Flipping TV channels last night, I caught a snippet from National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (2007), the bit where Nicholas Cage's character emerges furtively in full scuba gear from the murky depths of the Potomac River late at night. He unzips his sopping wetsuit and steps out in a pristine tuxedo.
1. men's formal clothing
2. man's formal jacket
3. man's formal uniform for crashing White House parties
Back to the movie, the next scene shows Cage waltzing into the onscreen President's birthday party, a twinkling fairytale affair staged at Mount Vernon.
Did I mention Cage deftly eluded the security detail by toting a bottle of champagne and bemoaning a brunette who got away?
I laughed before turning the TV off, partly out of incredulity for the outrageous plot line and partly because I have a twisted sense of humor. Apparently, the leap from Silver Screen shindig to White House soiree is pretty seamless these days (thanks to fine-quality black stitching).
It has been revealed that a third uninvited, yet tuxedoed, guest attended President and Mrs. Obama's first state dinner held at the White House on November 24, 2009, in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife.
This party will surely go down in history as one of the biggest social gaffes of the past decade, if not of the 21st century.
According to the front-page of today's Washington Post, the latest guest of dishonor is a certain Carlos Allen, who happens to be a DC party promoter, doubtless with a wardrobe full of appropriate gear. Social climbers Tariq and Michaele Salahi have been one-upped. Quelle horreur!
Gossip columnists Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts reported the incident with all the cloak-and-dagger urgency (...a congressional source, who was granted anonymity...) of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, except the latter duo blew the lid off Watergate, not the cover of yet another partaker in freebie cocktails and canapés on the South Lawn.
The bottom line is all you need to crash a White House party is a well-tailored tux. A leggy blonde does not hurt nor does a van stashed with CEOs. To this, I add a whole lot of chutzpah and a healthy dose of official incompetence. State Department, Secret Service, White House Social Secretary mox nix.
When I was a student at Oxford, I once got dressed up with a bunch of friends to crash a ball at a neighboring college. The guys wore tuxedos and the girls wore gowns. We sneaked around looking for a break in the perimeter but did not find an easy one. Instead, we went to a pub and had a fun evening anyway, albeit overdressed for the occasion. Later we heard of other students who had pulled off the stunt by climbing over a garden wall.
Folks this is not a Hollywood movie nor is it an Oxford ball. We are talking about the White House. The Washington Post story called the security surrounding the White House 'porous.' In the relative scheme of things, I have no qualms about calling it a sieve.