One for the M*****F*****s at the party
Two for the DJ bumpin’ this for me
Three for the girls with the fake ID,
And a pound—
If you snuck in through the back for free…
– The Coup “Sneakin’ In”
If you’ve ever slid past a long line of impatient partygoers at a packed Las Vegas club on Saturday night, you know how good it feels to get in. Whether you styled-off the bouncer with half a hundred or you were on the VIP guest list, there’s nothing like it.
If you’ve been there, you know how Tareq and Michaele Salahi felt last week, allegedly “sneaking” into the White House for President Barack Obama’s State Dinner honoring India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
If you’re the U.S. Secret Service, the White House staff, Singh’s security detail, the Obamas, the Bidens or just an ordinary patriotic American, you should want the Salahis locked up.
That’s their price of admission.
If Martha Stewart did time…
No one should blame them for trying. Sneaking into the world’s most exclusive dinner in party clothes, past the cameras and onto cable TV is pretty good as far as self-serving exhibitionism goes. But we only have ourselves to blame if the Salahis aren’t punished.
If the Salahis aren’t forced to face the consequences of getting caught, then as a nation, we’re the equivalent of a kids’ soccer league that gives out trophies to everyone, even if they didn’t win. We’re the TARP bailout, and they’re investment bankers. It’d almost be as if we're a country where washed-up celebrities would get to come back as competitive ballroom dancers on prime time TV:
If blondes have too much fun…
Long, platinum hair and a ruby-red lengha undoubtedly draw cameras, so let's face it—Michaele is the star of this show, and Tareq is just a tuxedo mannequin with a fake tycoon’s name.
But just because she thinks she’s cute doesn’t mean Ms. Salahi can con her way into a secure area, grind up on Vice President Joe Biden and expect the rest of us to be OK with it.
We’re all accustomed to ostensibly attractive (read: toothy, malnourished) blondes getting the benefit of the doubt in life. But this was a bridge too far. Memo to middle-aged blondes: Stick to getting backstage invites and free drinks at Bon Jovi concerts.
If the prison slipper fits…
There's not much daylight between what the Salahis did and what Muntader al Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist imprisoned last year for throwing his shoes at George W. Bush, did. Al Zaidi was more aggressive—and more dangerous—but the net result was the same. The Secret Service was duped, and the president was embarrassed.
Nothing should be more bipartisan than this. No one should have taken it lightly when then-President Bush was assaulted, and no one should take it lightly that two wannabes rolled up on Obama without clearance. He’s the only president we’ve got.
The Salahis might be “harmless,” but they still have to take one for the team. If their publicist, Mahogany “If That’s Your Real Name” Jones lands them a book deal, good for them. If they go on The Today Show—again—good for them. They deserve all the publicity they get.
But if convicted, they also deserve jail time—for at least six months if it’s going to mean anything. Anything less says: “If you can do 30 days, you can get on TV.”
And that doesn’t let the Secret Service or the White House staff off the hook, because playing around with national security is no joke. A year after the Mumbai terror attacks, White House security might want to tighten up its game when the first black president hosts India’s prime minister. Just imagine how it would have played out if Obama were white and the Salahis were black. See? Exactly.
We’d all like to laugh this one off. The Salahis pulled one over on the White House. They didn’t physically hurt anyone, and as The Daily Beast’s Bill Geist points out, they did the country a service by exposing a critical weakness in Secret Service protocol.
But you have to draw a line somewhere. Lots of thrill seekers jump a subway turnstile, sneak into a movie or get busy in a Burger King bathroom. But this?—this you just can’t do.
David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.
David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.