Editorial: What's wrong with White House security?

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

News reports leaving you a bit confused and unsettled lately, between health care reform, war in Afghanistan, runaway spending and an economy in tatters? Then give your brain a rest and focus instead - if ever so briefly - on a couple who figured that crashing the reception before President Barack Obama's first state dinner would be, well ... neat.

The husband-and-wife duo have been all over the airwaves, of course, going from relatively obscure C-listers to still barely known no-listers. We don't remember their names offhand, and we're too lazy to look them up. Far as we're concerned, they belong up there with balloon boy and Rod Blagojevich, nothing they say really credible, their 15 minutes of fame already 15 minutes and 1 second too long, their so-called "celebrity" merely symptomatic of the vacuousness of our reality TV culture. (For the record, they have denied crashing the party and claimed the whole episode has "destroyed" them, though the White House has adamantly maintained they were not on any invite list.)

Frankly, we'd be ignoring them - no doubt a fate worse than death for those of the publicity hound class - except that they have exposed something legitimately newsworthy, and guess what? It's not them.

Indeed, if any attention is going to be paid to the incident, we'd rather it be focused on what went wrong at the White House and how that can't happen again.

Why, at the first state dinner the Obama administration has hosted, was there apparently nobody from the White House Social Office present at the gates to verify names? How did the pair get in if their names weren't on any guest list? For that matter, with a 338-person guest list, shouldn't it be pretty easy to keep track of who belongs and who doesn't? Is the Secret Service that easily compromised? Moreover, if these wannabes hadn't tossed up photographs of the event on their Facebook page standing next to a who's who of Washington - Rahm Emanuel, Joe Biden, Obama himself - would we have ever known?

The Secret Service has admitted it fell down on the job - a shocking proposition, with the number of death threats any president receives - but more questions need to be asked and perhaps some personnel changes made. At least one congressional committee is trying to find out from the protective detail and the social office what specifically went wrong. Some have huffed that criminal charges ought to be filed against these two, though it's not entirely clear for what. Trespassing at the White House - a taxpayer-owned building - that security allowed them into? Wanting to become famous for doing virtually nothing at all?

With any luck, these folks will fade away, though they should feel free to attend their own induction to the Hall of Fame of Harmless Distractions. In the meantime, fixing the security problems must be a top priority - suppose we have this pair to thank for exposing them, ironically - or we could get a real news story someday that is truly regrettable.

Peoria Journal Star