the Salahis as needy social climbers who left a trail of unpaid bills and alienated neighbors in their wake.
About the only saving grace is that scheme did not involve manipulating kids, the way the Heenes of Fort Collins, Colo., did last month when they, too, sought a spot on reality TV by concocting a story that their youngest son had floated away in a homemade balloon. The Heene parents pleaded guilty in the hoax and face possible jail time when they’re sentenced December 23. Charges against the Salahis, if they broke any laws, might also carry a useful deterrent value.
Meanwhile, the fact that the well-dressed but uninvited couple managed to rub shoulders with President Obama is a huge black eye for the Secret Service, the agency charged with protecting a president who has drawn an unusual number of death threats, a mission for which there’s no margin for error.
Sensibly and, to my mind, honorably, the Secret Service quickly took full blame and total responsibility for the breakdown in security. The agency is “deeply concerned and embarrassed,” said director Mark Sullivan.
Embarrassment. What a quaint concept. Too bad so many people these days seem unfamiliar with it.