Friday, November 27, 2009

Whole Latta Love

Washington is all in a tizzy about the couple who somehow got into the White House state dinner for the Indian prime minister earlier this week. The brouhaha over the alleged snub of House Republican leader John Boehner - who had been invited but chose instead to go go home to Ohio, apparently to get in some late autumn golf at his favorite course at taxpayer's expense - turned out to be a red herring. This miniature scandal might have some legs. It represented a clear breakdown in Secret Service procedure, and the couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, made a mockery out of the Secret Service's supposed thoroughness. Although the Obamas and the prime minister of India were never in danger - the Salahis were searched for weapons like everyone else - the fact that they crashed a state dinner has raised eyebrows. The Salahis insisted they were invited; the White House insists otherwise. Is the Obama White House so incompetent that their social secretary can't keep track of who was invited and who wasn't?
Still, nothing happened, the couple clearly enjoyed themselves getting themselves photographed with D.C. movers and shakers, and hindsight allows us to laugh at the affair. And before Republican lawmakers make a bigger deal out of this than it already is and start insisting that this would never happen under a Republican presidential administration, I refer you to Robert Latta. Latta was a Denver man who went to Washington in January 1985 for President Reagan's second inaugural, and most of the events were canceled due to the bitter cold that gripped Washington at the time. He somehow wandered into the White House and wasn't noticed right away by Secret Service. When discovered, Latta explained that he just wanted to "see the President." He was harmless. He was so harmless, in fact, that on "Saturday Night Live," then-cast member Rich Hall would play Latta and wander into a sketch - mostly when fellow cast member Christopher Guest was doing the news segment - for months afterward. (Hall, as Latta, even cracked up Bryan Adams when he was a musical guest.) 
Those who argue that the Latta incident was in a different time, before 9/11, forget that President Reagan was shot nearly four years earlier, and the memory of the attempt on his life was still very fresh, and no one made much of Latta then.
I imagine that the Obama administration will correct this breach of security and it won't happen again. Meanwhile, the Salahis will enjoy their fifteen minutes of fame (they'll be on Larry King's CNN show this coming Monday) and even get parodied on "Saturday Night Live" for awhile, and that will be the end of it.
And I'll bet they're so bummed for not being able to get their picture taken with John Boehner.

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