September 30, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
So, my family wanted to visit the White House about 2 years ago. No problem I said. I work in DC, gosh, I even used to walk literally right past the front Gate of the White House every week day on my way to the office on the 1700 block of H Street.
This should be a snap especially for a DC big shot like me.
Big black gate, lots of people always milling about, the Blair House across the street at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a crazy guy in a makeshift shanty always screaming from the park sidewalk, yep, I know the place well. I even exchange friendly hello waves with one of the guards. No joke.
This oughta be a breeze.
“Not so fast,” I am told by some WH intern who sounds like he should be a Hall Monitor for his 6th grade class (actually, he probably was). “No,” he informs me, security is airtight since September 11th. “You just don’t waltz in to the White House,” he explains. The best bet I have, I am informed, if I actually want to see more than a few of the public rooms at the WH is to go through my US Congressman or woman and get on a waiting list for VIP tickets.
Obviously, this junior G-Man and super-stickler for details who no doubt awaits the sprouting of his first whisker was not even impressed by my unsolicited disclosure that I had actually been into the White House just a month or so prior (yep, I had). That was for a very important meeting (though they whisked me and my party into the conference room and didn’t even make the president available to us just some mid-level WH staffers). Still. My mom thinks I am a VIP and that should be good enough for him and his fellow guard-squad.
OK. I grudgingly accept this school crossing guard’s standard “You are no one important enough” answer and decide to follow SOP at least this one time.
“Whoa,” says his twin who answers the Congressman’s phone, “There is a waiting list, a background check and I just don’t know when we can make this happen….!”
In fairness, congressional staffer and aides (and I should know I was one many moons ago) are probably so used to letting voters know they can’t “make it happen” on a wide variety of issues that they just wake up next to their significant other and say that same expression and well that just is no good for anyone.
I wasn’t going down without a fight.
After a few calls made, all in the “202” area code (Washington DC) I got a call back from a White House staffer. Now we were getting somewhere.
“I do apologize,” she says (better, this is more like it) “but we are behind on our VIP tours and with the budget cuts (nice partisan move there, dang Congress stopping the President and First Lady from opening up the “People’s House”) we’ve had to cut back on such tours…But let me see what we can do for you.”
Okay. Take that boy wonder. This is DC, I know people and I know how to use my cell phone so it should be only a matter of time.
And it was. Four days in fact.
When I do get a call back it is from a colleague who starts our conversation by, of all things, laughing. Loud.
He goes on to tell me that lately I’d have better luck in angling another meeting inside the WH than actually getting one of these tours. Budget cuts he says and long waiting lists (yeah, I heard I said). But, good news, I got bumped up the list and I have a date in 6 weeks.
Too bad, I had family coming to visit in 3 weeks. Oh well.
“You just don’t walk into the White House,” my so-called connected friend says.
So, I’ve heard.
But actually, it seems, these days, that is exactly how one gets into the White House.
Maybe the trick is to simply jump over the front White House gate, be wielding a knife, have 7-800 rounds of ammo on you, look deranged (according to a secret service agent) and go right through the front door which by the way was unlocked (!) and get all the way into the East Room of the WH and don’t even get annoyed by loud alarms because for some strange reason those sirens were muted by request of the WH usher service that day.
At least that is what former US Army veteran, Omar Gonzales did recently, and he wasn’t looking to just admire the presidential portraits.
Julia Pierson, the Director of the White House Secret Service must be the mistress of the understatement as she told the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today, that, “Clearly, our security plan was not executed properly.”
I guess not. Unless, of course, the “plan” was to get our president and his family and who knows who else harmed or even killed.
The Chairman of the Committee, Darrell Issa (R-CA) was also unusually generous and kind when he noted that the Secret Service “may be in a state of decline.”
Let’s see, the US Secret Service has recently been scandalized by its Agents soliciting and being extorted by prostitutes in Columbia, been fraternizing and drunk on the job for a presidential detail in the Netherlands, recently allowed an armed private contractor (who happened to also be a convicted felon) to rub elbows with Mr. Obama on an elevator and failed to prevent or fully investigate the 2011 shooting at the White House. This last incident resulted in at least 7 shots fired into the upstairs White House residence where the Obama family sleeps. According to one source an Agent on detail said that “it happened all so fast.”
Yeah, assassinations tend not to happen in slow motion.
You don’t hear Jack Bauer of “24” complain about how things are moving so fast he can’t get a shot off at a would-be assassin or how he never gets to “use lethal force.”
My fervent hope is that Director Pierson and her staff devise shall we say, a better security plan. Perhaps one that seeks to keep our president and his family safe and not be open to random, deranged, armed gate-jumpers would be nice.
If they need help following procedure and executing SOP I have a former hall monitor and current intern I’d like to recommend.