This is the week of the White House Correspondents Dinner, which honors the president, the press corps, and thousands of hangers on. But President Obama has already rained on his own parade and demonstrated the real seriousness of leadership. At 10 in the morning on Thursday, President Obama made a surprise statement in the White House Press Room. He said two long-time hostages "were tragically killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation." They were American Dr. Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto. The president said "they were aid workers in Pakistan devoted to improving the lives of the Pakistani people." President Obama added "we do believe the operation did take out dangerous members of al Qaeda." But he conceded, "as president and Commander in Chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations."
This situation is reminiscent of another White House dinner. The president was required to stand before the nation in a tuxedo and make jokes. At the same time his advisors and soldiers were in the midst of the risky and top secret mission which led to the death of Osama Bin Laden.
In past years, I have attended a major dinner where the U.S. Invasion of Iraq was underway. Some American officials had a bit too much to drink and cursed out the way the war was conducted. During another Dinner, the Nixon administration was crumbling in the wake of the Watergate scandal. In still another, President and Mrs. Clinton tried to act charming and loving, while personal allegations were swirling around the president. Some of his rumored girlfriends may have been guests at the Dinner.
Security is always tight during big Washington events, but will it be tight enough?
In such an intensely crowded atmosphere, it is easy to spot security loopholes. You cannot shut down an entire city and cannot close all the hotels, restaurants, or embassies where over 40 parties are held. Attending any public event is an act of faith. Let us hope faith and security are strong enough.