Reporter's Note: The investigation continues into the unexpected and uninvited guests who turned up at the President’s State Dinner. So far they have not started investigating uninvited letters…and I hope it stays that way.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/27/art.salahis.cnn.jpg caption="President Obama meets the Salahis at Tuesday’s state dinner."]
Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
You’ll forgive me for bringing it up I hope, because I really hate to, but this whole State Dinner Party Crashers story is getting out of hand. When I saw that photo of you welcoming them to the White House, my jaw fell to the floor. (Maybe you heard it?) I was already stunned that they’d made it into the White House uninvited; the fact that they stood right in front of you and chatted you up, boggles my mind.
I know that everyone makes mistakes from time to time. I suspect that maybe this gate-crashing couple also got a little lucky. But when it comes to the security of the White House and the president, luck is simply not supposed to be part of the equation.
Let me see if I have this right: Your staff was on the ball enough to ensure that the decorations were lovely. They arranged a nice menu; helped write a brief and strong toast. They even made sure America got absolutely no more than a two-minute glimpse of Marvin Hamlisch and the National Symphony, because allowing TV cameras to show the entertainment would somehow upset the whole affair.
But this very basic idea that there ought to be a guest list and someone ought to be checking it, eluded their grasp. The notion that the security of our president is paramount, 24-7, was forgotten in the excitement. You know that I always speak frankly and I’ll do the same today. This incident made your whole crew look like amateurs; not the real professionals that you, and we, are counting on them to be.
These words may seem harsh, and I hope you will take it on faith that I am not aiming them at you. By the time those interlopers reached the Blue Room, you had every right to believe that they belonged. But that picture of you smiling and visiting with them will undoubtedly be used against you relentlessly by political enemies who want to portray you as outmatched, inexperienced, and unprepared for the job. (Not to mention what the people of India must think; after all, their prime minister was standing right beside you.)
I am sure your team is terribly embarrassed. I suspect you are too. I imagine a lot of people are apologetic. You know that I have a ready and able sense of humor, and I am willing to laugh off many human frailties, because we all have them. But while some people may want to excuse this incident as a prank, and the couple in question seems intent on eventually explaining away any wrong-doing (indeed, a spokesperson insists they did no wrong,) the simple truth is what was endangered was not merely you…but the security of our nation.
With greatest respect, you are not a private citizen anymore, Mr. President. You are the living, breathing leader of the world’s undisputed Superpower. Your staff is an extension of you. Just as they bask in your glory, their mistakes taint your record. And your record helps the world refine its opinion of all of us.
The only saving grace of this story is that nothing more serious happened; they were not terrorists, or lunatics, or sociopaths who lunged for you in an unsuspecting moment. We are lucky that the offenders appear to be nothing more than glory-seeking, social climbers. But like I said, when it comes to your security, luck should have nothing to do with it.
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