In the wake of the White House dinner gate-crashing controversy, some Republican members of Congress are showing an unexpected amount of concern for the president’s safety. But if the words of Rep. Peter King (R-NY) are anything to go by, it may all just be a ploy for a political attack on a White House staffer.
“This is not [about] gate-crashing, this is [about] the security of the president of the United States,” Rep. King told NBC’s Matt Lauer Friday. “When [Obama adviser] Valerie Jarrett says this is not that important an issue — I don’t know what could be more important than the security of the president of the United States.”
But King may have betrayed a political motive behind his concern for President Obama when he told Lauer that he wasn’t interested in hearing from the Salahis — the couple who gate-crashed a White House state dinner last week — but did want to hear from Desiree Rogers, the White House social secretary.
“I’m not that concerned about the Salahis,” King said. “If they show up, fine, but it is important to have Desiree Rogers there, because in his testimony … Director Sullivan said the security arrangements were worked out with the social secretary’s office, and at every dinner we’ve been able to track … for at least the last 20 years, the social director has been there with the Secret Service agents, she decided to pull them away and we want to know why.”
Democratic Representative Loretta Sanchez told Lauer she thought that “maybe we shouldn’t even have this,” referring to House homeland security committee hearings into the incident. But Sanchez appeared to reverse herself and argue that she would like to hear from Rogers as well.
“I would certainly like to hear from her what steps are being taken to ensure that, in fact, there is not only a Secret Service agent there with the list, but there is somebody always there from the White House,” said Sanchez. “I mean, even Wal-Mart has a greeter. So you know, I would like to hear from her,” she said.
The Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein reports that friends and colleagues have stepped forward to defend Rogers.
People close to Rogers say that the emerging caricatures of her as a spotlight-seeking diva who invited herself to the dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and skirted her responsibilities while there are drastically off the mark.
“What are the odds she was going to be lackadaisical at the biggest moment of her life?” the source asked. “Zero. That’s why these stories don’t make any sense. Her reputation is at stake.”
The source spoke in defense of Rogers because the social secretary had been told not to speak to the press. “I think the way it is being characterize[d] and the way it is coming off that she is too big a personality for the White House, it just doesn’t make sense,” the source said.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has also expressed support for the social secretary. “The president, the first lady and the entire White House staff are grateful for the job that she does and thinks she has done a terrific and wonderful job pulling off a lot of big and important jobs here at the White House,” Gibbs said Wednesday.
This video is from NBC’s Today Show, broadcast Dec. 4, 2009.
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