Obama's uninvited guests

Posted: Monday, November 30, 2009

I can recall a Thanksgiving when this country was mourning the loss of its youthful, handsome president. And because of the memory of those horrible days following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I am having a hard time being either amused or nonchalant - as some seemingly are - about the Virginia couple who crashed Tuesday's state dinner at the White House.

All I can imagine is what would have happened if this duo were guilty of more than bad manners. What if they had been after something more sinister than attention?

Would-be reality-TV stars Michaele and Tareq Salahi, as the world now knows, weren't invited to the dinner. That didn't stop them from sashaying past multiple layers of supposedly high security to hobnob with Vice President Joe Biden, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, among others. The Secret Service is right to be concerned and embarrassed, finally admitting its failures on Friday.

More must be known, including why these two had reason to believe they could get in to the White House without a proper invitation.

Officials did try to assure us that the potential harm to the president was minimal, if not nonexistent, because everyone entering the White House goes through metal detectors. But the crashers went through the receiving line and met the president!

And it's plausible, as Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y. has said, that the Salahis could have had an undetectable weapon, such as anthrax, or picked up a knife from a dinner table. In a world where terrorists can commandeer airplanes using household items, even the unimaginable is possible.

We were supposed to learn some lessons from Sept. 11. But this and other high-profile security lapses - including the sluggish reaction of federal aviation officials to the two errant Northwest pilots last month - make me wonder whether we've become complacent as memory fades. Equally troubling is the notion that this shameless couple could be anyone's idea of American reality.

• Jo-Ann Armao is a member of The Washington Post's editorial page staff. Excerpted From The Post's Opinion Blog.



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