The First Draft: White House takes a lonely road to openness on Crasher-gate
President Barack Obama’s senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, feels the White House doesn’t need Congress to help it maintain openness on the Crasher-gate scandal. That’s why it’s chosen to eschew the limelight of a Capitol Hill hearing today.
“We think we’ve really answered the questions fully,” she told ABC’s Good Morning America, while making the TV rounds to defend a White House decision not to send its social secretary to explain how a Virginia couple got into last week’s state dinner without an invitation.
“Having a full review up on the (White House) Web site, where everyone in the country — anyone who goes on our Web site — can read it, is the definition of transparency.”
By “full review,” she meant a one-page memo outlining new White House staff procedures intended to prevent any future pair of gate-crashers like Michaele Salahi and husband Tareq from getting through the security cordon.
Jarrett’s is an interesting assertion. Obama has made a point to enhance public access to the government after eight years of unprecedented official secrecy under George W. Bush and his powerful veep, Dick Cheney.
The crux of the matter seems to be that not everyone agrees Crasher-gate is so important.
The House Homeland Security Committee, which is hosting today’s hearing, thinks it a big enough deal. The Salahis weren’t an al Qaeda hit squad armed with poison lipstick or .50 caliber ink pens. They might have been, however, so why shouldn’t Congress hear from everybody?
But Jarrett says having U.S. Secret Service chief Mark Sullivan testify should be enough. It is the Secret Service, after all, that’s responsible for White House security. And once the agency completes its own investigation, those findings will get posted on the Web, too.
As for social secretary Desiree Rogers, Jarrett says White House staff appear before Congress only when it’s really, really important. How else would staff keep their conversations with the president confidential.
“We don’t think that this rises to that level,” Jarrett said on NBC’s Today show as the White House prepared to host a day-long jobs summit.
“Now let’s turn and focus on what I think the American people are really interested in, and that’s how to bring down the unemployment rate.”
Photo Credits: Reuters/Jason Reed (jarrett); STR News/Reuters (the Salahis); Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Rogers)