Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Kids, cover your ears

It’s true, you learn much more out in the real world than you do in school. Just look at the kids who today attended the State Department press briefing for Take Your Child to Work Day. Instead of lessons in nation-building or food aid, they were treated to a discussion of prostitutes and strip clubs. 

With Washington gripped by a widening Secret Service scandal, reporters just couldn’t steer clear of the salacious story. Soon after spokeswoman Victoria Nuland saluted the handful of underage observers, the questions moved to charges that Secret Service agents and other government workers cavorted with strippers and prostitutes while on overseas assignments. Nuland lamented the topic du jour and one Department employee jokingly moved to cover his daughter’s ears.

The roughly half-dozen kids were models of decorum. There they sat, on the sidelines of the briefing room, staring down at the floor. None asked a question. But they might have been thinking “Mom, Dad, when we get home tonight, you’ll have some explaining to do.”

Here are our top stories from Washington…

US on guard for attacks ahead of bin Laden anniversary – President Obama has reviewed potential threats to the United States ahead of the anniversary next week of the killing of Osama bin Laden, but there is no concrete evidence that al Qaeda is plotting any revenge attacks, the White House said. Bin Laden’s killing last year by U.S. commandos is touted by the Obama administration as one of his top accomplishments and it may help inoculate the president from Republican election-year claims that he is weak on national security.  For more of this story by Alister Bull, read here.

Biden knocks Romney for “back to the future” foreign policy – Vice President Joe Biden blasted Mitt Romney’s foreign policy vision as backward-looking and tied to George W. Bush, hammering the presumptive Republican nominee for thinking like a CEO and not like a commander in chief. The remarks were Biden’s latest attempt to define Romney as out of touch with Americans, and his foreign policy critique marked a shift from the Obama campaign’s focus on economic and domestic differences with the president’s Republican rival.  For more of this story by Jeff Mason, read here.

Happy Birthday Mr. President, hope they let you eat cake

President Barack Obama turned 49 years old today, which gives him a whole year to contemplate the BIG ONE coming next.

US MARINES BIRTHDAYHis birthday horoscope (Leo) in The Washington Post was quite glowing and befitting a Nobel Peace Prize winner: “You have given your love to the loveless and befriended the friendless — the fantastic karma comes back to you this year.”

It’s the next bit we found  puzzling – “A dream job is on the horizon. Hard work this month brings the perfect offer by the end of September.” What are the stars trying to say? Is there a message in there to be applied to the November midterm elections?

Presidential dreams are a walk in the park

What do presidents dream of when living at the White House?

For President Barack Obama it’s the simple things in life that he misses. OBAMA/

“Taking walks. There is a value to anonymity in terms of just being able to wander around, sit on a park bench, take your kids to get ice cream without having Secret Service and helicopters over you,” Obama said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 television.

“That part of this life I’ll never get used to,” he said.

“In fact, I remember when I first visited Jerusalem, I could wander through the Old City and haggle for some gifts to bring back to Michelle, or stand at the Wailing Wall, and people didn’t know who I was.”

Washington chatter: who loses job over security scares?

It’s the question ricocheting around Washington: which official gets to step down for family reasons or to pursue other opportunities after recent security scares?

USA/OBAMAThere was White House crasher-gate — the Salahis who sashayed into President Barack Obama’s first formal state dinner bedecked in red sari and tuxedo but missing one key item — an invitation.

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan fell on his sword before Congress and shouldered the blame. White House social secretary Desiree Rogers was shielded from a public appearance on Capitol Hill by the White House.

Inquisition begins over state dinner gatecrashing

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan looked like he was having a bad day as he sat facing a firing USA/squad of lawmakers determined to find out how the vaunted Secret Service could allow uninvited guests into the White House and even into a receiving line to shake hands with President Barack Obama.

“I’ve asked myself that question a thousand times over this past week,” Sullivan told the House Homeland Security Committee when asked how Tareq and Michaele Salahi were allowed to talk their way into the White House for last week’s state dinner although they were not on the guest list.

“Do I like to see this? Believe me, we are beating ourselves up over this,” said Sullivan, who looked like he could use a good night’s sleep and seemed to have a 5 o’clock shadow even at 10 a.m.

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. USA/

“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.”

The First Draft: White House “gate-crashers” say they’re suffering

They passed through layers of White House security to attend a lavish state dinner, got themselves photographed with the president and vice president and posted pix on Facebook. 
 OBAMA-DINNER/SECURITY   
It was supposed to be an experience to last a lifetime. But now, Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the couple at the center of one of the most embarrassing White House security breaches of all time, say their lives have been destroyed by falsehood and gossip.
    
