Dinner for Mexican leader gets Washington guessing
Tuesday 18 May 2010
Prepare for dubious talk-show jokes when Barack and Michelle Obama hold a state dinner tomorrow for the President and First Lady of Mexico. Will they secure the White House borders properly this time to keep undocumented aliens from taking a seat at the table? Will the Governor of Arizona be there to eject the unwanted?
None of this will amuse either the hosts or their guests. But as preparations accelerate for the gala in honour of Mexico's head of state, the buzz in Washington is less about what will be on the menu (radishes will feature prominently, apparently) but whether the ghastly debacle of their first state dinner – for the President of India last November – will be repeated.
The success of that first occasion was instantly overshadowed by revelations that three people managed to get in – and perilously close to President Obama – apparently without invitations. One was a party promoter in Washington, DC, and the others were Michaele and Tareq Salahi, a Virginia couple now on the brink of a reality TV career.
The fallout from the November breaches is barely over. A grand jury is working to see if the Salahis broke any laws by gate-crashing the Indian gala. In April, President Obama's social secretary, Desiree Rogers, left her job in part because of her role in the mess. She has been replaced by Democratic fundraiser Julianna Smoot.
That all the chatter now is about how Ms Smoot is doing and whether new security measures will work. This may frustrate President Felipe Calderon in particular, who will be accompanied by his wife, Margarita Zavala. He has urgent matters to discuss during his visit, including the still stuttering attempts by Washington to institute immigration reform and the new crackdown on "illegals" in Arizona that has created a wide human rights backlash.
What those new steps will be exactly for what will be only the second state dinner since Mr Obama took office, no one will say. But it is safe to assume that the Secret Service will be deploying some extra hefty bouncers, that more lists and officials with marker pens will be on hand to check off names – among them, we are told, Salma Hayek and Eva Longoria Parker of Desperate Housewives.
Be assured, the velvet rope around the White House tomorrow evening will be laced with steel.
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