Published on 6 Jan 2010 Sections ,

Third White House gatecrasher causes concern

Washington is a town where proximity to power is considered all that matters. So no wonder the stories about just how many people managed to gatecrash President Obama’s official state dinner for the Indian prime minister in November have everyone gripped.

Washington is a town where proximity to power is considered all that matters. So no wonder the stories about just how many people managed to gatecrash President Obama’s official state dinner for the Indian prime minister in November have everyone gripped.

But as more details are coming out about the so-called “third gatecrasher” – Carlos Allen – the whole affair is taking on a more worrying hue.

Carlos Allen didn’t just manage to sneak into the drinks reception like Tareq and Michaele Salahi famously did – he brazenly stayed for dinner.

TV pictures of him walking up the red carpet and into the White House – without once being asked for an invite or ID – are running all over the TV news channels, right after stories about the increased security at all US airports and continuing reports of the potentially disastrous security breach that nearly allowed a terrorist to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas day.

Republicans have been trying hard to find a way to blame the Obama administration for that Xmas near miss.

But it could be Carlos Allen who does a better job of making the president look like he isn’t in control of security policy.

Yesterday Obama had to admit “we have to do better, we will do better, and we have to do it quickly. American lives are on the line”.

At a time like this Americans need to feel confidence in their commander-in-chief’s ability to keep them safe.

So President Obama has to be seen to take charge quickly and decisively. Remaining on holiday in Hawaii until Sunday didn’t help to create the perception that he was spending every minute of the day working to keep America safe.

And now he is back in the White House stories about how easy it is for people to just wander in there and join a state dinner don’t help either.

In November when we first learned about Mr & Mrs Salahi’s audacious gatecrash, the stunt seemed highly amusing.

Political attempts to make it into a story about the incompetence of Obama’s staff inside the White house fell flat as people laughed them off as ridiculously partisan.

The only wider significance of the whole affair seemed to be a depressing comment on just how far people will go for a few minutes of fame.

It was widely suspected Mrs Salahi was using the stunt as part of her ploy to be cast as one of the characters in the reality TV show Real Housewives which is currently casting for a series based in Washington DC.

Now the story of a third gatecrasher looks far more menacing. Carlos Allen doesn’t seem particularly dangerous – he is described as a local socialite and party planner – but the ease with which we see him strolling into what should be the most secure building in the world is deeply undermining to American’s confidence.