“Devastated. Shocked,” is how beautiful, blond, former NFL cheerleader Michaele recalls her reaction to the morning-after headlines in an interview with NBC’s Today show. And Tareq? “Very saddened,” he says.
    
According to the White House, the Salahis were not on the invitation list. But they insist they were invited and predict that e-mails now in the hands of the Secret Service will exonerate them in the end. 
     OBAMA-DINNER/SECURITY
In the meantime, their lives are a one-syllable word for perdition.
    
Tareq: “Our lives have really been destroyed.” 
    
Michaele: “Everything we’ve worked for — for me, 44 years — destroyed.”
    
The U.S. media have made the Salahis out to be self-promoting social climbers who crashed the White House dinner while Michaele was auditioning for a new reality TV show called “The Real Housewives of Washington.” There have even been reports they tried to cash in on their exploits by demanding big bucks in exchange for media interviews.
    
A camera crew from the cable-TV channel, Bravo, did follow them to the edge of the White House grounds on the night of the dinner. But the bit about paid interviews is dead wrong, says Michaele: “At no time … have we ever even talked about doing that with anyone.”
    
Whether the Salahis are charged depends on a Secret Service probe to figure out just what happened. The Salahis tell NBC they hope to clear their name by sharing those e-mails as soon as the Secret Service says they can. When might that be? “We hope within the next several days,” Tareq says. 

Photo Credits: Reuters/Ho New (the Salahis and Obama); Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (the Salahis)

Latest on crasher-gate: will they accept House invite?

OBAMA-INDIAIt’s not quite the glamorous soiree they attended at the White House, but the party-crashing duo has been invited to a different Washington function.

Will they RSVP and accept the invitation? No one knows.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson plans to hold a hearing on Thursday about the breach of security at the White House last week when Michaele and Tareq Salahi crashed the State Dinner for the Indian prime minister and hobnobbed with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

“The Committee plans to invite testimony from Mr. and Mrs. Salahi, who managed to attend portions of the State Dinner without proper White House and Secret Service clearance,” a statement from Thompson said. OBAMA-DINNER/SECURITY

The First Draft: White House “gate crashers” to tell their own story

She’s blond and beautiful. He’s debonair. Together, with irresistible charm and a voracious appetite for self-promotion, they penetrated White House security to attend this week’s state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and got close enough to kiss Vice President Joe Biden.

That’s the current media image of Michaele and Tareq Salahi, who could be the world’s most celebrated gate crashers since the British comedian who attended Prince William’s 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle in 2003 while dressed as Osama bin Laden in drag. OBAMA-DINNER/SECURITY
    
But is there more to the story?
    
The Salahis’ lawyer, Paul Gardner, suggests there is. “My clients were cleared, by the White House, to be there. More information is forthcoming,” he says in a statement published by the Washington Post.
    
The now-famous couple also plans to appear Monday on CNN’s Larry King Live.
    
Paul Wharton, a friend of the Salahis, tells ABC’s Good Morning America that the couple has had lots of contact lately with Indian officials and has spent a fair amount of time in India. Could that explain why they were at a dinner honoring the Indian PM? 
         
News accounts cast the Salahis as determined publicity seekers who posted their wedding on YouTube and boast an online photo gallery of themselves with loads of celebrities including Britain’s Prince Charles.
    
Michaele, a former Washington Redskins cheerleader, is being considered for cable TV channel Bravo‘s upcoming reality series, The Real Housewives of Washington. In fact, the Post reports that she spent seven hours at a posh salon, TV production crew in tow, getting ready for the big night.
    
The camera crew followed Michaele and Tareq to the White House but couldn’t get in. The Salahis did and wound up being snapped for photos with Biden and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. USA-GERMANY/
    
The Secret Service, which is charged with protecting President Barack Obama and other high-level officials, says the Salahis were not invited to the dinner. The agency is conducting a comprehensive review to get to the bottom of one of the most embarrassing security breaches in the history of White House dinners.
    
It’s not clear what could happen to the Salahis if they really did crash the party. But another friend of the couple, Casey Margenau, doesn’t sound too worried. “Whatever they do, they’ll land on their feet,” he tells ABC. “Promotion and parties are part of their life.”

Photo credits: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Michaele and Tareq Salahi); Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Biden)

Obama’s limo is bigger

There is no contest. President Barack Obama got a bigger limousine than former President George W. Bush. It even comes with a nickname that growls, “The Beast.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday got a close look at the brand new Cadillac limo which first rolled out on the road on inauguration day to carry its special protected cargo — Obama and his wife — down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Parked in the Secret Service garage in front of Bush’s limo, which had been brand new for the former president’s inauguration in 2001, the new monster car clearly overpowered the older model.