Samantha Appleton/The White House - In a photo released by the White House, President Obama greeted Michaele and Tareq Salahi, right, at his first state dinner on Tuesday.
O, boy, does the media love this story!
President Obama and his wife, Michelle, had a face-to-face encounter with the couple who sneaked into a state dinner at the White House this week, White House officials acknowledged on Friday. The revelation underscored the seriousness of the security breach and prompted an abject apology from the Secret Service.
A White House spokesman said that the couple, Michaele and Tareq Salahi of Virginia, met and shook hands with the president and the first lady in the receiving line in the Blue Room, as the Obamas greeted each of their 400 invited guests Tuesday night before moving to a tent on the South Lawn for dinner.
Of course, this is serious: uninvited guests got into a White House fête with, perhaps, a combination of guile and charm on their part (aspiring reality teevee people that they are, all the better for them), and security breakdown on the Secret Service's part (disastrous public relations, and serious implications for the security of the President and the WHite House: if the WH itself can be penetrated, what is safe?).
That disclosure coincided with a statement from the director of the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan, saying that his agency was “deeply concerned and embarrassed” by the events. Secret Service officials said the agency wanted to interview everyone connected with the episode, including the Salahis, and had not ruled out criminal charges.
Filing criminal charges seems a way to get even, but would amount to more free publicity for the couple, and could well backfire in the face of the Secret Service.
The TV Watch: For Some, a Search for Celebrity Is Worth Any Risk (November 28, 2009)
Obamas’ Uninvited Guests Prompt an Inquiry (November 27, 2009)
For their part, White House officials took pains to publicly refrain from criticizing the Secret Service. “The men and women of the Secret Service put their lives on the line every day to protect us; they are heroes, and they have the full confidence of the president of United States,” said Nick Shapiro, a White House spokesman.
Heroes? They do perform hazardous duty, but heroes? Heroes are those who perform extraordinarily, and are "distinguished by exceptional courage and nobility and strength." These days the word hero is bandied about too often and dropped far too easily.